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« A New Experiment: "Over- and Under-appreciated Philosophy" | Main | Why change the system if you can exploit people and tell them it’s their fault? »

04/03/2014

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Roger

You say to believe anything without evidence is potentially very dangerous. Really? Do you believe that you're not stuck in the Matrix on the basis of evidence? Do you believe that there are other people besides yourself on the basis of evidence? Or that the world is older than five minutes?

I doubt the answer to either of these questions is 'yes' (and even if you said 'yes', I'd think you were mistaken; I don't think anyone believes these things on the basis of evidence). Can't the same be true about belief in God? Perhaps we're just hard-wired to believe that God exists, and so hardly anyone believes that God exists on the basis of evidence, and this is OK.

Moti Mizrahi

I think that Wettstein's remarks can possibly make sense in the context of a Jewish doctrine known as Lishma (which translates literally to "for its own sake"). That is, one is supposed to accept the burden of religious practice (e.g., the Mitzvot) for its own sake, not for any other reason. In that case, the question whether God exists or not becomes insignificant, since one accepts the burden for its own sake, whether God exists or not.

Marcus Arvan

Roger: Thanks for your comment. First things first: I not only don't believe that I'm not stuck in The Matrix. I believe we have evidence that we *are* stuck in the Matrix (see my P2P Simulatio Hypothesis). But, more to the point, I'm a contextualist about all the things you mention. I think we *do* have evidence for the past, etc., on *ordinary* epistemic standards. I do not think we have evidence for them according to invariantist standards. And I apportion my belief analogously (I do not believe that my belief in the past is infallible. I believe in the past *only* so far as ordinary standards are concened).

What I have moral problems with is beliefs that are not evidentially justified on the basis of *any* philosophically justifiable standard. I do not think religious beliefs satisfy any such standard (I think they are unjustified on ordinary everyday standards, invariantist standards, etc.). This, I think, is the problem Clifford had with it as well. Certain types of beliefs fail to meet *any* epistemically justifiable standard, and believing in things that meet no such standard is morally dangerous.

Marcus Arvan

Roger: I should probably clarify a couple of things. I probably shouldn't have written "*is* morally dangerous" in my previous comment. My view, rather, is that there is a certain kind of moral hazard in a psychological propensity to believe things without sufficient evidence.

That being said, I *don't* have the kind of moral antipathy to religious belief that I had at one time, and for some of the reasons I hint at in the post. I'm a lot more sympathetic with religious belief than I used to be, particularly because of my own "religious experience." I think it may indeed be possible to be a *believer* without committing any moral wrong (provided one bases one's treatment of other people on morally justifiable grounds).

That being said, I think that the model of faith as hope may be morally preferable to belief, as it is a kind of *guard* against the the kind of moral hazard Clifford attributed to religious belief (viz. failing to pay attention to evidence in other areas that do affect other people's lives).

Ben Bryan

In Hebrews 11:1 (not, for the record, 1:11) "hope" means something quite a bit different than what you mean by it. I mention this not to nitpick, but because if we reflect on what hope means in Hebrews 11 I think we’ll find that there is a conception of hope that you don’t consider that lies between your conception and the irrational belief conception.

After describing faith in terms of hope (which it characterizes in contrast with sight), Hebrews 11 lists a number of people who lived before the coming of Christ who are supposed to have had the kind of faith described in verse 1. What is it that characterizes this faith? Consider a passage later in Hebrews 11:

"13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."

The idea here is that faith is a matter of trusting God's promises. The element of "hope" involved is that the promises have not yet been fulfilled (for a parallel and even clearer use of this notion of hope, see Romans 8:18-25). Hope is contrasted here (As in Romans 8) with seeing. As Paul points out in Romans 8, we have to hope for what we cannot see. But the hope is grounded in the promise of God.

The conception of hope at work in Hebrews 11 (and in Romans 8) is that hope is accepting that the promises of God that have not yet been fulfilled (such that we can't yet *see* their results) will one day be fulfilled. Hope is a matter of trusting God to do something. But notice that this supposes that the people of faith have encountered God. This is a different kind of faith than the kinds you consider. You seem consider two ways of understanding faith:

1-a kind of evidence-defying faith: I believe even though I don't have sufficient reason to believe
2-a kind of "hopeful" (in your sense, not the Hebrews/Romans sense) faith: I don’t believe but rather I …. (how do I complete this sentence? I’m not sure I understand your notion of hope enough to do so; it’s more than just wanting something to be true. Nor does it seem to be a matter of behaving as if it is true. But what is it?)

