Why People Believe
You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Matthew 13:14-15
People believe what they actually want to believe. William James, the great psychologist and scientist, called this phenomenon the will to believe. But before we look any deeper, we need to ask the question what is the will? I refer to the will as your ‘want to’, which means that your appetite is very much a part of your will. Your will determines what you want and what you seek. It will also influence the degree to which you want to do something or believe something.
If a person does not have the will to believe, he will not want to believe, consequently it would be impossible for him to believe or even truly seek to believe. We could say that a person becomes dead to anything he does not have a will to believe in. They have eyes but don’t see, and ears but they don’t hear. In this, I am not saying that if you have a will to believe, that you will believe anything. To say that a person has the will to believe is simply to say he is willing to look at something with an open mind that is prepared to believe, if the evidence for it is there. If there is no will to believe, no amount of evidence will convince a person to believe anything.
What about reason? Reason only works when there is a will to believe or disbelief, because it reason is the handmaiden of the will. The will summons reason to make up all kinds of arguments and excuses for believing or not believing. For reason to work there must be a will and a presupposition that it can work from. Reason does not work in a vacuum.
I know a large number of people who fancy themselves as open-minded that will look at any issue for the sole purpose of reinforcing their self-image of being open minded. What they believe in is there open-mindedness. However, they have none or very little will to believe other things. These people usually only make a superficial search for the truth on any issue. Very shallow thinking is reasons way of justifying their open-mindedness.
The reason there are few people who have a true will to believe is because the human being senses that the will to believe, and the will to action, are so in intertwined they cannot be separated. This means that the things you will to believe, you will act on and act out. Your actions demonstrate and prove your will to believe. This simply means if you do not want to act, you will not have a will to believe. So the will to believe not only has to do with what you want to believe, but also in what you want to do. The person that hates his neighbor will have a hard time embracing a deity that commands him to love his neighbor and forgive him.
The will to believe is also closely connected with need. A perceived need creates an appetite and a will for something. If a person does not perceive a need for something, he will seldom have an appetite or a will for that thing or person; e.g. the person who believes that they have no sin to be forgiven of, will rarely seek a God that offers forgiveness.
Jesus said, “If any man wills to do the will of the Father, he will know the teaching…” Does this not say that a man approaches God, not through his reason but through his will? If you want to do God’s will you will know the teaching, you will find God, when you will to find him. If you do not know God it is because you do not want to. If a person wants to know the true God they will seek him and find him.
In summary, the way to God does not begin with reason; it begins with the will of man. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” He also said, “Let the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him that heareth say, “Come!” And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, (desires) let him take the water of life freely” Revelation 22:17.
This post is a response to Lyle Duell’s May 9th, 2018 blog “The end of Materialism” (https://lyleduell.me/2018/05/09/the-end-of-materialism/).
My son gave me a book called The Great Conversation, by Norman Melchert, a textbook reviewing philosophy from early Greek times to the present. In the textbook, the author really starts with philosophers from around 600 BC with group known as the Sophists. The Sophists view came out of investigations into truth and the deep meanings of life. The Sophists decided that there is no Truth, and therefore the only thing that matters is to get your opinion out to the world. The Sophists argue there was no “truth” that everything was relative. Their goal was to win the argument by presenting the best rhetorical defense of their position.
Sophists taught that there is no Truth, that truth is relative to each person. To get their truth heard, sophists needed to make the most persuasive argument. Sophists taught their students to argue both sides of a debate so they could practice their rhetorical skills and learn about relative truth. Sophists became big in politics and the life of Athens because of their ability to argue and present their ideas.
Socrates came along and showed the Sophists were wrong. Socrates showed that there was Truth and people could use reason to find that Truth. Socrates would ask questions about a subject, digging deeper and deeper, removing the facades until all that was left was the underlying truth. This technique would force people to confront their assumptions and show them the fallacies of their opinions. Society put Socrates to death because of they didn’t want to confront their assumptions. Society did not want to hear that their opinions were wrong.
The pursuit of Truth became the main focus of philosophers, and continues to this day. Plato, a student of Socrates thought that Truth was the basis of everything and that the physical world was just a shadow of that Truth. Aristotle, a student of Plato, believed that Truth was determined through logic and reason. With the use of the Socratic method of questioning everything, the search for truth behind the shadows, and application of logic and reason, philosophers have used these tools to continue the search for Truth.
