Chapter 2: Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All?
Why do people believe what they believe? Well, there are actually four reasons.
Four Reasons for our beliefs10
By using philosophical reasons for believing something we give ourselves the best chance to believe that something is true beyond any reasonable doubt. Which is the best we can hope for when we lack perfect induction.
Philosophy should matter to us and logic should be used by us because without it we run the risk of being ignorant about things that could cause harm in our lives. It could also cause us eternal harm if there is such a thing as eternity.
The Problem of Harmful Beliefs
The chapter has informative, and for me disturbing examples of how these tools can protect us from ignorance. They were used to disprove two of the most harmful beliefs in recent history.11
- The Skepticism promoted by David Hume which led to the principle of empirical verifiability.
- The agnosticism of Immanuel Kant which argues that you can’t ever know reality because everything you experience is filtered first by your senses and interpreted by your mind.
The theories were soundly disproved because of the self-defeating statements that their ideas were based on. Chapter 1 introduced us to the idea of the self-defeating statement and how to use it to identify faulty reasoning. Nevertheless, many people have allowed themselves to be influenced by these harmful ideas.
The main message of Hume and Kant were that it is neither possible for there to be a God nor for us to prove there is a God. So while showing that they were wrong in their assertions was useful, it still does not prove God exists.
The Logic of Inductive and Deductive Reasoning
Here the chapter gives us a basic primer on inductive and deductive reasoning. Induction can only be arrived at by observation. We often do not have perfect induction because we do not have the ability to observe every instance of something we want to prove. So typically the result is that we arrive at the proof of something being true beyond a reasonable doubt, which is somewhere short of absolute proof.
The book clearly shows us how we can use this type of reasoning to prove the existence of many things that cannot be observed by instead observing their effects. That includes God.
Why Truth Matters
The chapter ends on a discussion of why the truth matters. Three reasons are stated.12
- People show that they believe truth in morality matters when someone treats them immorally.
- Success in life often depends on the moral choices a person makes
- All laws legislate morality
The third reason is a convincing enough fact. Every law says what behavior is right or legal, and therefore the opposite behavior is wrong and illegal. So whose morality should be used to make laws?
For me this is a most important discussion, the idea that truth is an absolute we should try to know. Have you considered what your ideas about truth are? Have you considered what you base your morality on? How do you tell the difference between right and wrong? Remember this was one of the fundamental questions in the introduction, the question on morality. How should we live? What are the rules? Who gets to make them? What are they based on? For example if you think murder is wrong and should be punished as a crime, why? What is your convincing argument? What about lying? Is it wrong? Was it wrong to treat people as slaves when it was legal? Based on what? Is it wrong to deny people access to the United States because they might be Muslim? Is it legal? So if it is legal is it right? Based on what?
I believe the book will get to one of the main reasons atheism requires too much faith. One reason for me is that if there is no God, why should we behave “morally” if we can get away with lying, cheating, stealing, and using force against others for our benefit? Why would you choose to behave by certain rules when by breaking them you can get what you want? The argument of the atheist creates a world where the only test of how you should treat others, in particular, “good” or “bad”, is if you can get away with it. One way to get away with it is to change the rule so that it isn’t illegal to do it.
Finally, there are some points that remind me of passages in the Bible. For example, the ideas of Hume and Kant remind me of 1 Peter 2:25, 2 Peter 3:3, and 1 John 2:26. The discussion about truth reminds me of John 8:32
10Geisler & Turek page 51 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
11Geisler & Turek pages 58-59 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
12Geisler & Turek pages 66-67 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.