In the last couple of days I’ve noticed an old pattern come up a little more often than usual. But then again I put myself in the position to notice it more often. The old pattern is of mis-attributing the effects of belief to the veracity of said belief. In other words, people attributing the effects of their beliefs to the object of that belief. This is a logical fallacy.
Take, for example, this comment that was written to me just today through facebook:
Gravity is known through its power on objects. The Love of god is also known through its power on the individual. It is the same evidence.
Now, gravity is indeed known through its effects. If I am holding a pen and then let go of it, it will fall to the ground (or floor…etc). Now, it took some time for humanity to figure out why this is. Newton, after years of work concluded that it was some attraction that material object have for one-another. Later, with Einstein’s work, we now we have a better model of curved space-time that explains gravity better. The idea that space and time are curved due to the presence of matter is not obvious nor intuitive to us, but that model stands up to scrutiny even though Newton’s idea still makes sense and is a good tool to predict how gravity will work in the vast majority of our experiences.
And so there is this idea that the love of God is seen through its effects, and many religiously-minded people will see the more intuitive explanation that since the belief in and love of their god has effects, then the reality of their god can be inferred. The idea is that their feelings they can trust. Their experience is real and the best explanation they have is that the feeling is coming from somewhere real. They are correct, it is coming from something real, but they are mis-attributing the source.
If you will allow the conceit, I think that there might be a shift in paradigms here. I know I’m not the first to see it, but perhaps the first to make the comparison in this way. In the same way that Newton was technically wrong in seeing matter attracting each-other, perhaps those who believe that the effect that belief in god has makes god real are wrong for similar cognitive reasons. Perhaps they are missing the non-intuitive relationship going on behind the scenes, as it were.
Belief is a powerful emotional and psychological action. It certainly has the ability to alter how we behave, how we perceive, and thus it has the ability to change our worldviews. But belief can be effective even when the object of that belief does not stand up to scrutiny. The equations and relationships that Newton, the genius that he was, came up with to describe gravity are still applicable today. They can be used to make accurate predictions, they make cognitive sense to us, but they are wrong.
The more we look at them, they don’t work. In the same sense, the closer we look at the question of whether a god exists, the intuitive and simpler analogies do not stand up to scrutiny. The feeling of god’s love, its power, and it’s effectiveness are all reasons to keep believing to someone who is not looking closely at the question. But those who do look closer find that these arguments do not stand up to scrutiny. They are reasons, at best, to bolster a belief already held. They add imprecise legitimacy to a conclusion desired.
Just as anyone who wants to believe in Newtonian gravity can point to the fact that the equations they use to predict where their rock will land when thrown at a certain velocity and at a certain angle, the theist who points to the effect of their belief is missing the point. They are missing what is going on underneath the problem.
The love of God, in my opinion, is the love of human beings. We feel it, some call it God, and so the rest of us are left slapping our foreheads in frustration that they cannot see the love they are capable of and are creating through their belief. I see it without this belief. I see that the attraction of love is not between God and the world, but it is the curvature of our worldview through the presence of other minds.