The study of knowledge and reason (epistemology) has evolved over time. By the late 16th century, philosophy was fragmenting into a lot of different directions. The 17th century philosopher Reneé Descartes, decided that he should not base his understanding of the universe and Truth on writings of the past. Instead, he thought he should start with a blank sheet of paper and prove morals, reason, knowledge, and truth. He use mathematics, logic, and deductive reasoning to dig out truth. He remove all assumptions but one, summed up in the seemingly simple statement: “I think, therefore I am.”
Since that time, scientists and philosophers have gotten the idea into their head that they know so much more than, say, Socrates or Descartes. They have come full circle and are back at the Sophists/relativist phase again. The problem is, they have dragged all of society along with them and society is now a bunch of relativists. Relativism and the scientific materialism it engendered makes people think that that their opinions and ideas are just as valid as anyone else’s opinions and ideas. That view is much better for the ego, allowing you to think that your ideas are valid. If relativism is not valid then the person has to do actual work, like thinking and research. It’s much easier to just assume your idea is valid instead of doing the actual work.
Relativism is a disease of the mind. Aristotle thought so little of them that he refused to even bother to refute a relativist. He claimed that the relativist view was so easy to prove wrong as to almost not be worth the effort. Consider the case of the brain surgeon. Are the opinions of all of the people equally valid? Would you want anyone who can formulate a good argument to grab a bone saw and start to work on your brain? Would you want just anyone who thought they knew to run a nuclear reactor, pilot a jet plane, or even cook your food?
Clearly there are people who have skills and expertise in the various subjects. These people are authorities on the subject. If there are authorities on things like rocket science and brain surgery, then why do people think that there is no authority on the investigation of truth or the understanding of morals?
How do we counter society’s dive into the relativist chasm? How do we show people that relativism and the nihilistic materialism that it spawns is wrong and hurtful? We can try to use reason, but using reason to study reason is like looking into a dark, dirty mirror – we only see distortions, grime, and do not see the entire picture. Logic can help clean the mirror a bit, and the scientific method can do some more cleaning, but we are limited by what we can hold in our brains.
I order to fight society’s intellectual decline, I decided to take up the challenge that Descartes once tried. I wanted to start with a clean sheet of paper and see where it got me. I needed to start with a basic assumption, and I did not want to start with the assumption of “I think, therefore I am.” I started with the base assumption, or axiom, that there is a universe and it exists.
From that one axiom, we can make an observation about that universe—there are objects in the universe. We can do things with the objects, such as put them in groups. We can count the objects and measure their height, width, or depth. We can take some objects out of a group. From this simple manipulation of objects, we can create addition and subtraction. From there, we can manipulate groups of groups and create multiplication and division. In fact, from this simple beginning of manipulating groups and measurements we can create all of mathematics, from the simplest addition table to the most complex abstract algebra and calculus.
Once we can perform mathematics on objects, we can observe that objects interact. Investigating that interaction leads to physics. All of physics is just the study of the interaction of objects, from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy, these are just objects interacting. We can investigate specific objects—chemicals—and create the science of chemistry. We can see that some chemicals have special properties and call these properties “organic” and create a specialized chemistry of organic chemistry. Investigating these chemicals further finds that some reproduce themselves and that investigation is known as biology. In fact, all of mathematics and physical sciences come from the simple initial axiom of “there is a universe and it exists.” Unfortunately, there is nothing in all of these studies and investigations that helps us refute relativism.
As I dug into the ramifications of this basic assumption, I came across two problems. First, why is there a universe? Second, why is there consciousness? Some would argue evolution would lead to consciousness, but there are both major problems with evolution and even more problems with the idea of consciousness being selected by evolution. This set of problems is not something that could be solved by the physical sciences. This set of problems requires going outside of the universe to solve. That means there is either some divine answer or not.
Using both logic and the scientific method I have found that the only possible answer to the second set of problems is God. I found that the only explanation for life, the universe, and everything (to quote Douglas Adams) is a divine Creator. Once you get rid of relativism and actually search for Truth the answers keep coming back to that one conclusion. People may not like that answer, but that does not make the answer any less valid.