Note that neither of these is the kind of faith Hebrews 11 (or Romans 8) is talking about: belief based on the testimony of a God one has somehow encountered. This is the sort of faith that I and most thoughtful Christians I know have (and that many less than thoughtful ones seem implicitly to have). I believe things about God because I think that I have evidence for them. But it’s not the kind of evidence we usually consider. It’s not about proofs for existence of God, or historical arguments about Jesus, or anything like that. Rather, I take it I’ve encountered God in some way (a way that is difficult to articulate but is definitely not something so grand or clear as a mystical experience where one sees or hears things), and I’ve done so through a certain message—the Gospel as understood by the apostles. This message claims that I need to be reconciled to God and healed of my brokenness and that this has been made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ; if I accept what Christ has done, I can know God and be transformed. And here’s the thing: I was compelled by this message, and I take it that I know God and am being transformed, just as the message claims. This, of course, is not the kind of evidence I can give to you or anyone else. There’s little I can do, then, to prevent others from dismissing me as one more religious nut. I can only repeat the message and hope that people respond in the same way I did.

Notice: this is an entirely different model of faith than those you’re considering. You can still accuse it of resting on false beliefs, but unlike the model of faith you reject (on which we just believe things despite a lack of evidence) this kind of faith isn’t irrational. It is grounded in a belief that, if true, would arguably provide sufficient reason to believe (namely, the belief that one has encountered God and is being transformed in just the way the Gospel message promises).

Notice also that this model of faith recommends actions much like those you are taking. On this view, the recommendation to those who don’t believe is to listen to and engage with the message.

In short:
1-There is a conception of faith worth considering that you don’t consider, the very one, in fact, that Hebrews 11 seems to be trying to get at.
2-this conception of faith is one on which faith is a matter of accepting testimony that one takes as trustworthy because it has led one to direct interaction of some kind with God.
3-this kind of faith is not irrational

Roger

I guess we just have different intuitions (or something) about this stuff, Marcus. I don't think for a moment that anyone believes that there are other people, e.g., on the basis of any evidence. Or that the world didn't just pop into existence five seconds ago. I mean, what sort of evidence could one appeal to that doesn't already presuppose the belief in question? It's hard to think of what this could be.

I think we're hard wired to believe some things; we have properly basic beliefs; and I think that, plausibly, belief in God is one of those.

And is it really up to us what we believe, anyway? I doubt it; at least, in any direct way. So, suppose that I think about the world, and how incredible it is, but I also think about all the evil in the world, etc., and still find myself believing that God exists. What am I supposed to do? Have I really done something irrational? I can't see how. I guess I'd have to have some really good argument *against* God's existence before I thought I'd somehow reached my belief in God irrationally. But what sort of argument would that be? I can't think of one.

As far as *religious* belief goes: I think there is evidence for the truth of some religious belief. Take Christian belief, for example. I think there's plenty of evidence that Christianity is true (see, for example, the evidence for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus). But if there's plenty of evidence for *that*, then it follows that there's plenty of evidence for God's existence, and so plenty of evidence rationally to support belief in God.

Marcus Arvan

Roger: I don't think it's a difference in intuitions. I think you are plainly working with an epistemically unjustifiable conception of evidence.

There is a saying (and good reason for the saying), "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." If I want to say I have evidence for green trolls making the tides go in and out, I had better be able to *show* that I extraordinary evidence for that.

By a similar token, if I claim that there is a heavenly spirit with Jesus sitting next to his right hand, I had better be able to provide some extraordinary evidence for that. And historical evidence that there was once a man named "Jesus" who claimed to be the Son of God is not such evidence (nor, I side with Hume, is testimony of supposed miracles). Nor is claiming that belief in God is a "basic belief." *I* don't have the basic belief, and neither, evidently, do millions of other people!

Anyway, this is pretty much the very reason why I think my "hope"-based approach to religious practice is (morally) preferable. I don't think we have good enough evidence for belief, and that the more epistemically and morally responsible thing to do is to *hope*, pray, and be good people.

But, I do appreciate your grounds for disagreeing.

Marcus Arvan

Ben: Thanks for the informative and nuanced analysis of the Hebrews passage.

I guess, if that's what is meant by hope, it's not what I'm interested in. I'm interested in *hope* in the simple and colloquial sense of *wanting*.

It is this simple manner of hope that has changed (and improved) my life. For most of my life, I did not even *hope* that God existed. When I was an Atheist, I thought God *doesn't* exist (so, hope in God seemed pointless). When I was an ordinary Agnostic, I might have "hoped" in some sense that God exists but that hope didn't inform my life in any real sense.

