They're coming, and they're aggravating

The conversation with Leah Libresco may be two weeks away, but various religious types are finding their way to my inbox now.

Matt:

Can reason lead a person to a belief in god?

Curious as to what you think.

Me:

Yes, but only if their facts are bad.

Good reasoning combine with true facts cannot.

Good reasoning combined with wonky facts can lead to all manner of insanely wrong conclusions.  For instance, if you believe that perfectly faithful prayer can cure any ailment, it makes logical sense to pray for your child instead of taking them to the doctor.  This is why philosophy makes the distinction between sound and valid arguments.

Matt:

What would be the bad facts that could lead a person to a reasoned belief in god?

Me:

The bible is inerrant.

Matt:

OK.  JT I’m not trying to convert you at all, and I truly respect your position. I have more in common with a thinking atheist than a non-thinking theist. I’m a theist but my interest is more in the mechanics of the reasoning that takes people to one position or another.

Personally, it’s very hard for me to feel respect for people who arrive at a belief in god based on the bible as inerrant.  BTW, I don’t believe that that is the position of the R.C. church.

At the same time, it’s hard for me to understand the reasoning of the atheist who seems to discount the existence of god because it doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor.  There are two things I think that are wrong with this. First, I think that all of us would be hard pressed to list out all of the beliefs we have that we have subjected to scientific rigor. Second, there are things that are undeniably real (like love, ambition, sympathy) but do not stand up to scientific rigor. We live in a world appointed with these things (love, ambition, sympathy) and they would be real even if science did not exist to explain them.

I guess what I’m looking for is consistency in the argument for atheism.  There are many veins of it.

Atheism doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor?  What does that even mean?  Science has not found god (and it has looked for god constantly and for a very long time).  Quite literally everything science has explained has turned out to be the product of mindless forces acting upon inanimate objects.  All of it.  Everything.  This is quite literally all the evidence we could possibly have that a natural universe is all that exists.

And then we get the whole “love exists and is intangible” argument.  In this case he says love “doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor.”  This is, of course, horse shit.  Science does study love.

Conflating love with god also doesn’t work.  Love describes a state of the brain just like the words “sad,” “happy,” and “confused.”  How do we generally know when someone’s brain is in a particular state?  By clues in their behavior.  A sad person might cry, a happy person might smile, etc.  Those are words used to describe particular emotions that typically lead to certain behaviors.  Similarly, people who love something/someone will behave in certain ways which we can often detect (usually pretty easily).

The clues aren’t exactly hidden…

What “love” doesn’t describe is a tangible thing the way words like “tree” or “duck” or “god” do.  For external objects like those, they’re not just describing a state of the brain, they’re describing things that actually exist and are directly observable, not just detectable by the behavior of others.  So if you’re arguing that belief in god exists, even though it’s an intangible thing we can’t directly touch like love or sadness, I must agree that belief in god exists.  The evidence is just as good as the evidence for love.  We see evidence of belief in god in the (often ridiculous) behavior of others.

But if your argument is that a god exists, you can’t just say “states of the brain aren’t tangible, therefore this tangible being exists.”  That’s just plain stupid.

Me:

Wanna have this discussion publicly?

Matt:

Sure.  It might take a bit of time to get my parts in.  I have meetings most of the day, but I’ll be able to get them in, and I’ll be thoughtful about what I say.  I think that what I’m most interested in exploring is the thinking on both sides.  I’m not looking for a final position or conclusiveness.  Also, I might be a rare person in that I think that well thought out atheism is a perfectly legitimate position.  When you get to the outer edges of the debate, to the real “ultimate questions” on why one holds or does not hold a certain position, it can be fascinating stuff.

Ironically, in a way we have common cause.  I see you help younger atheists “come out,” as it were.  Nothing bothers me more than someone who takes a position like “I am an atheist” and can’t defend it.  Same thing for theists.  So it could be a very interesting discussion.

Me:

If you think atheism is a defensible position, why are you not an atheist?