Of course, once you have that answer, the next question is – what is the nature of God. Various religions have tried to answer that question. For me, God is the one of the Christian Bible. The problem with investigating the nature of God is that it is entirely subjective. Your relationship with the Creator is intimate and personal. No one has the same relationship or experience as anyone else. Therefore, the only way to answer this question is through personal search.
Since God is infinite, the search for the full answer to that question will take a lifetime and will never finish. The search entails learning about our relationship with God and therefore our relationship with each other. Each step brings new insight and even more questions. Unfortunately, society today is used to quick, sound-bite sized answers. Most people in our society are not equipped to deal with this search, so they either become shallow Christians or atheists.
Since the final search for truth is subjective, the only way to approach it is via reason. Which brings us full circle to your article—reason gets abused and distorted into supporting the desired outcome, not searching for Truth. Reason gets used as a means to support relativism, not to search for the Truth. Subversion of reason is how institutions, religious people, ceremony, and other trappings of “religion” can come between God and His people. Your book, “From Jesus to Religion: How Forms of Mediation have Subverted the Christian Faith,” is showing the world the results of letting ego direct reason and distort the search for Truth.
Your insightful comments and writings has helped me a lot, and I thank you deeply for that.
The End of Materialism?
Materialism is a philosophy that teaches the only thing which exists is what science call matter or energy. For the materialist there is no spirit, soul or even consciousness. As a philosophy, it represents the foundational world-view of atheism. Materialism and its birth child of atheism will never be the preeminent world view because it leaves humanity empty and without meaning. Any illusions of meaning it might offer are quickly drained by suffering, the brevity of life and him him death. Of course, there are some who have the intellectual ability to build and maintain a huge bulwark of superficial and peripheral arguments to protect their illusions of meaning. The most that can be said about these arguments is that they divert people’s attention away from reality onto their quibbles, which seems to work fairly well for those who have very little expectations of life. This is one of the biggest problems and dangers of atheism; it has the tendency to hollow out people and diminish their expectations or hopes for the future or life in general, which in turn precipitates an existential crisis that often leads to nihilism.
In his classic book “The Denial of Death”, Ernest Becker points out that humanity denies its death by creating illusions. He claims that one of these delusions is religion, but he acknowledges that it’s just one among many. The most typical method of delusion is simply to force the idea of death to the back of your mind. Most humans are so well-practiced at this deception that they do it with very little effort or consciousness.
In fact, it has been my experience that people of faith think and talk about death more than the non-religious. In this, they demonstrate more of a grasp on reality, at least in this one area, greater than the non-religious. The secular man appears to avoid the issue of death altogether, which seems to be a far deeper form of denial, than trusting in an afterlife.
Of course, you must demonstrate that religion is false, not just flawed, before you can totally dismiss it as a delusion, which Becker doesn’t attempt. However, in his conclusion Becker does demonstrate the utilitarianism of religion and affirms that religion does work well in dealing with the fear of death. This dispels the shallow idea of the new atheist type that says religion poisons everything and intrinsically has no value.
The end of materialism can be seen throughout the west and especially in eastern Europe where we have a preview of its demise in Russia where materialism was forced on the population by an atheistic government for decades, at which point it left the populace hollowed out and empty. The Russian model of materialism demonstrates the unworkable and the destructive nature of materialism and the atheism that follows.
I personally feel that the biggest problem with materialism is that no one can live as though they really believed it. If consistent, the materialist must also be a determinist and deny the free will of man and I have yet to see a man live as though he is a slave to the mindless movement of matter. One of my pragmatic friends put it this way; “I’ve never known a man that didn’t look both ways before crossing a street.” You cannot live a consistent life and be a materialist.
In following video, Carl Jung presents some material that should make the new atheist type rethink the virtue of their constant attacks on religion as though virtuous. Jung points out that a loss of faith and religion is the reason why so many people today are despondent. Young also shows that a loss of faith tends to move a culture towards State-ism along with the development and growth of a will for power in the human spirit, which results in mental disorders and the totalitarian state.
