Do You Believe in God?

The following is an excerpt from Scott Adams’ God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment that someone shared on another blog. It was in response to an ongoing discussion, but I felt it could stand on its own and decided to share it here as well.

If you’re interested, the book is FREE in pdf format (use the above link) and I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.

One person offered this description about the book: “You may not find the final answer to the big question, but God’s Debris might provide the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read.”

The old man leaned toward me, resting a blanketed elbow on the arm of his rocker.

“Four billion people say they believe in God, but few genuinely believe. If people believed in God, they would live every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Rich people would give their wealth to the needy. Everyone would be frantic to determine which religion was the true one. No one could be comfortable in the thought that they might have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some other unthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their lives to converting others to their religions.

“A belief in God would demand one hundred percent obsessive devotion, influencing every waking moment of this brief life on earth. But your four billion so-called believers do not live their lives in that fashion, except for a few. The majority believe in the usefulness of their beliefs—an earthly and practical utility—but they do not believe in the underlying reality.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “If you asked them, they’d say they believe.”

“They say that they believe because pretending to believe is necessary to get the benefits of religion. They tell other people that they believe and they do believer-like things, like praying and reading holy books. But they don’t do the things that a true believer would do, the things a true believer would have to do.

“If you believe a truck is coming toward you, you will jump out of the way. That is belief in the reality of the truck. If you tell people you fear the truck but do nothing to get out of the way, that is not belief in the truck. Likewise, it is not belief to say God exists and then continue sinning and hoarding your wealth while innocent people die of starvation. When belief does not control your most important decisions, it is not belief in the underlying reality, it is belief in the usefulness of believing.”

“Are you saying God doesn’t exist?” I asked, trying to get to the point.

“I’m saying that people claim to believe in God, but most don’t literally believe. They only act as though they believe because there are earthly benefits in doing so. They create a delusion for themselves because it makes them happy.”

God at Work?

In our local newspaper, there was an article entitled, “God Went Pruning.” It was in regards to the recent (very wet) snowstorm we experienced in which numerous trees throughout the region were affected (including some of our own).

While there has been considerable coverage about the damage residents have suffered from uprooted trees falling on their homes, into highways and roadways, large branches covering yards, along with several other calamities, this particular article was about trees that were part of a hazelnut orchard — and how the damage is expected to affect the owner’s livelihood.

Naturally, the article title grabbed my attention and got me to thinking. So if “God” decided to prune, why is “His” creation going to suffer the consequences? According to the article, the farmer owned 32 acres, which produced over 75,000 pounds of hazelnuts last year. He is expecting at least a 25% loss. So why did the God that so many call loving and worthy of praise decide to take away a substantial portion of this man’s livelihood?

Of course, losing a bit of sustenance is nothing compared to the loss of human life resulting from the recent (God-initiated?) tornadoes in Alabama. Or from earthquakes or tsunamis or wildfires or avalanches …

Yet time and again, believers overlook all this and “praise God” because they (or their family or their possessions) were sparred from whatever disaster came their way. As for their neighbor(s)? “God” must have wanted him/her/them to come “home.” So sad. Too bad.

Are We Born With a Belief in God?

There are many people who contend we are born with a “god sense.” But are we? And is this “knowledge” of the numinous the Christian god (as many believers contend) or is it any god?


Preparing for this post, I did some internet research. (Qualifier: I have not studied philosophy and hold no degrees. Everything I offer in this post is based on my limited research plus personal opinion.)

Nearly every site I came across was Christian-oriented which, of course, contended … “Oh Yes! The God Spirit is there at the very beginning!” They would then cite various scriptures from the bible to support this belief, along with quotes from some other individuals who affirmed this view. For example:

Swiss theologian John Calvin, who states …

That there exists in the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of deity [sensus divinitatus], we hold to be beyond dispute

Along with philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who contends that …

when human beings function naturally in the world, without coercion or indoctrination, they do in fact naturally form the belief that God is there.

Some of the websites even referenced innatism, which holds that the mind is born with ideas, knowledge and beliefs and is not a “blank slate” as early empiricists claim. Plato and Descartes were two prominent philosophers that agreed with this perspective.

Yet the best supported findings of developmental psychology tell us children are born with almost no innate concepts of anythingThey are simply innocent human beings entering this world.

Further, when one considers we have no control over our birth circumstances, to wit: we do not get to choose the day we are born, the family we are born into, what we are named at birth, what country we are born in, nor do we get to choose our ancestry, it seems unlikely we would have any kind of “special knowledge” about a supernatural being.

I feel certain many (especially those who regularly read this blog) would agree with this perspective. In fact, one person in particular (who calls himself “rawgod“) recently offered his thoughts on this subject on another blog. I tended to concur with what he had to say so, with his permission, I’ve included (some) of his remarks below:

Were a baby to be born and NEVER introduced to the god fantasy, it would never conceive of a god or gods on its own, there is no need to do so. But once gods were invented, and made popular, suddenly everyone had to have them. This was slowly accomplished through great salesmanship, and then brainwashing youngsters. But it was accomplished, and at one point in history probably 99.999% of humans had some kind of belief in gods, or a god.

We are told about religion, and gods, so now we are predisposed to believe … we are very very seldom left to ourselves to grow up not believing in something

Remember, we are not born with the idea of gods, but it is in our nature to need to feel connected to something. When our parents, teachers, and preachers turn us in the direction of religion it is an easy place for a child to go to. And it is just as easy to become trapped there.

It would seem rawgod is onto something in that last paragraph as there are studies that validate the need to feel connected/attached,  But does this automatically lead to a god figure?

Absolutely! IF this is what the child is exposed to.

For example, Christian parents begin teaching their children at a very early age about the “goodness of god.” Along with weekly Sunday School or catechism classes, reading bible stories, singing Jesus songs, saying grace at meals, praying at bedtime, the child is regularly exposed to, as rawgod put it … “the god fantasy.” (Naturally, the same would be true for children of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other faiths.)

As a result, there is little doubt that as the child grows and matures, the predisposition towards the chosen deity has been firmly set.


But now let us return to the primary question (as asked by rawgod):

Were a baby to be born and NEVER introduced to the “god fantasy,”
would it conceive of a god or gods on its own?

Church on Sunday

I rarely go out on Sunday as it’s my self-designated day for washing and cleaning. And besides, most stores are closed. But yesterday was different because I needed a couple of ingredients for our Sunday dinner so I hopped in the car and headed for the grocery store. As it so happened, my chosen route took me past a church.

On my first pass-by, I didn’t think much about it except to notice the parking lot was only semi-full (it was still early). However, on my way back, things had changed and cars were everywhere and anywhere that a parking spot was allowed.

As I continued my way towards home, I thought back to my “church-going” days. It took a bit of digging through my memory banks as it’s been a very long time since I walked through the doors of a church. And even as memories came to the surface, they were fuzzy and ill-defined. Mostly I remembered greeting my “brothers and sisters” before service started (which I always enjoyed).

But the songs … prayers … sermons? None of those memories ever materialized. Perhaps because they no longer hold any significance for me. Perhaps because I now find such things irrelevant and unnecessary.

Then my thoughts turned to the idea of a “God.” And I mused over why so many people feel a belief in same is so important. I looked up at the sky and thought to myself … what is the need behind the idea that some unseen entity exists somewhere “up there?”

Then I took my thoughts a bit further and asked myself … could “something” really exist somewhere in the cosmos? Is there truly some kind of invisible force that interacts with humans? And more specifically … at their request?

It didn’t take but a moment or two for me to answer my self-imposed questions. 🙂