A Doubters Doubts about Science and Religion

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It all comes through our subjective lenses. In reality, it all comes down to faith. And faith is not something one can force.

Uncertainties About the Role of Doubt in Religion - The New York Times

Nearly everything can be philosophically deconstructed. The kind that keeps one from living the kind of life that he would like to live.


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I was startled at the similarities in his experience and thought world to my own. And when I shared with him about some of my experience, he shared with me a set of axioms that he has come up with that has allowed him to continue to practice his Christianity in an intellectually honest way, even during seasons of extreme doubt. These axioms, he explained to me, act as a sort of ground floor upon which he can deconstruct no further. So, while these axioms may be extremely unhelpful to a person who has no metaphysical dilemmas, they can be EXTREMELY helpful to a person who sometimes dips into deep, debilitating existential doubt.

You ready? I asked him to write it down and send it to me, and this is his email:. I provide definitions for religious concepts in the form of axioms in a manner that is compatible with naturalism falsifiable and provable. Even in the sciences, we must admit we don't have a complete understanding of most concepts, so AT LEAST could be applied to natural concepts too the Universe, gravity, etc.

Basically, this is a ground floor which doubt can dip no further. It allows us to always feel intellectually honest about pursuing God, religious ritual, fellowship and even Jesus himself. God is AT LEAST the natural forces that created and sustain the Universe as experienced via a psychosocial construct rooted in evolved neurologic features in humans.


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EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition for God, the pursuit of this personal, subjective experience can provide meaning, peace and empathy for others and is warranted. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition of prayer, the health and psychological benefits of prayer justify the discipline. EVN IF that is a comprehensive definition of God, study of scripture is warranted to understand our culture and the way in which people come to know God. Jesus is AT LEAST the idea of a man so connected to God that he was called the Son of God and the largest religious movement in human history is centered around his teachings; he was very likely a real person.

How convinced were they that there would be life after death?

Science, Religion, and the Big Bang

From the start, one could suppose that the fairly certain would prove less devout or observant on such measures than the absolutely certain. At least some of the fairly certain, it can be assumed, are people in transit, shifting toward disbelief and already distancing themselves from traditional religious life.

Nonetheless, if it turned out that the answers of the fairly certain came even close to those of the absolutely certain, it would confirm the idea of a stable strata of deeply committed, actively practicing religious believers who have also integrated a significant degree of doubt and uncertainty into their faith.

The Doubter's Doubt

The Pew study itself did not make such comparisons between the absolutely certain and the fairly certain believers. But its huge sample of interviews meant that these subgroups were large enough to make statistically reliable comparisons. Gregory A. Smith, research fellow at the Pew Forum, was kind enough to fire up the computers and churn out the numbers. Unfortunately for anyone looking for a new model of strong faith with doubt, the fairly certain believers were not at all close to the absolutely certain ones on frequency of prayer and worship, the importance of religion in their lives, belief in life after death, and several other measures.

In most cases the fairly certain believers were closer in attitude and observance to those saying they were not certain.

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View all New York Times newsletters. Strike 1 against the new steady-state hypothesis.

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Obviously, religious practices like worship and prayer usually assume a God who has relationships with people. In this case, the gap between the two groups closes — but only modestly. Strike 2 against the steady-state hypothesis. Of course, there may be still other ways of slicing and dicing the data, or of looking at differences among particular religious groups. Strike 3 may not be inevitable.

Catalog Record: A doubter's doubts about science and religion | HathiTrust Digital Library

Nor can the transition hypothesis be declared the hands-down winner. Since , the General Social Survey, a highly regarded opinion survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, has asked a parallel but somewhat different set of questions that explore confidence or uncertainty about the existence of God. Smith points out that from to the percentages of people giving each answer have remained relatively unchanged.


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That does not really bolster the steady-state hypothesis because it reveals nothing about the patterns of worship and prayer and valuing religion that correspond to these degrees of certainty or doubt. But those findings do challenge the transition hypothesis, which implies an increase over time in the number of doubters. As academics love to conclude, more research is needed.

That, at least, is fairly certain. Tell us what you think.