Matt:

Well, for a few reasons. I think that any claim of truth — whether the truth be that there is no god or that god exists — should be based on evidence. And by saying this, I am not saying that the atheist does not have evidence, in a manner of speaking. But I don’t think that it’s a perfectly valid, unassailable thing to hold that there is no evidence of the existence of god, therefore god does not exist. I think that the largest problem atheists confront is that the logical framework in which they move is not as rock solid as some would like it to be, and in some ways it’s not substantially different (in its shortcomings) than the one in which theists move.

And when I say evidence, I don’t mean perfect evidence.  From a certain viewpoint, one can reasonably say that because I do not experience god the way I might experience an elephant or a car or a hamburger, god probably does not exist.  That’s not an unreasonable position.

At the same time, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a theist to say (of revealed religion) that god exists because he has told us he exists.  I know that from your vantage point, that might seem extraordinary, but I don’t know that it’s extraordinary.  It’s extraordinary if your premises is that god does not exist, but it need not be so.

The hell?

Of course atheism is not “unassailable.”  Why would we want it to be?  If the proposition of atheism is untrue, we want to change our minds.  Anybody who is saying atheism is unassailable is lying or really missing something.  The problem is that we never get a sensible argument for god’s existence.

I don’t think that it’s a perfectly valid, unassailable thing to hold that there is no evidence of the existence of god, therefore god does not exist.

Why not?  If something doesn’t exist, what more evidence could we have than the complete lack of evidence that it exists?  Does this mean we’ll never find it someday?  No.  Does the lack of any evidence mean you’d have to be an absolute fool to believe in it now?  Yes.

Seriously, if belief in something is justified just because we haven’t scoured this universe to its very edge to look for places where that thing might be, then there’s all kinds of crazy shit we should believe.  Leprechauns?  Maybe we haven’t looked at the end of all the right rainbows.  Absence of evidence is predictive of something’s non-existence, especially in the case of god where there should be all kinds of places we should’ve found proof of his existence (scientifically and otherwise), and haven’t.

At the same time, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a theist to say (of revealed religion) that god exists because he has told us he exists.

God hasn’t told anyone he exists!

We have books written by human beings who claim god told them.  These are the words of people, not god.

At the very best, virtually all of them must be lying, deluded, or crazy because their claims of god are incompatible.  Just like if one says god told them he was a square and god told another he was a circle, they can’t both be right.  Similarly, if one says Jesus is the only god and another says there are multiple gods or that Allah is the only god, they cannot both be right.  But they can both be wrong, and since most of them must be wrong, why not all of them?  Given that most of their claims about communicating with god look precisely like human beings making shit up (god made us with a foreskin and then commanded us to cut it off, seriously?), and given that the starting probability of a random person claiming god speaks to him/her is full of shit is much higher than the starting probability that they’re telling the truth (because remember, most of these claims must be false), it’s perfectly reasonable that god hasn’t spoken to any of them.  All we see are people manipulating other people or jumping to hasty conclusions and conflating their feelings with hearing god’s voice.

Consider all the people to whom god hasn’t spoken.  Unless you really believe in Zeus, Poseidon, and the litany of gods we all now believe are the exclusive province of myth, then god didn’t speak to the followers of every other deity throughout history.  The people who heard the voices of those gods were either mistaken, deluded, or outright crazy, because they can’t have been right.  The people that recorded the commands of those gods for other humans to read were either lying, deluded, or straight up intentionally pulling a bunch of nonsense out of thin air.  People do this, and other people believe it.  They have throughout history.

God also doesn’t speak to every Muslim that lives today or to every Muslim that has lived since the 7th century.  Many of the claims in their book conflict with what we know about the world.  Whatever those people were hearing (and telling us they heard), it wasn’t god.  They were either mistaken, deluded, or outright crazy – every last one of them without exception.  God didn’t speak to the pious men who believed in Jesus as well; men who were certain god commanded them to start and maintain the fires of the Inquisition.

Imagine how this scenario must look from within a religion such as Christianity.  For the Christian, god did not speak to Andrea Yates, the Christian woman who drowned her children because god told her to.  God spoke to Abraham and commanded him to murder his son, but not to Andrea.  And what Christian believes Daphne Spurlock, the deeply Christian woman who slit her son’s throat at the behest of god’s voice?  So while god truly spoke to Jephthah, binding him to immolate his daughter, Daphne was just hearing voices.  God also didn’t speak to the Neumanns, who watched their daughter die of a treatable illness rather than test god’s benevolence by taking her to the doctor.  Truly, like literally every other follower of every other religions, even Christians can make the mistake of thinking they’re really hearing god’s voice.

