Why do believers believe? Do they have good reasons, or is faith opposed to reason?
Why think about God?
Many people find life without God meaningless or difficult. Some search for God in desperation, and find him, and find he turns their life around and gives them new hope. Others just want to know the truth about life, and need to search for evidence and logical arguments.
You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t among these people. So read on!
Reasons to believe God exists
Does there have to be a reason for everything?
Where did the universe come from? If there was no God, why would the universe exist?
I can’t believe it started without a cause (nothing starts without a cause). And I don’t believe it has always existed, because a physical chain of cause and effect cannot go on forever, and if it has existed forever, everything would have run down by now.
So the only satisfactory explanation seems to be that God has been there forever and he started the universe off.
It looks like it was designed
Scientists have discovered that about a dozen factors had to be “just right” at the moment the big bang started for the universe to survive for very long, to form stars and planets, and to allow complex life forms to appear. They have calculated that the probability of this occurring by chance is so small as to be negligible.
If there was no God, I’d expect the universe to be chaotic and random. But since the universe appears to be so intricately designed, it seems more probable that God set it up that way.
Is there anybody in there?
Everyday we live our lives by making decisions. We think logically and make moral judgments about how to behave. We make judgments about other people’s behaviour and have a legal system that holds people responsible and accountable for their actions, especially for taking or abusing human life.
If there is no God, and the physical world is all there is, we cannot satisfactorily explain these things. Our actions would be determined by the laws of Physics, right and wrong would be determined by what works best, and no-one could be held morally responsible. Even our thinking about these matters would be determined by our genes rather than by truth. It just doesn’t add up.
But if we are created by God, he can have invested our lives with reason and ethics and purpose. That makes sense to me.
Hints of another dimension
People all over the world report experiences of God – miraculous interventions, healings, guidance, visions of Jesus, a sense of God’s presence. Sometimes these events had profound effects in their life. Some of these stories don’t seem to be true, but sometimes we hear a story that comes from a trustworthy source or cannot be easily dismissed. And just a few times in my life, things have happened to me which I find difficult to explain except that God has acted.
It seems more likely that some people really have experienced God, than to think every last one is mistaken.
But which god?
So there are good reasons to believe that God probably exists. And not just any god, but a god who is:
- powerful enough to create the universe,
- clever enough to design such a “fine-tuned” universe,
- personal enough to want to create a universe where people can live,
- rational and ethical, so he created people who are rational and ethical, and
- willing to give us the dignity of freewill.
All this suggests God created us to believe in him and know him. And when we consider all the religions in the world and all the ideas about God, we find that very few present a God that has all those characteristics. The pagan and polytheistic religions do not. The eastern religions do not.
The main candidates are clearly the great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Baha’i. It might be true that the God of one of those religions created the universe and the human race, but I can’t think of any other religion that fits the evidence.
Why believe in Jesus?
It is reasonable to believe in Jesus, above the other religions, because:
- There is good historical evidence that Jesus lived, and that he did and said many of things recorded about him.
- The early christians had no reason to lie and would have had more comfortable lives if they didn’t believe. So we can trust the writers that their writings about Jesus are substantially trustworthy.
- Jesus broke all of the rules. He talked and acted as if he was God in human form, he healed people, he gave teachings that have lasted to this day, yet he polarised his hearers – he attracted devoted followers but also angered people. When they killed him, God raised him to life. No other religion makes such claims about their founder, and few others provide as much historical evidence.
- He inspires faith. The evidence indicates he told the truth, and that he was who he said he was. We can reasonably give our ultimate loyalty to him.
Life with Jesus
Some people follow Jesus for a while and then give up on their belief, but most people keep on believing. Most believers find their faith and understanding grows through life. They see God at work in their lives in various ways, and their belief is reinforced. This too can be seen as evidence for the truth of their belief.
Of course believers in other religions can say the same. This suggests to me that all of the religions have at least got something right. But I think there are good reasons to believe that they miss some of the truths found in Jesus.
So those are the reasons why I still believe. If you are asking the same questions, I hope you find this summary helpful.
This is an extremely brief summary. If you want to think about these things at a little more depth, check out Is there a God?