Why does God care if I believe?

Shaun Miller, a USU philosophy alumnus, recently wrote this interesting essay on why/whether God should care if someone believes in God.

Why does God care?


7 thoughts on “Why does God care if I believe?

  1. Mark Rasmuson

    My critique:

    “The profession of belief has become a higher priority than the objects of belief.” And with this statement, Miller shows that he lacks a keen understanding religion. Religion is not so much about “objects of belief” but rather relations with others.

    Part of the prejudice of deciding all is absurd is the exclusion by the atheist, who embraces absurdity, of anything else and all relations because of absurdity. So, for the atheist to answer the deist with “No, there is no God; the universe and all is absurd,” is to have the same prejudice against he who says otherwise, thereby separating himself/herself from the other.

    Miller seemingly unwittingly reveals the hypocrisy when he explains that “Meursault does not despair at this fact. Instead, he draws from it a kind of freedom.” The absurdist cannot find meaning in there being no meaning. To do so is a contradiction. He cannot relish in it, because at that point his absurdity ends and he has to admit that he has covered meaning with a cloak of absurdity.

    But, to answer the interrogatory, I reply, “Because we are related.”


  2. Huenemann Post author

    I think Miller’s point is not that religion itself necessarily esteems the profession of belief above the objects of belief. His point is that many religious people seem to act as if its true: they are more concerned with outward signs of conformity than inward commitments.

    As an atheist, I understand the claim that “the universe is absurd” as a claim about the lack of purpose in the universe. The universe has no goal it is striving to reach; it will reach an end state, sure, but that end state doesn’t contribute anything to any meaning, purpose, or significance. The universe just is; take it or leave it. Then an existentialist might step forward and say that a human life can have meaning, if an individual wants to create a purpose and dedicate his or her life to it. In that sense, I can agree with the claim that one can find (subjective) meaning in there being no (objective) meaning.


  3. Mike

    I still haven’t read the paper carefully enough to give any sort of good feedback but I will say one thing for now.

    The idea that “belief in belief” and “profession of belief” are more important (definitely more common) to many US born religious movements is given some credibility by the mere fact that this book — “Know what you Believe” and many more like it, exist. As far as identifying absurdity, I don’t really have to go further than the title.


  4. mbrasmuson

    Response to Dr. Huenemann:

    I wonder, however, whether any objective statement can be made about the meaning of the universe. It seems to me that all statements about what is external can (perhaps ought) only to be referred to as subjective since one cannot step outside of himself. If this is the case, then the subject, examining his own self, is objective about the belief that there is no meaning in the universe. So in reality, there is no difference between claims about the meaning of the universe which are not subjective, and, therefore, I still find a contradiction.

    Am I missing something?

    Either way, the atheist is relying on faith every bit as much as the theist, since no atheist has examined the whole of the universe and not found God. (That was a stab, without purpose; an act of robust free will : )


  5. Huenemann Post author

    I think there are objective truths about the universe, and ones that possibly we can come to know, even though, as you say, we can’t step outside ourselves. We can try to correct for the things we know we are bringing to the situation, and figure out what is independent of us. Indeed, that’s the whole idea of science — and each scientific hypothesis could be false, of course, but it could possibly be true, and true objectively. And certainly, as a theist, you think there are some objective truths you know about the universe!

    Yes, there is a sense in which everty subjective belief is related to a similar objective fact: suppose I believe X. “X” is a subjective belief. “H believes X” is an objective fact. But certainly, when the theist says God exists, he is claiming more than “It is an objective fact that I believe God exists.”

    Usually, when someone makes an existential claim (“Santa exists,” “Nessie exists,” etc.), the burden is on them to offer some reason for thinking it’s true. Otherwise, it would be just as rational to believe in all the things we can’t disprove as it would be to deny their existence — and that opens the door to fairies on Mars, purple dragons on Neptune, etc.


  6. Mike

    I read the paper more carefully last night. I liked a lot of the discussion on Socrates, Jesus and the contrast between Christian and Jewish group dynamics. Especially ‘the opposite of faith is not doubt but disobedience’ bit.

    Towards the end, the story Miller tells about interpersonal relationships and how they work to value belief in belief hasn’t been my experience. Not that something like that hasn’t been true in the past or that it isn’t true in some circles. As far as I can tell though there are plenty of people who would rather define their communities based on particular practices. Also, sometimes the most pronounced atheist and the more pronounced Christian have a lot in common that doesn’t always go unnoticed. Sometimes it’s passion that takes a person through a number of movements. In computer programming circles atheists and religious people are constantly interacting without too much animosity.

    So, I guess I don’t think things are so bad for the atheist and maybe belief in belief doesn’t have so much of a stranglehold in this society. If anything, professing to be an athiest or non-[enter religion here] just helps keep the non-religious person free from some of the more irritating religious persons. Of course this is Utah so your mileage may vary. I think philosophically trained Christians tend to be quite different (the ones focused on self-correction/improvement not the apologists).

    I think the paper covers a lot of ground from which much could be drawn. I enjoyed reading it.


  7. Shaun Miller

    I feel like I should reply considering that I wrote the essay. When I mention the “universe is absurd” example, I’m not suggesting that all atheists must therefore believe that the universe is absurd. I mainly use that example to show how the believers treated Meursault. Since Meursault is an atheist, he must be absurd. Anything absurd must be gotten rid of because absurdities aren’t rational.

    So the paper’s point wasn’t trying to contend that the universe is absurd. It was mainly giving an example to provide how believers look at someone who is atheist, which just falls into the absurd category.



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