Rationality of Religious Belief Without Having Evidence


Throughout the experience of this class, we have analyzed and argued for and against the existence of God, we have looked at different examples, we have looked at some evidence but today I would like to defend Plantinga’s view on why is it that belief in God is properly basic supported also by Pascal’s Wager.

What does it really mean for belief in God to be properly basic? According to Plantinga, being self-evident, or incorrigible are not necessary conditions on proper basicality. What then constitutes a properly basic belief? Given that our mind does not play any tricks on us, we can see or remember things. Plantinga gives the examples of us remembering having breakfast, or seeing a tree. We can have the belief of seeing a tree without necessarily having evidence, if all of our mental faculties are working properly and we are not under the effects of any drugs or mental disabilities we are most likely to remember what we had for breakfast. These certain beliefs don’t require much thought or the need to be self-evident, so then what makes the belief in God properly basic? The answer to this is Sensus Divinatis.

What is sensus divinatis? Sensus divinatis is the sense of divinity, and what this entails is that we all know of God implicitly. It is imbedded in our nature to believe in a higher being. Plantinga references Calvin, in that we know of God implicitly by looking around us, looking at nature or the vast intricate universe that surrounds us. In this sense, there is no need to look for evidence in the sense that our basic beliefs implicitly tell us there is a God. The instances where we implicitly talk about God are those whenever we feel like God talks to us through scripture, when we feel like we have done something wrong, but can’t comprehend why we feel guilty for something we freely chose to do. It is in those instances that the sense of divinity manifests itself.

Throughout daily life, people will argue that God is hidden, that we cannot physically see God, like we see the trees, we can’t remember him like the piece of kolache I had for breakfast or he simply doesn’t manifest himself in a way that is apparent to us. Schellenberg argued that God was hidden to us and it justified atheism. God’s hiddenness was then presented in three scenarios. One depicting a child playing hide and seek with her mother and the child not finding his mother, the second one of a kid who when playing hide and seek with her mother, suffered a head injury and could not remember whether or not he ever had a mother. Lastly the example of a kid who cried for help in a jungle, yelling for a mother he wasn’t sure existed and was about to be attacked by a jaguar.

Through these analogies Schellenberg tries to convince the reader that we are like the child in the example. We as children of God look for him but find no solace, according to Schellenberg. He argues that this hiddenness is evidence enough for us not to believe in God, while Plantinga tell us this isn’t necessarily the case. As Plantinga discusses, people often look for evidence arguing that if people do not have concrete and solid evidence for believing in the case of God specifically, they are considered as fool or irrational beings that deserve pity but it is not the case when we are aware of the proper basic beliefs.

In a sense some philosophers would suggest we should simply suspend judgement on having no evidence, but one can’t stop believing a belief just because. To say that would be to say that my father loves me because he always brings a slice of pizza every Friday night. Let’s suppose he does this so much, that it has become a tradition. The tradition goes on for years until one night, he comes home and there is no slice of pizza. Should my belief that my father doesn’t love me be suspended on such action? What if he forgot multiple times? Would his love for me be less in the times he did not provide me with a slice? What if I was then suffering, from a disease that prohibited me from eating pizza? Wouldn’t that have been a greater sign of love?

Often times, people look on evidence on why God didn’t act a certain way or doesn’t appear in a certain fashion, but can we really understand what goes in the mind of the creator of the vast and intricate universe? Can we really argue on what an omniscient being should be thinking about?

And if we don’t see Him are, we really looking for him? Is the divine sense just a mystical experience like Alton described? What if God is in every detail? From every flower on an open field, to the oceans and the molecules on earth. God could be what is in the words of Anselm “that than which nothing greater can be thought”. If we look at God from the perspective of Plantinga, then we will see that, that God which is “hidden”, is a God that although denied by some is still acknowledged and thought of. The God that some people chose to ignore, is still the One that is being talked about. What if I believe there are atoms floating around me? I cannot for sure see them, but I have a strong believe they are here in everything that I am touching, writing and sending electronically. I do not have evidence to proof that I have atoms in front of me, nonetheless I have this properly basic belief that there are atoms in front of me.

Believing in God can be properly basic, but can anything else be a basic proper belief? Can the Great Pumpkin as described by Plantinga be a basically proper belief?

The Great Pumpkin unlike God, it is not something that manifests itself in different ways or makes itself be known, like God.

What do we lose if we believe in God? Is believing in something that is not seen clearly a sign of irrationality or a mental deficiency? If that is the case, would Albert Einstein have been able to come up with his theory of relativity? I do not think so… and if we believe in a higher being, would we really lose much?

Relating this back to Pascal’s wager, what do we lose by believing in the omnipotent God? Obviously, we know that Pascal, when writing his Wager did not think to add other religions in his piece or think of other gods for that matter. But how much can we really lose from just believing in something? If I believe in a higher being, would I need to stop doing the things I love to do? How or why would believing in God restrict me from doing great things or living a satisfying life? In the words of Socrates “the unexamined life is not worth living”. If after I have examined my life and my beliefs carefully and I still believe in God am I really an irrational being?

