I have often thought, and I maintain, that people believe what they want to believe. Naturally, when I found the same said on Seth’s blog, I believed it!
Seriously, though, I do not think I am going out on a limb here. When it comes to belief in God, in particular, it seems people tend to believe what they want to believe. Belief in God revealed in the life and statements of Jesus comes with a price. His words are harsh in some respects; they are unrelenting and uncompromising. It does not take long to see that the Jesus reveals a God who expects something from us.
I think we all have the sense that there really is no middle ground. Either we yield, or there is no place in our crowded hearts for God. We are quintessentially rational creatures. We do not abide paradoxes. We sniff out hypocrisy, sometimes even in ourselves, though that is a tough one. I think we can easily fool ourselves. If there is no place for God in our hearts, we are inclined to believe that God does not exist, or cannot be known. It fits our “worldview” after all.
A worldview is nothing more than how we see the world. It is tough to maintain a view of the world in which God is uncompromising, but in which we want to maintain control at the same time. Those two concepts do not sync together very well.
In the alternative, we also fool ourselves – at least those of us who believe in God: we acquiesce in word, but we fail in deed to live as if God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We do not yield to God’s control. We rationalize. We fail to cede the throne to Him. We are dishonest with God, ourselves and, therefore, the people around us.
Many believers in God may believe because it is convenient to believe. We do not like the idea of life ending at death. We want the comfort of believing that there is a god and, therefore, there is a heaven. We do not, however, want to admit that a God who made us, the universe and everything in it might just want something from us. At least, we do not live as if that were true.
I believe that atheists and agnostics may be more “honest” than many believers in God. They do not concede there is a god or a god that we can know. They do not suffer the hypocrisy in themselves (or other people). No wonder they are quick to see the hypocrisy in others and have no tolerance for it.
Of course, it is all very easy for atheists and agnostics. If there is no god, or no god that can be known, there is no need to live life any other way than how we want to live it. There is no struggle to conform to any standard other than one’s own. There is no competition for the rule of our hearts. Any threat to that self-rule is met with resistance, and there is no reason to hide that reaction. Defense of one’s atheism or agnosticism is paramount, because any suggestion that there is a God, and a God that can be known, is a threat to the integrity of one’s life and an assault on one’s sense of self-control.
In the end, however, belief in the non-existence or the inability to know God may not be a matter of rational thinking. It may be more a matter of protecting one’s own turf: the territory of the heart. We believe what we want to believe to protect the control we want to have. We do not want to concede anything to a God who made us.