Why do people believe in God (or Gods)? What’s the evidence for God’s existence? To what degree is evidence important in the context of religion?
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People believe in God for a variety of reasons. One is that is how they were raised; their parents believed in God and taught them to also. Another reason is that people don't want to be alone in the universe; it is comforting to know that there is a higher force directing things, and that it is not all just random chaos. The idea of a soul, of some form of life before and after death here on earth, is a very comforting one that, to a lot of people, makes more sense than being random creations of a soulless universe. Other reasons for belief in God is that they have felt his presence in their lives, through guidance, manifestations of his spirit, or some sort of witness or revelation that he exists.
Evidence for God's existence is more tricky. Scientists have tried to find evidence and often fall short. On the other hand, some scientists believe that the mere existence of the complex human being is evidence alone-that nothing other than a supreme being could have invented such things as the human eye, for example. The kind of proof or evidence that exists in support of a God is the more internal proof felt in the heart. People have felt, in their hearts, a witness of God, and that is their proof.
In religion, "scientific proof" isn't necessary if one has faith. Faith is believing in something that you can't see. Faith is at the core of most religious belief, and for some, leads to assurance, calm, peace, and those further witnesses that I have been talking about. To get into a scientific argument about God's existence is a difficult and often fruitless endeavor. Ask anyone who has felt in their hearts that he is real though, and that is proof beyond all doubt for them.
Evidence isn't really important for many people of faith. Faith, as St. Paul put it, is the "substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen." In other words, it's something entirely intangible, and cannot and should not attempt to be proven through empirical means.
Most people of faith do not worry about proving their faith, but some do. For example, many fundamentalist Christians tend to look for scientific evidence to support the theory of Creationism. Mormon adherants have an organization called "FARMS", which stands for the Foundation for Ancient Religious and Mormon Studies, which attempts to prove the existence of the people referred to in the Book of Mormon.
As a Catholic, I believe in God. However, I'm not actively seeking to convince anyone else to do so. Religion is a personal thing, and it works for me in my own way. I can't expect anyone else to get out of it what I do. Then again, there are many sects or denominations that attempt to prove their faith; many evangelicals, for example, present "proofs" of God's existence. It just depends on your personal preference, I suppose.
There is currently absolutely no reliable evidence for God. 'Evidence' is part of scientific research and discovery. Science has found no Universal Creator so far. In fact, for the last 400 years, modern science has found provable explanations for our surroundings that do not need a creator. The evidence of science has made God's involvement more and more unneccessary. God is being 'removed' from the univesre by science. The only answer religion has for this is that, "Abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence" in other words, finding absolutely no evidence for God does not mean God doesn't exist.
Why do people believe in God... "Their Celestial Mother's Apron Strings". God provides the wonderful feelings of security, certainty and universal love which were present in early childhood. 'God' is a deep longing for our mother from infancy, recreated as an abstract, invisible being.
Without the security of a divinity, humanity must live alone, create or resolve its own problems, evolve and grow, or stagnate and die. Terrifying! Much easier to believe it's somebody else's problem, and blame Satan or Saddam or God on a bad day, or some other uberparent that's responsible and beyond our control. Heaven (or Hell) is what we make on Earth. That's all there is, until such time as there's a full, verifiable report from the other side.
I agree that there is security in the divine belief. Although, I don't believe it is because humans must then live alone, but that humans would have to accept that they, in fact, live alone. We are all, ultimately, alone. It is the acceptance of this fact that is such a difficult one, for me, also.
I believe this is the main reason why we go thorugh "mid-life crisis" at a certain age, when we realize we are getting older and maybe we are "alone". It is a terrifying prospect, especially for those of us who were not trained, as children, to have faith that there is a God. I believe hell only exists on Earth, when we do not have the tools to cope in the world in a productive, loving way - towards ourselves and others. This can happen when our basic needs (respect, love, acceptance, a sense of belonging) are not met as children by our parents or some other loving adult in our lives. The degree of the unmet needs equals the degree of the difficulty in life's challenges as an adult.
A belief in God is a tool that generations have used to cope with life's problems, challenges, and the reality that we are all one with the universe (therefore, insignicant as individuals), at the same time that we are all "alone". Faith is a coping skill that is passed on because it's easier than challenging what our parents told us as truth. Most of us idolize our parents and find it extremely difficult to find thier flaws for fear that then we, as we know ourselves, will cease to exist.
The biggest evidence of god is this world and the universe. God was invented in ancient times to explain how this world came into being and how it is operated. But then, starting from a few centuries back, there were some people including some scientists who thought they can a find a better explanation using scientific methods. They have not been able to find one so far.
Of course the best scientists like Newton and Einstein always continued to believe in existence of God.
In late Twentieth Century the best of the scientists again began to recognize the logic of God. For example, Stephen Hawkins has accepted that concept of something like a God is necessary to explain ultimate origin of the Universe.
Of course the God I am talking about is not the one confined within limits of temples, churches, and mosques.This is not to say that there is no benefit of praying in these places, or in so many other rituals associated with praying and religion. I am just saying that concept of god is much wider than that projected by some religious practices.
People believe in God so that they feel that they are not alone and they need a reason for existing. I don't think that that is necessarily true. The existence of the universe and the world does not necessarily proves there is a god. It doesn't really prove anything at all.
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