So, to whom does god really speak?  Well, god speaks to whatever believer is presently making that claim, that’s who.  So many fakers, so many people fallaciously thinking they communicate with god, but this one, individual believer?  They’re the real deal.  They see almost everybody insisting they had the ear of god being sincerely mistaken, and haven’t thought for even a second that they might be in the same boat.  To someone like me, this strange, lone exception would seem quite extraordinary.  But not to Matt, who seems to be resting his case upon such a claim not being extraordinary.

It’s a pity god only seems to convey his will to these people, but never a good reason for anybody else to believe this person isn’t just like every other believer: either deluded, lying, or crazy.

Here’s the deal: I shouldn’t have to explain why the idea of god speaking to someone is extraordinary.  There are plenty of complex concepts in the debate of god’s existence.  This isn’t one of them.  To waltz into my inbox and say, “I know that from your vantage point, [god speaking to someone] might seem extraordinary, but I don’t know that it’s extraordinary.  It’s extraordinary if your premises is that god does not exist, but it need not be so” tells me you didn’t do a whole lot of thinking before you decided to occupy my time.

Even if you believe in god, the claim is extraordinary because of all the people making it who must be full of shit.  Consider the Christian who says god speaks to them, but not to all those other Christians who say god has told them differently, all of which who believe differently than the bible at least in part.  Does god really speak to humankind not through almost every Christian on the planet, but instead through Moses, through Abraham, through Jephthah, through only particular filicidal people millennia ago, through Jesus…and through whatever Christian you are speaking to at the time?  Fuck.  No.

If god wants me to receive a message, and if he has a fraction of the sense it would take to construct a universe, he would fucking tell me, not some other yahoo who looks no different than every dishonest or deluded person in the pantheon of humanity.

If god gave the first shit about anybody believing in him, he’d make his existence as palpable as trees or ducks, since that question would necessarily be more important.  He hasn’t done that.  He hasn’t spoken to anyone and it’s high time we stopped treating people as though he has.


Dad and I were chatting about this post and I want to include what dad said.

Like most all of them, when we say “Show us the evidence”, he says, “You really shouldn’t ask for evidence”  wtf???  It’s what he said. ‘You can’t really hold god to physical evidence”….why the fuck not?  God or Christianity is a hypothesis about how this world works. Nothing more, nothing less…and it gets held to the same standard of evidence as every other hypothesis about how this world works. No special pleading, no privileged position.  Just put up or shut up.

Bingo.  Sadly, most of the people crawling into my inbox suck equally at both putting up and shutting up.

  • SpaceGhoti

    A line I caught on twitter, attributed to Ricky Gervais:

    “Science isn’t concerned with the nonexistence of something. The periodic table of imaginary things would be too big for a classroom.”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I love it!

      • Narvi

        Oddly relevant: “Things that don’t exist”.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T7ZbV-AFWo

        • skepticallydenpa

          “It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely products of a deranged imagination.” ~Douglas Adams

        • Djudge

          Also reminds me of this Father Ted sketch:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP0NkL-QfvE
          (sorry, don’t know how to embed a video)

  • Kryten

    I love this!

    It’s extraordinary if your premises is that god does not exist, but it need not be so.

    This whole conflict between atheism and theism is so overblown. The solution is really quite simple: all you atheists just need to assume god exists! Problem solved!

  • John Eberhard

    “At the same time, it’s hard for me to understand the reasoning of the atheist who seems to discount the existence of god because it doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor.”
    This statement makes equal sense replacing “god” with any of the following: magic, voodoo, leprechauns, unicorns, astrology, alchemy, etc.
    Is it really so hard to understand that fantasies with no scientific evidence are easy, not hard, to discount?

    • iknklast

      Or Santa Claus. No one tells me I have to have faith that Santa Claus exists. Unless they’re about 6 years old, for the most part they recognize that absence of evidence, coupled with violation of the laws of physics, renders the probability of Santa Claus so low that we should assume he does not exist.