My point is that, the past few years, as a result of emotional and intellectual changes on my part, and engaging in religious practices of various sorts, HOPE in God (again, in the ordinary colloquial sense of the word) has real meaning. Real *religious* meaning. My hope *means* something to me. When I pray, I still do not think I know -- or even believe -- that God exists. And yet there I am, doing something I never used to do: praying, from a kind of hope.

My point is that, in my experience, there is real spiritual (and yes, religious and moral) value in that for ME. And that is why I wanted to share it. It seems to me an alternative way of *being* religious that I never understood before, and that I think is worthwhile.

It may not, for all I know, fit with anyone else's notion of "religion" -- and, of course, it certainly does not fit with religious traditions (which all seem to require more than mere hope: viz. belief or a relationship with God). My reason for sharing is not that I think it makes sense of how most people understand religion. My reason is that I think -- however idiosyncratic of a conception of religiosity it may be -- it is a worthwhile alternative to think about more and explore.

Matt

I've always thought that Clifford's axiom didn't even pass its own test. What's the evidence that we shouldn't believe anything without sufficient evidence?

Marcus Arvan

Matt: A lot of people (Clifford included) have given a lot of evidence -- namely, moral *arguments* that believing in things without sufficient evidence is morally hazardous.

Now, of course, Clifford never gives a good definition of "sufficient evidence", but there are many ways to do so -- and, I would argue, the right way to do so is contextualist (what counts as sufficient evidence depends on the context and potential harms involved).

Look, I didn't mean to suggest that I *accept* Clifford's argument. I once did, but now I do not. I *do* think the religious belief lacks sufficient evidence on any justifiable precisification. To use the language of Supervaluationism (a certain approach to theorizing about semantic vagueness), I think it is Superfalse that we have sufficient evidence for religious belief. This is why I prefer to hope rather than believe. However, I no longer accept Clifford's contention that belief without sufficient evidence is wrong. I believe it is morally *dangerous* -- as it continues to lead many people to commit moral wrongs and atrocities -- but that one *can* be a Believer (without sufficient evidence) without committing any wrong.

Roger

Marcus,

A few things. First, no I think I'm just working with a very typical view of evidence in current epistemology.

Second, no Christian--well, no Christian who knows anything--thinks that Jesus is *literally seated* at God's right hand. This is a figure of speech having to do with Jesus' position of authority. (Wouldn't it be better to understand a position you criticize before you criticize it?) So, I think if there's good evidence that Jesus really did rise from the dead, this is good evidence for his position of authority. Thus, if there's good evidence for Jesus' resurrection, then there's good evidence for Jesus' being "seated at the right hand of God", properly understood.

Second, there's good evidence for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Methinks you haven't looked into it, or you wouldn't be saying there isn't any good evidence for such a thing.

Finally, something like 90% of people believe in God or something like God. I'd bet that's about the same percentage of people who believe that there are other people, or that we aren't stuck in the Matrix. That seems like good reason to think belief in God--or something like it--is a properly basic belief. Maybe *you* don't have that basic belief, but couldn't that just be a bit of cognitive malfunction? We all have faulty (though reliable!) cognitive apparatuses; so, isn't it plausible that a failure to believe in God--or something like it--is one way in which minds can malfunction?

Jonathan D. Jacobs

You should look into work by Jon Kvanvig on "affective faith". You can find several papers here:

https://bearspace.baylor.edu/Jonathan_Kvanvig/www/plans_projects.html

I think you'll find a well developed view similar to what you're after here.

But in the background of Wettstein's piece is the apophatic or negative theological tradition, which I'm familiar with in the Christian tradition but which is also in the Jewish tradition (e.g., Maimonides). There are all sorts of attempts to understand what it would mean to deny that God exists ("God is beyond being," "God is not *a* being," etc.). I've got a forthcoming paper trying to make sense of that in a Christian context. But whatever one says, it won't be a simple, straightforward denial that God exists. (Or, at any rate, it shouldn't, on my view.)

But, anyway, if the interest is in developing an idea of faith as a kind of hope, then you should definitely look at Kvanvig's stuff.

Ben Bryan

Marcus,

I agree your suggestion is interesting and worth thinking about (my point in bringing up the other view was to point out that there are a broader range of possible views than those you seemed to be considering). One thing that puzzles me about it is your description of it in terms of "wanting." It seems like you're doing more than this. You seem to be, in some respects, going beyond wanting things to be true and acting as if they are. Prayer seems to be of this sort. It is more than wanting (I think; see question below). But the "in some respects" is important here, because I suspect there are some ways in which you are not acting as if what you want to be true is true (or am I wrong? Is it a matter of behaving as if you believe, without believing?)