In a past article I pointed out that atheism is a phenomenon which seems to take place at the end of a civilization and is one of the marks of a decaying culture. It is hard to tell whether atheism is the cause, or the fruit, of a culture in declension. However, either way it is not a positive force in the human community.
An honest unbeliever, Dr. E. Wengraf does not seem to share the enthusiasm of the new atheist in debunking people’s faith, “Every piece of anti-religious propaganda seems to me a crime. I surely do not wish it to be prosecuted as a crime, but I consider it immoral and loathsome. This not because of zeal for my convictions, but because of the simple knowledge, acquired through long experience, that, given the same circumstances, a religious man is happier than the irreligious. In my indifference and skeptical attitude toward all positive faith, I have often envied other men to whom deep religiosity has given a strong support in all the storms of life. To uproot the souls of such men is an abject deed. I abhor any proselytizing. But still, I can understand why one who believes firmly in a saving faith tries to convert others. But I cannot understand a propaganda of unbelief. We do not have the right to take away from a person his protecting shelter, be it even a shabby hut, if we are not sure we can offer him a better, more beautiful house. But to lure men from the inherited home of their souls, to make them err afterward in the wilderness of hypotheses and philosophical question marks, is either criminal fatalism or criminal mindlessness.”
A Letter to a Young atheist
You asked if I had read any books written by atheists. I’ve read a number of the books written by the four Horsemen and many other atheists. After reading them, I still think atheism is a mental disorder that shows up at the end of any declining civilization. Even if every religion throughout the world is wrong that doesn’t make atheism right.
You argument that the division in the religion world is a proof that there is no God demonstrates a shallow understand of the human condition. In fact, if there is an all powerful being you would expect finite creatures like humans to be divided concerning their belief about it. So, what you point out to be an inconsistency is very much consistent with a belief in an all-knowing God. Disunity of belief is the very thing you should expect to find when a finite creature believes in an all-powerful God.
Your quibbles about there being no proofs for the existence of God border on the hysterical. First, there is an enormous difference between evidence and proof. A huge percentage of human knowledge has little to no proof of its own accuracy. The majority of human knowledge believed is based on the authority of a teacher, and to have faith in that teacher. Very few people ever see the evidence or proof for numerous beliefs. These beliefs range from Darwinian evolution, to theories of the multi-verse. If you believe these things, it’s because someone told you to believe it and you accepted it by faith and you accepted it as logical because they framed the evidence in a world view that you had already accepted. When talking about evidence we are using the language of science, when you start talking about proofs you are using the language of philosophy not science. Science cannot possibly prove or disapprove the idea of God. Science recognizes its limitations. Why can’t you atheists? The truth is that you don’t understand science any better than you do religion.
However, science can offer evidence that seems at least to support the idea of a supreme consciousness that created all things. The apparent design that we see in the universe is one of these things and the other is the fact that the universe had a beginning. Both scientific theories support the idea of consciousness more than a belief that the world and the universe were just cobbled together by a mindless force. However, it does not proof it be on a shadow of a doubt.
If you’re looking for proofs in philosophy, you can forget it. Philosophically, it would be hard to prove that you even exist, much more than proving the nonexistence of a god. Human beings are small ignorant creatures whose existence is based pretty much on faith in many presuppositions, which cannot be proven. Our ambiguous position in the universe tends to cause insecurity so we gravitate towards seeking certitude (proofs) of our beliefs. In this religion is actually more honest than secular people when it says that we walk by faith and not by sight.
The new atheists are small-minded people who have an over-inflated view of themselves and their intelligence. As a result they are fundamentalist in their thinking and they still live in a world of proofs. This alone is an unbelievable paradox because of their belief system, or their lack of beliefs. For in their belief system of materialism there couldn’t be such a thing as truth for truth is a concept that belongs in a religious framework that believes in an Ultimate Authority as a foundation of human knowledge. The atheist appeal to truth demonstrates that they are still thinking in a religious framework and in essence, for many their lack of belief has become a religion.
 The US National Academy of Sciences has gone on record with the following statement: ‘Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.” Taken from “Who made God?, a searching For a Theory Of Everything” by Fay Weldon.
 In a materialistic worldview there cannot be a traditional moralistic truth. Atheism will always lead to relativism where truth is what a person believes.