      And I remember having evidence for Santa Claus. After all, someone left presents in my stocking every Christmas morning. Of course, I did find it very suspicious that they kept leaving all the candy my mom liked, and toys of the same sort my mom kept assuming I like. But, still, it’s more evidence than I ever had for any god.

  • Chrissetti

    Oh I love that Twitter quote. Added to my mental scrapbook for the next religious debate.

  • jamessweet

    At the same time, it’s hard for me to understand the reasoning of the atheist who seems to discount the existence of god because it doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor.

    Atheism doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor?

    I think you misparsed what he was saying. I believe he meant, “the reasoning of the atheist whose reason for discounting the existence of god is because a belief in the existence of god does not stand up to scientific rigor.” This makes sense in context, because he goes on to list all sorts of beliefs we hold which do not stand up to scientific rigor.

    I am not endorsing Matt’s argument whatsoever; but I do think you mis-parsed him.

    • http://inaweofeverything.blogspot.com/ Matthew Prorok

      That was my thought, too. It’s not that atheism doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor. He’s admitting that god does not, and claiming that many atheists consider this to be good reason not to believe god exists. Which, you know, is not an unreasonable claim to make. For me, science and its failure to detect anything like a god is certainly a factor in thinking that there’s probably no god out there.

      Where I disagree with Matt here is, of course, precisely where JT disagrees. Matt seems to be claiming that this isn’t a valid reason to think that god doesn’t exist. I happen to think that a complete lack of empirical evidence for the existence of any given thing is a damn good reason to think it probably doesn’t exist.

  • Crow

    Matt’s concept of emotion/feelings makes it sound like he believes in some version of Plato’s Forms, taking ideal abstract concepts and positing that they actually exist in some real, substantive way.

  • Erick

    I once heard someone state that all reasoning, at their most elemental, are based on faith.

    In cosmology, for example, if you agree with Dr. Stephen Hawking that you don’t need God to create a universe, you must have faith that gravity can do the job. Faith, because gravity creating a universe has not been observed and up to now is impossible to observe (in the scientific sense of observe).

    Why then would belief in a God attested to by human experience and historical record (as Catholics believe Jesus to be) be less of a rational belief than others?

    • SpaceGhoti

      Probably because nobody is saying gravity created the universe.

      Faith, as used by Christians and other religions, is nicely defined in Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I don’t have faith that scientists are right about the origins of the universe because they’ve posted their data and we’re free to examine it for ourselves. Yes, some of it requires a deeper understanding of advanced mathematics than many people possess, but the basics of the theories are quite elegant in their simplicity.

      Quite simply, scientists like Professor Hawking have earned my trust by demonstrating their repeated ability to produce the right answers using the same system that gave us computers, medicine, flying machines and all the other technology that we now depend on. Earned trust is not faith, not as believers use it.

      With regard to the historical accuracy of the Bible? There isn’t a lot of it. People invoke contemporary figures and places, sure, but they get the dates and details wrong which invalidates the claim of eyewitness testimony. There’s more evidence of people writing gospels and epistles for political reasons than for historical accuracy. They have not earned my trust.

    • a miasma of incandescent plasma

      A scientific theory comes from the logical consequences of confirmed evidence. The strength of a theory (science term theory – not theory as in “wild-ass guess”) is vetted by the strength and vigor of the evidence. If new evidence is found or evidence is found to be slightly modified, science either modifies the theory to better fit ALL of the evidence or the theory is thrown out completely in favor of a better explanation (read: “theory”).

      I guess the only place where the concept of “faith” comes in, and I’m trying to be generous here, is “faith” that the evidence that we have now is correct. This is more stated as a degree of confidence, where evidence that can make accurate predictions along with lines of multiple (sometimes literally millions of) tests of confirmation has a higher degree of confidence than something that is more evidenced by theoretical-only evidence.

      I guess you could call that faith if you want to. But that’s not a fault of science, that’s the fault of the English language to not have a distinct word for distinct processes, a different process of “faith” that believers use in their faith in god.

      Evidence for a scientific theory is based on a process of elimination of alternative explanations that don’t fit observations and the confirmation of predictions by (or of) future evidence.

