Believing in God: Duped or Eternal Beatitude

With a teacher at school I’m taking the MIT course Problems of Philosophy through their OpenCourseWare system. It’s fun and interesting stuff. We hop around to different philosophical problems and I am starting to develop a basic vocabulary for talking about the utterly abstract.

In our primary text, Reason & Responsibility, I read an essay by William James which among all the ones on God I’ve read was among the most concise and compelling (especially when compared to the ontological argument that the existence of the concept and word God means it must exist).

Say you believe in God in faith and need no evidence to prove its existence. Best case: eternal beatitude. Worst case: you were duped. Most atheists could not stand the thought of being duped by diluting the core of their entire intellectual worldview which stresses reason and rationality. James, a believer, seems to say, "Why not suspend that critical faculty for faith in God and afterlife? If you’re wrong, swallow your pride, and boy, if you’re right…."

The problem in this, for we questioning atheists, is the effect on the present by adopting such a stance. To live a most virtuosic life we must uphold an intellectual standard that does not bend issue-by-issue. If we suspend the faculty of reason in this instance, we may have started down a slippery slope.

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