Before we can talk about theology or gods or the bible, I think we need to lay some basic framework about beliefs in general. Beliefs are the basic components of our internal models of reality. Each belief is a facet of how we view reality. It seems obvious to say, but believing what is true is important. Believing things that are not true can be dangerous.
A good belief is one that best reflects the way reality works. If you believe gravity does not pull bodies together, you might not know that stepping off a cliff would be dangerous or even deadly. Believing Newton’s law of gravity is a pretty good belief, and it works for most every day purposes. But General Relativity is an even better belief, because it is more complete and covers the exceptions that are important. Without it, telecommunication satellites would not work.
So we all should want to have the best model of reality, the most accurate beliefs.
Because we are trying to make a model of reality, we must check our beliefs against reality. We cannot simply make arguments and rationalizations for why something is so. This is what the ancient Greeks did and from it came the idea of the four elements (which persisted for 2000 years). This is also what most people do with their political beliefs. “Free markets are good because…” and then they shout whatever rationalization they have.
But we cannot stop at rationalizing an idea. We must observe reality and collect data. We must compare the data to the prediction, and if they do not match, we must discard the belief. Do free markets really provide the best outcome? What does the data say?
Secondly, no one’s model of reality is perfect. As such, improvements are possible. While I believe that 9.81 m/s2
fairly well describes the acceleration due to gravity on earth, it is only two decimal places, and does not account for location. Improvement on that belief is thus possible.
Because we all have imperfect models, we have to be open to updating them. This means we have to be able to change our minds about some big, important, dear beliefs we hold. I understand that is difficult to do. Once upon a time men would rather burn other men to death than change their belief that the universe revolved around planet earth. But their beliefs were wrong, and reality was different. Burning other people to death did not change that.
The brain has not evolved to be rational. It has evolved to take short cuts, use intuition, snap judgments and other non-rational means to form beliefs. It has evolved to then tenaciously hold those beliefs despite all evidence to the contrary. Still, men would prefer to burn other men than discard dear beliefs.
This is a problem for the entire human species. We have to overcome our evolved nature and chose to come to our beliefs rationally. This, fundamentally, is what science is about. It is a method for arriving at the best beliefs. It is not to prove a point or to discredit any particular idea. It is the best way we have of knowing what is real and true.
There was a psychotherapist and philosopher named Eugene Gendlin who observed:
What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be believed.
People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.
Can you do that? Can you do science? Are you rational enough? Are you strong enough to believe what is true? To sacrifice your dearest beliefs because they are untrue?