How far can my thoughts go and how much can I know? In that sense has everything I learned been in vain? What if my learning abilities are distorted and my sight fails me? Could I not write these words and could I not believe I am writing these words correctly? What do I really have to lose from believing in an omnipotent, omniscient God?

If he does not exist, then what am I losing? I would still have to agree with Pascal that I have nothing to lose and much to gain from believing in God. The notion that believing in a higher being makes me irrational does not really mean anything, for great thinkers have believed in a higher being like Descartes and Pascal. As we move forward throughout the years and our knowledge increases the questions being asked today and on philosophy of religion are still discussed. What does one really lose when believing in God?

Would I lose my freedom? Would I lose my independence and the freedom to choose my actions? Would believing in God stop me from doing great things then or discovering new things? Could I not write poetry and could I not drink wine if I choose to believe in God? Where would my freedom be if I am not to believe in God? What are the limitations of one believe then in whole mind?

While believing in God Plantinga was able to prove why Mackie was wrong in believing the Theistic Set was inconsistent. Does believing in God then alter our sense of logic? The only objections I could sense would be from the example of some churches, who nowadays preach the prosperity gospel but do not adhere to the word in the bible, but rather preach about rewards while prohibiting certain things. If we do not examine our life and the actions we are taking, then how can we really live fully?

A belief should not alter the examining of our life, we can always question our beliefs and change our minds, but believing in something shouldn’t really alter the way we examine things. We will always have opposing views obviously, that’s why if we wage the decision of believing in God, I do not think it would make such a great impact in believing in God and then being that God doesn’t exist. In that sense we wouldn’t have really lost anything if God didn’t exist, we would only gain great things from this position.

If we are too look at this from Anselm’s point we would see that if we are to believe in God, and it so happens that God exists, then we would be able to experience the greatest island we could ever think of with all the amenities and free wi-fi, but if God turned out to don’t exist we would simply never get to experience the island and erase all those memories we lived on earth into oblivion because, if there is no heaven after death then there must be simply nothing. We would just transform into energy in the universe and again we might serve as compost for the land we have died in.

But then wouldn’t that add to the sense of divinity? How is that there is so much order from a world that is full of chaos? Is God then a romantic artist like Eugene Delacroix? We don’t really know, as we have no idea what an omniscient and omnipotent God really thinks about because if we knew what his thoughts were could He really be omniscient and omnipotent?

How can we possibly know what goes beyond our knowledge and our mind when epistemologists are still asking themselves these questions we cannot answer in full detail?

There is much speculation for these answers but many lingering questions, and if questions are answered other questions are brought up.

If we don’t know the answers for certain then why does believing seem like a problem? Philosophers, scientists, writers and many people still face these questions. It seems like there is not much we can do but truly examine these things and try to come up with answers from ourselves, we shouldn’t suspend judgement or belief but rather we should explore. Explore in to the realm of the possibilities we face and wage our options so that we may lead into a better path. Pascal might have missed the other religions on his Wager but his method of analyzing provides us with a sense of direction into the future.

Taking all of these things into consideration we should now look forward that the sense of divinity surrounds us and that is possible for us to believe in such a being that has created order into this world. Throughout the class we have looked at examples from the ontological, cosmological arguments to the problem of evil, faith, evidence, hiddenness, wager and properly basic beliefs. After carefully analyzing all of these arguments, my belief hasn’t changed and although I have examined evidence and I’ve reasoned into some things, my belief has not changed.

I can convincingly say that I have no evidence, I have no DNA sample, no sight, not a physical encounter, just a feeling and a sense that takes over my senses and gives me peace and joy when I come to terms with it or look for it fully. I can also say that a feeling of understanding comes to me when I seek the word as I seek it with knowledge.

Our properly basic beliefs can’t really determine much of our search, like acknowledging trees or a person’s emotions or believing in God. One should always seek understanding, and the sense of divinity talked about in this paper helps us understand how we come up with the notion or the idea that one does not need to find evidence to have a properly basic belief.

The more our technology and knowledge advances in this world the more we seem to know about things but also the more we get to question our surroundings. In this vast intricate universe, the only thing left for us is to move forward with progress and understanding, questioning our beliefs and determining whether or not they are true or false. I cannot say for certain what is right or wrong regarding this topic as more information is available to us with each and every day.

Philosophy, or the love of wisdom, is a matter that never stops. We never stop improving, we never stop questioning, we never stop inventing. As time goes by and new discoveries and theories are made, my belief has still been the same as since I started studying philosophy. As far as my mind can take me, I will go venturing out into new endeavors, finding out more about life and its conditions. The farther I go, the more I will like to explore within my mind and my surroundings to get a clearer picture of what understanding is and if weather or not the beliefs I hold so dearly, really hold up to their standards.

As of know everything I have learned has, changed in some way but it hasn’t changed me in a way. I seek to every day understand more and more about the world I live in and to challenge my mind. To have taken this class was a complete privilege and that it opened my mind to so many things, I would have never thought of hearing.

The challenge I face now is to look forward and expand the knowledge these lectures and readings have given me, and use them for the betterment of epistemology. I am thankful for all these things I’ve learned, and I hold them dearly, with a blessed and opened mind. I thus conclude that one is capable to believe in God without having evidence.