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I fail to see how someone can believe in something such as a religion without any evidence of it being real when nowadays no one believes anything without seeing proof. I don't know if this goes for a majority of religious people or not, but I have a friend that is strongly Catholic, and he strongly believes in his religion, when other things that come up daily or a story that is more realistic than the tales of some religion he WILL NOT believe them. Maybe I am way off with my question or you may not understand it. How do people believe in something that they have no proof of existing?

  • Religious truth is orientated around scripture and tradition. – Mozibur Ullah May 3 '18 at 17:20
  • More realistic by whose standards? Yours or his? – Cort Ammon May 3 '18 at 17:50
  • The majority of people around us when we carry these types of conversations. – Flavor May 3 '18 at 17:59
  • You might as well reword the thread how does anyone believe in anything outside of science. Even in science many things are still unproven physically. In physics this is common as well as in cosmology. What if there is no way to prove something? You do know all proofs are not absolute right? That is there are still false possibilities. Hence why science uses percentiles such as 80% true & such. If x is 80 true it still in reality can be the x in throw 20% in front of you. Why do most people who fly believe they will make it to their destination alive? They do not have certainty. – Logikal May 3 '18 at 18:27
  • "No one believes anything without seeing proof"??? Have you heard of sasquatch, Roswell aliens, Kennedy assassination, etc., etc. Religious/cultural beliefs, practical beliefs and idle beliefs (that people ponder only when sociologists ask them) have different functions and practical implications, and therefore different standards of evidence, acceptance, etc. E.g. belief in God does not give rise to the kind of expectations that superstitions about ghosts or tree spirits would do, hence more diffused "evidence" of detached reflection on life, moral and aesthetic feelings, etc., is admitted. – Conifold May 3 '18 at 20:10
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People believe in many things that they have no proof of existing.

One example would be dark matter. It is posited as existing so that Einstein’s gravitation theory is not falsified, but no one has found any.

As another example, some people believe in parallel universes to explain the indeterminism implied in the quantum collapse. No one has proof that any parallel universe exists. Such proof would falsify all other quantum interpretations. That doesn’t stop people from believing in the existence of parallel universes.

So, it is not just religious people who believe in something that they have no proof of existing.

When it comes to religious ideas, child developmental psychologists have shown that members of the human species have an innate ability to detect agency where innate means that the ability is not caused by culture nor individual rationalization.

This innate ability gives us an evolutionary advantage because we can separate agents such as lions to be wary of from non-agents such as stones that we can safely make use of. It also leads to belief in agent causation and even non-material agency. Although one might say these agency beliefs are delusions, perhaps they are not.

There is no proof that non-material agents don’t exist in spite of people believing they don’t exist without proof of their non-existence. Perhaps it is the belief in non-agents that is delusional or rather convenient so we can build tools and structures out of them without fear. See Justin Barrett’s Born Believers for an overview of research along these lines.

However, having an innate belief does not mean that it is a justified true belief. Are there any justifications for general Christian belief? One justification might be found in Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief.

Let’s consider the question: How do people believe in something that they have no proof of existing?

Although religious believers have no proof their religion is true, those opposing them have no proof that it is not. However, they do have, through such philosophers as Plantinga, warrant for their beliefs.

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My impression is that it doesn't really matter whether 'nowadays no one believes anything without seeing proof.' One can't settle philosophical questions by democracy. The question is whether your friend's epistemological stance is justifiable, not whether everyone else's is.

In any case I very much doubt if a religion, specifically the Catholic religion, has absolutely no evidence in its favour. The evidence may be weak, it may be near-zero, but it is not zero. Even second, third, fourth, fifth-hand testimony such as one finds in the New Testament is not epistemologically absolutely discountable.

Faith, I've normally found, goes beyond the evidence, even wildly so, but it does at least have a slither of evidence, however weak, to build on. I'm ready to concede, what is a different but related point, that (some) religious believers will not apply to their evidence the critical tests they would apply to virtually anything else. It's one thing to go beyond the evidence and another not to examine critically the evidence, however slight, one has. This is dogmatism, not faith. It has no more place in religion than anywhere else.

I have btw no religious capital invested in this answer.

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First, you need to be careful when referring to evidence versus proof. Actual proof doesn't exist outside of mathematics and logic. Your question really is about lack of evidence.

Religious individuals will vary in terms of why they believe what they do, but it often has to do with personal experiences they attribute to supernatural causes. I've had several conversations with Christians.

One guy I spoke to ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, but his car kept driving until he was able to make it to his destination. He attributed it to Jesus.
Another was paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident, and had limited arm movement. Eventually, with a lot of therapy, he gained the ability to stand breifly and walk very short distances.

So I'd say that they do have evidence, in their minds, for their views. As to why Jesus and not some generic God answering prayers, I never asked, although they probably directed their prayers to Jesus, before they came true.

Another thing I've noticed is that many Christians experience peacefulness or strong emotions during church services, and insist that this is evidence of the Holy Spirit, rather than psychological effects.

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Natural science is all about empiricism, the evidence of our senses. It is therefore extremely limited as to what it can investigate and what data it can collect. To rely on science for our knowledge of the world would be to ignore the fact that we are conscious and therefore perfectly capable of establishing facts that science cannot establish. There are other ways of establishing truth than empiricism, as we know from our own experience. It would be a major and easily-debunked error to imagine that empiricism is the only way to verify 'what is the case'.

There is a difference between proof, verification and demonstration. What can be verified cannot always or even very often be demonstrated. Hence there is no demonstrative proof for pain, consciousness, knowing, anger and so on, but verification is easy enough. If we rely on empirical science for our knowledge then we cannot know about these things, yet we do.

It is also not just religious folk who believe in empirically untestable ideas. Materialism is a classic, a theory that if it is true cannot be tested by any method whatsoever.

  • Your answer seems to hinge on your ideas of proof, verification, and demonstration, which you then relabel as demonstrative proof. Please define what you mean by these terms. – anotherguy May 9 '18 at 21:47
  • Yes, the words can be ambiguous. Maybe not quite as much as you suggest. A demonstrative proof would be a demonstration. Verification is not necessarily demonstration, (I can verify I am in pain but cannot demonstrate it). It doesn't seem that confusing and the use of the words is conventional afaik. – PeterJ May 10 '18 at 10:53

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