“Do you believe in God?”

“…a distinction betweenGod and what one sees deep inside his heart and knows there is a god. Indeed, it would be difficult to know that our god is really God.”

by Natalia Laskowska

Something to think about:

It happened only once that this question came from my mouth, yet still the mere thought of uttering it makes me feel quite uncomfortable. “Do you believe in God?”. The person who had to hear it from me is one of the dearest beings that live on this planet, so back then I was just very gently made aware that the question was wrong. It is the last week that I sensed on my skin not only how wrong but also how intellectually boorish it was.

During somemore academic session on religion, one lady asked me “So do you really believe in God?”.I was baffled. Feeling uncomfortable to hear such question from a person whom I never met before, I changed the subject. But she came back with it requesting an answer with flat yes or no. I replied with question: “Do you have orgasm?”.

It was impolite, yet the two questions had something in common – answering them was disturbing, and both related to experience which only the person asked would know if it is there or not. And even supposing it is there one cannot be really certain it is.

Mark Johnston in Saving God (2009) makes a distinction between God and what one sees deep inside his heart and knows there is a god. Indeed, it would be difficult to know that our god is really God. Professor Johnston points three conditions we can determine by looking into our hearts: that we believe there is God; that we believe our god is God; and that we believe in our god. Yet do we actually believe in God then? We believe that we believe…This is already most personal and intimate.

We can see a difference between asking whether God exists or not, and whether a person believes in God or not. The latter one is like forcing somebody into our own patterns of believing: if we believe – into how we believe, if we do not believe – into how we think other people believe. And this is quite low, for somehow our concepts may be too shallow and conventional to fit other person’s subtle thought. Saying “yes” the person would accept the frame structured in our possibly very much limited brains. But maybe he or she would not really want to be reduced to it?

This is where answering “yes” becomes so odd and disturbing, it could be that the person would say “yes” to what is inside his heart, but he does not feel like saying “yes” to what is inside our hearts or brains. Saying “no” is equally uncomfortable. It could mean that the person clearly refuses to accept our idea of god which is already included in “Do you believe in God?” question. And this means the end ofdiscussion as well.

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  1. Dave Malnes’s avatar

    Good point on how uncomfortable it is to express a faith or belief in God. Many different views based on faith or even cultural backgrounds. I often find that a person’s view of God is largely based on their culture of family belief system. For many, it’s more important to be accepted by a culture rather than righteous before God.


    1. Orlando’s avatar

      Indeed, and I have a feeling that in some countries it’s like somehow a taboo. Like people are ashame to say they believe in God :S



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