Do You Believe In God Essay

Do You Believe In God Essay-73
Aquinas, for instance, wrote that anyone who does not “believe in a God as we understand it in relation to the act of faith”—like Muslims and Jews—does not believe that God exists at all.This strict framework, widely available in the philosophical and theological writings of the Middle Ages, was weaponized by the Protestant Reformation.By this definition, opinion might sometimes contain some truth, but it always contained falsehood, so opinion could never be a religious virtue.

Aquinas, for instance, wrote that anyone who does not “believe in a God as we understand it in relation to the act of faith”—like Muslims and Jews—does not believe that God exists at all.This strict framework, widely available in the philosophical and theological writings of the Middle Ages, was weaponized by the Protestant Reformation.By this definition, opinion might sometimes contain some truth, but it always contained falsehood, so opinion could never be a religious virtue.

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To believe the wrong thing, or in the wrong way, was not really to believe at all.

Calvin thought his society as chock full of atheists as ours.

On the opposite side of the Reformation, the Jesuit priest Robert Parsons agreed in 1582 that atheists were everywhere, because anyone who puts their worldly affairs above their salvation commits a “secret kind of atheism.” For one thing, belief was understood to be certain rather than merely probable: To think something 99 percent likely was to disbelieve it rather than believe it.

Medieval theologians distinguished sharply between “belief” and the very different, corrupt faculty called “opinion.” Thomas Aquinas, for instance, writing around the year 1270, defined “opinion” as an “act of the intellect inclined to one alternative while retaining respect for the other,” a kind of probabilistic calculus.

This framework reached the shores of North America most famously in Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 act establishing religious freedom in Virginia.

There Jefferson wrote, “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” This statement would have been literally nonsensical in the sixteenth century—religion was not considered the stuff of opinion at all (neither, for that matter, was science, but that is a different story).

Until very recently, atheism was neither widespread nor respectable, but today 11 percent of Americans claim not to believe in God.

Many people have speculated on where all these atheists suddenly came from.

Perhaps the most remarkable example comes from the German mystic Sebastian Franck—one of the most important of the so-called “radical reformers”—who insisted that authentic belief is only possible through union with the godhead.

He thus forthrightly declared in 1534 that “there is not a single believer on earth.” If Charles Taylor says that in 1500 it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, but Sebastian Franck wrote in 1534 that there is not a single believer on earth, then obviously we’re missing something.

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