How do you decide?

My question is this: How do you decide your belief in the existence, or non-existence, of God? As a young man with an amateur understanding of science and philosophy, I find my mind and my heart incredibly confused on the issue. And as I turn to books, the Internet, and other peoples opinions I find myself even more confused. I look at an argument for the existence of God, backed up with either science and/or philosophy and say to myself, “Hm, that makes pretty good sense,” than I find an atheist counter argument that makes just as much sense. So I turn inward and try to discern how I feel about the issue for myself, and on one hand I feel like I do believe in the existence of something spiritual that gives life after death, but than I wonder if I am just trying to comfort myself because I don’t want to deal with the idea that after I die I will never feel the love of my wife, or my family again.

So in conclusion I am a young man divided in heart and mind, confused because there are logical arguments for and against God that seem to have equal merit, and with feelings inside of me that run along those same lines. How would you decide?

I was in a similar situation in my late teens and early twenties. I found that the intellectual confusion never really clears up, so I ended up deciding based on personal factors.

I was raised Catholic and Catholics believe that the existence of God can be made clear through reason alone – I think this is so evidently false that, for me, the authority of the Church fell on that single point. I left the Catholic Church because it demanded belief in the face of very weak and easily counterable evidence. That demand is intellectually and morally wrong, and I didn’t want to be part of an institution that dogmatically promotes such a demand. Once I left the Church I became atheist because I had never really experienced God anyways, so I had no impulse to believe beyond the demands of the Catholicism I had rejected.

That’s just me though. There are many ways to believe in God, so you don’t have to follow the dogmatic stance of some Christian sect or any other sect. If you feel in the end that God must exist, I think that can be a rational belief – so long as you respect the equally rational nonbelief of atheists.

If I can give you one thing to take home from this, I’ll repeat that the confusion itself is a key piece of data for you. Deciding whether or not God exists is confusing, abstract, and difficult. Can your life’s destiny really depend on something like that? Or is it possible that it doesn’t matter that much which way you decide?

People find faith in a variety of different ways. And just as many people lose faith in for an equally wide array of reasons. I would say the best thing to do is think about it and follow your sentiments. If those sentiments prove unsatisfactory, adjust them. I think Aporia’s line makes good sense, “I found that the intellectual confusion never really clears up, so I ended up deciding based on personal factors.” Once you realize the side you’ve already picked, justifying it is pretty easy.

I would say it doesn’t matter so much if God exists or not. What matters is the way of life God shows us and if that way of life suits your life. The only decision to make is whether or not your life will follow God’s. So to Aporia’s question, i.e.:

I would say it matters not one bit. What matters is the life you decide to live, not whose existence you decide to accept.

Thank you for the responses. I appriciate your advice and input. On the question of whether or not it matters, I would say yes and no. To my physical life, I would say not so much. If I did believe in God it would be the idea of a loving god that created us out of love and who shows us that the highest virtue we can strive to obtain is to love others as we love ourselves. That is how I was raised my parents, and so I already try to live my life to that standard, but being human I usually fall miserably short. As for my spirit after my physical life ends, I say it would matter much more, especially if certain “divinely inspired” religious doctrines are true, that you need to profess and believe in God to be with him after death. Which leads me to Pascal’s Wager, which says that is better to believe and be wrong than to not believe and be wrong, for obvious reasons. However, my personality and ego don’t really allow for me to be a faker. If I’m going to act like I believe, it’s because I feel like I believe.

Just keep loving, as hard as it is. Loving won’t save you from death, no, but living a life of love means you’ve already come to terms with it. To love is to embrace death as much as one who has leaped off a cliff. The difference is, in love you’ve given your life to others, instead of to nothing as with a suicide.

Are you scared of God punishing you in the afterlife for not believing in him, then? Even when the very evidence for his existence is so ambiguous?

If the evidence of even his existence is hard to come by, how can we say anything about his nature? How can we tell if he’s like the god(s) of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, paganism, deism, etc? What if you believe in the wrong god? What if god punishes those who cynically “believe” in order to suck up to him and get on his good side? The vision of god we’re brought up with is very emotionally compelling to us, since it’s been drilled into us for so long. But it’s not the only one. Remember that there is a young Muslim on the other side of the world, right now, worrying that he will go to hell if he doesn’t believe in Allah and make his pilgrimage to Mecca. “Believing” in god, if it is possible to choose such a thing, is no assurance of salvation whatsoever.

Therefore, in lieu of better evidence, all you can do is live the best that you can and hope that that doesn’t piss any supernatural beings off.

I decide everything with this.

I don’t decide

i’m agnostic, and that makes me cool.


The source of your confusion is that there are no scientific arguments for or against the existence of God*. The real challenge is to continue to pursue the Truth (love, justice, love, and beauty) as best as your talents will allow, while learning to live with the undeniable doubt. In the absence of a supernatural God revealing Himself, or His non-existence :confused: , that is our only option.

*50-50, give or take .00000001

Well, I read the bible and then i asked "Do I really believe this?’

then I turned into agnostic but I was pretty skeptical of the christian god

Then I came on ILP and then I discussed the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, Omnipresent being and when I really thought about it such a being was inconsistent with the majority of the holy books and that the being itself seemed pretty absurd

My answer is this: You decide whether you believe in the existence, or non-existence of God based on whether or not you want God to exist, or to not exist.