The Believer's Dilemma
As a teenager, I became curious about the ancient questions. Why does the universe exist? Do living creatures have any particular purpose? Who, or what, would determine that purpose? The most constant answer throughout history has been that origins, meaning and purpose point to an Almighty Creator. Inexplicably, the eternal, unchangeable Creator has shown up at different times and places in dramatically different manifestations. Most human beings throughout history have believed in different deities that revealed different sacred scriptures. If we could prove that the universe was created by a supremely intelligent Creator, would it confirm that any of those gods of religion is real?
What Is the Believer’s Dilemma?
After studying religion for a couple of decades, both theoretically and experientially, it became clear that belief in God requires a leap of faith. Believers make different leaps to reach different gods. Or no god. The choice is not as arbitrary as a coin toss. Believers often feel they have compelling reasons to believe, but their personal leap of faith is explained by a circular argument that makes no sense to non-believers.
Who has not had the misfortune to encounter a believer absolutely certain that they possess the absolute truth, and if you do not surrender unconditionally to their god of love, He will (as an expression of infinite love?) torment you for all eternity. I spent a decade tracing the Christian doctrine of Original Sin back to its source in the 5th century Roman Empire where a war to the death was raging between Pagans and Christians. The Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin is unbiblical, ungodly, inhuman and manmade. The evidence is indisputable, except to the large number of believers who prefer a religion ruled by a God of Wrath.
Human beings believe in many things based on feelings and faith rather than verifiable facts. Almost the entire human race has believed in gods and ghost, angels and demons, heaven and hell, or immortal souls and life after death. Yet there is no scientific evidence for any of these things. Why do human beings choose to believe in mysteries?
A religious impulse appears to be as deeply imbedded in the human psyche as the survival instinct and the sex drive. What purpose does it serve? Most believers profess to worship a god of love who rewards kindness, honesty, loyalty and goodness. They also follow some version of the Golden Rule: Love your neighbour as yourself. This belief system, which encourages selfish individuals to collaborate, has been good for the human species. But some versions of religion prefer a narrow definitions about who is a neighbour worthy of love. They do terrible things to their enemies, who are also the enemies of their God of Wrath. This has made life miserable for millions, and murdered multitudes more.
During the past century, neuroscience has discovered a great deal about how the brain works. Many scientists believe that our growing knowledge of the brain/mind is irreconcilable with older theories of freewill. Does our DNA, neurones, subconscious mind and instincts determine what we believe? How can we know what is actually true and real? This is the believer’s dilemma.