    • iknklast

      Perhaps because the effects of gravity can be seen in the physical world. It makes sense. It doesn’t take faith, because it fits with our empirical experience.

      In as much as none of us has ever had a fly by by the big guy, however, gods are only part of our physical experience if we have faith that the things we see had to be put there by someone we can’t see. That’s faith.

    • anteprepro

      I am no longer going to blame the English language for the consistent failure of people like Erick to understand why their nonsense is nonsense. Instead, I think there is something else at work. Erick here illustrates something that plagues a lot of people, but is especially debilitating among the godful: The complete inability to imagine things as gradients.

      Some would also describe this as “lack of nuance” or reliance on “false dichotomies”. It is absolutism, even if it used to support relativistic conclusions. Things have quality X or they don’t. Things are either Y or they aren’t. There is no variation in amount of that quality. There is simply no way that one version of something is a better example than another. There are no degrees. If you have the tiniest scrap of faith required to believe something, that is the same as something believed almost exclusively due to a leap of faith. Believing that all swans are white is equivalent in faith to believing that one’s imaginary friend is real, that ghosts are real, and that aliens are visiting Earth and anally probing people for reasons that should be obvious. It is not possible that some beliefs require MORE faith than others. It is not possible that there could be such a difference in degree between the amount of faith required that it is transparently dishonest to compare the two beliefs in order to legitimize one of the beliefs. According to these people, any amount of faith makes a belief “believed on faith” and thus makes it equivalent to other beliefs “believed on faith”. “The sun will rise tomorrow” is equivalent to “there is a monster under my bed”. “Other people have minds” is equivalent to “Jesus rose from the dead”. “Logic works” is equivalent to “God wanted to save me from himself by sacrificing himself to himself, 2000 years ago”. “I think therefore I am” is equivalent to “The Bible is the word of God, despite being written by humans”.

      It should be obvious to anyone with a half of a brain that these are not comparable in amount of “faith” required, and the former does nothing to legitimize the second belief or the amount of faith required to believe it. Theists go out of their way to ignore that, such that they think that expecting gravity to work in a way consistent with scientific evidence is equivalent to belief in their Space Ghost. Real theist arguments are stranger than fiction.

  • Leo

    Some thoughts -

    First, jamessweet beat me to the point that Matt wasn’t saying that atheism doesn’t stand up to scientific rigor. He seems to instead be saying that people believe in other things (i.e, love) that don’t stand up to scientific rigor, so it is hypocritical to not believe in a god for that reason alone. But, as you rightly point out, his reasoning is flawed because he’s using what I understand are secondary qualifiers to compare against a primary qualifier.

    Second, Matt seems to be setting up a strawman atheist. I get the feeling from when he says “therefore god does not exist” that he is viewing an atheist as someone who believes a god does not exist as opposed to just not being convinced that one does. In the example he gives, he is correct that the logic is flawed. But so is his since he’s attacking that strawman. Otherwise, I thought your response was great. Now let’s go find those Leprechauns!!!

    Third, well, if a god does exist, then it might not be extraordinary for that god to speak to people. (That, and it’s not extraordinary because it’s quite *ahem* ordinary for people to make such a claim.) So I’ll give Matt credit for being correct on that. The problem, as you rightly point out, is in the evidence and how horribly conflicting it is. (Also, it was great for you to point out that Christians don’t always believe people who claim a god talks to them. (But go figure they deny this the most when someone does something bad under the supposed direction of a god.))

  • http://writtenaftermidnight.wordpress.com jaime

    Why is it that whenever people preface their statements with “I truly respect your position” they go on to show either a complete lack of respect or a complete lack of understanding for that position?

  • HumanisticJones

    Tim Minchin had a wonderful quote on the whole “you can’t scientifically demonstrate love” schlock when he came out to Atlanta, “Love without evidence is called stalking”.

  • a miasma of incandescent plasma

    I really liked your responses JT to this whole thing, but this part kinda bugged me:

    What “love” doesn’t describe is a tangible thing the way words like “tree” or “duck” or “god” do. For external objects like those, they’re not just describing a state of the brain, they’re describing things that actually exist and are directly observable, not just detectable by the behavior of others.

