Knowing and Believing

Why do people refuse to believe in a higher being?  For the following reasons: (1) people need an increased sense of certainty for issues that are most important, (2) there is a religious double standard for knowledge, (3) believing in a higher being creates logical causation,  the final result of which is changed behavior.

The human mind is a statistical juggernaut that decides, based on subtle ratios, whether or not a particular behavior will have a desired outcome.  As I sit here, typing on a computer, my subconscious mind is undergoing a vast set of statistical reasoning problems, which tell me that chances are greater that my computer will not blink out of existence than that it will blink out of existence.  But do I really “know” what will happen? Can I say with 100% certainty that my computer will not suddenly turn into a banana? Of course not, but I “believe” that it will remain a computer, because there is better than a 99.9% chance that it will.  Therefore, knowledge is the thermostat through which statistical probability becomes belief.  That being the case, with regard to things that are insignificant, my willingness to transfer knowledge into belief is higher.  That is to say, I am far more willing to say that I “know” the bus will come at the right time, than I am willing to buy a used car for example.  The reason is because the bus showing up at a certain time is far less significant than the money I will invest in a car, therefore my level of certainty regarding a used cars history, safety, etc… must be higher.  Believing in a Higher Being may be the single most important thing in a person’s life.  If an individual commits to having a belief in a Higher Being, he has committed himself to changing his outlook on the world; therefore, people want an extremely high degree of certainty.  After all, believing in a higher being is far more important than believing the bus will show up.

Religion celebrates, in many skeptical minds, a long history of conflict and inequality.  For this reason, there is a major double standard for religious belief.  When a college student goes to a history class, he “believes” what his professor is teaching him, he does not assume his professor is being deceitful.  Understandably, religion is seen by many skeptics as a deceitful method of controlling populations, as Karl Marx said, “religion is the opiate of the masses.”   If we applied the same standards for knowledge to religion that we have towards everyday life (and what could be more applicable to everyday life than religion?), then religious ideas would be far more translatable to the average person.

Lastly, and probably the least likely reason belief in a Higher Being is difficult, if people commit themselves to believing in a Higher Being, then they start a domino effect of understanding how they should act in the world.  If a Jew believes in a Higher Being, that means now he is “burdened” with a set of responsibilities he was not liable for the moment before he started believing.  This is a situation, similar to denial, where a person can know something, but refuse to believe it because by believing he must act.

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