    “Love” being used here is absolutely (a collection of) real things and is directly observable outside of just behavior and the subjective perception of that behavior. We know that there are regions of the brain that are bathed in real electrical currents, we know there is a release of real hormones, we know there are other autonomic responses to other areas of the human anatomy. We know these things because of the ability to do brain scans, to measure slight changes in anatomy, to measure chemical composition of blood, plasma, etc…

    Put simply, watch a brain scan of someone thinking about their newborn child and compare that to a brain scan of someone having an argument. There is a real, measurable, objective difference. And it’s also predictable. We can accurately predict on a map where in the brain the activity will increase for any range of emotions you can think of. We can reverse-map it, we can have a subject think about something that elicits an emotional response, but don’t tell us what that emotion is. By reading the activity in their brain scan we can accurately tell them the emotion they were feeling during the mental exercise. Yes, even the oh-so-magic Love is tangible and directly observable and gives us objective evidence.

    Disregarding my own (biased, self-interested, and generally inaccurate) experiences of feeling “love”, I (we all) have good scientific reasons to know love exists, because of all the demonstrations above that have stood up to “scientific rigor”.

    You know… not like gods.

  • anthrosciguy

    At the same time, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a theist to say (of revealed religion) that god exists because he has told us he exists. I know that from your vantage point, that might seem extraordinary, but I don’t know that it’s extraordinary.

    No, that isn’t extraordinary; it’s depressingly ordinary. The problem is that it’s circular, and therefore a basic logical fallacy. It’s depressing that so many people commit this rather obvious fallacy when trying to support their theism.

  • brianpansky

    I keep wondering about that last blogalog. I guess there was no response or something?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Yup.

  • John Horstman

    Well, you’re ignoring the possibility that a god is real and just likes to screw with people and create endless misery and strife. There’s no reason a real god couldn’t be running around actually talking to every one of those people and telling them contradictory things. I don’t know why one would want to worship a god that is that much of a prick, but people do all kinds of weird stuff, and it seems that a lot of them have a strong desire to submit to authoritarian control. Based on the actual state of the universe, a polytheistic pantheon with petty, squabbling gods living vicariously through humanity (and any other sapient species) is the least implausible of the not-at-all-plausible religious worldviews. :-P

  • NotAProphet

    The problem with circular logic is just that it is…circular. Tautological I know, but surely there has to be a start point.

    What we are asking is why people believe in something (and just how valid those reasons are), when really we can boil it all down to why was any belief necessary in the first place, how did it all start, what was it that ever caused someone to think for a second that there might be a god, or gods, in the first place.

    We have seen a myriad of religions come and go throughout documented history, and a common theme throughout them all is that they fit with the “science” of the time, that being the understanding of the “world” (universe) that was prevalent during that period of human history. There is also a repeating theme of borrowing the bits from previous religions that did not contradict the contemporary understanding.

    Thus I posit that all religion has come from ignorance (not a groundbreaking revelation to most of you I am aware), that the “god of the gaps” has in fact always been the “gods of the gaps”; an attempt to explain those things that the knowledge of the time lacked the wit or sophistication to, in the absence of incremental discoveries on which to jump off from.

    Indeed, in the more modern religion of scientology, explanations for things such as human existence are proffered from within the bounds of contemporary understanding, that being that there are more planets in the universe than just ours, and that these planets may well harbour intelligent life. Of course it makes the same error that every other religion has made throughout history by spearing off into wild, unfounded speculation at the point where that understanding ceases, and purporting those speculations as profound truths.

    • NotAProphet

      On an individual level also I want to ask not “why do you believe”, but “why did you start believing?”

      Of course, for pretty much everyone who is honest the answer will be the same: “In the credulity of my childhood I was told grave things by people whom I trust and respect”.

      There are those, whoever, who claim to have had a word, or a thought or a feeling from god. The question there is, how do they know it is the god of their upbringing who is communing with them? If there were one true god then how does the Catholic know it is not Ganesh giving them strength to carry on despite hardship, how does the Muslim know it is not Jesus compelling him to strap explosives to himself, and how does the Jew know it is not Allah convincing him that the land he is occupying is his ancestral brithright?

      Reasons to believe are all well and good, but what really matters is the reason that started the belief.