A related series of questions (which strike me as rather personal, and which you should feel free to ignore), which may be helpful in sorting out whether or how much hope of your sort goes beyond mere wanting: what exactly does praying involve for you? I mean that question rather literally: what do you say? Are you speaking to God? are you asking for things? expressing feelings? In what respect is prayer different from simply thinking? Would you pray differently if you did believe? If so, how?

Sebastian

Ben: "I think we're hard wired to believe some things; we have properly basic beliefs; and I think that, plausibly, belief in God is one of those."

If this were true, then wouldn't belief in god be present in every human culture as a default position?

How do you account for the fact that belief in god isn't present in every human culture? (For instance, see Hall, David L. and Roger T. Ames, 'Thinking Through Confucius.' SUNY Press, pp. 18-19.)

Marcus Arvan

Jonathan: thanks for your comment. I will definitely check out Kvanvig's stuff!

Roger: there are a lot of "I thinks" in your comment. You think there is good evidence that you are working with ordinary epistemology, you think we have evidence that Christian theology is true, you think we are programmed to belief in God, and you think it is plausible that my brain is therefore malfunctioning. With all due respect, these are precisely the kinds of claims that make me want to head running for the trees and become a militant Atheist again. For here is the problem: only *Christians* think the things you think. You are basically saying -- without clear empirical evidence that miraculous stuff ever happened (and I am well aware of the historical research on this stuff) -- that miraculous stuff *did* happen, and that those of us who don't believe in God may have malfunctioning brains. This is precisely why I still think Clifford was onto something. Religious belief leads people to *believe* they are working with sound standards of evidence when, by the lights of every non-Believer and natural scientist, they are *not*. And this is, I think, dangerous. You have just implied that I (may) have a malfunctioning brain not on the basis of sound empirical evidence, but on the basis of what you think. I think this is epistemic hubris, and morally dangerous. It is dangerous to base beliefs about the world on the basis of "evidence" that only a privileged few recognize. It is to insist -- against what everyone else thinks -- that one's faith is right. Hope, on the other hand, has no such moral hazards. I am not prepared to say that religious people have malfunctioning brains. I am not prepared to say that the physical world is all there is, nor am I willing to say that one religion is correct. Instead, I base my beliefs on evidence available to all, and engage in religious *hope*. And this, I think, is why religious hope is better. It is humble, it is kind, and does not run the real moral risks that belief without sufficient evidence run. Moral risks which I think have been displayed here (I am a bit flabbergasted, in all honesty, to have someone suggest that my brain may be malfunctioning just because I don't believe in the supernatural!).

Ben: thanks for your kind, searching comment. In rough outline, I do not know if I would pray substantially differently if I were an out-and-out Believer. I don't think my behavior goes beyond mere wanting. I have no idea whether anyone is listening. But I hope against all hope that maybe someone is. On the basis of that hope, I ask for things like the strength to accept what life hands me. I ask for providence and mercy for those I care about. I ask for forgiveness for wrongs I have done. I ask for help to be a better person. I promise to try harder, and to do better. None of this, I think, presupposes any sort of belief -- aside from the belief that someone *may* be listening; a belief which, for the reasons I give in my post, I do have (I think the God Hypothesis is a real open epistemic issue, and thus, that God might indeed exist). Would I do anything different if I truly Believed? I'm not sure. Maybe my prayers would in some sense be more "factive". That is, I would probably pray to Jesus on the assumption that he *is* listening, whereas, as things stand, I merely presuppose that he *may* be listening. That being said, aside from this general difference, I don't think I would do anything different. I would still ask for help; for forgiveness; for mercy; for providence for those I love and care about; and all the rest.

Ben Bryan

Marcus,
Interesting. I pray you find what you're hoping for.

Sebastian,
I think you mean Roger, not Ben. Right? (the quote is from Roger, and I don't think I said anything that would require me to endorse his claims?)

Marcus Arvan

Ben: thanks. I hope I do too. :)

Roger

Ok, well let me remove at least one 'I think'. There *is*--and nearly all historical scholars on the resurrection agree--good evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Does that help?

But, I'm not sure what work removing the 'I think' is doing. I know there's good evidence (because I've actually done some scholarly work in this area-and, at any rate, have read scholars in this area) which requires that I think there's good evidence, yes?

I also know that I'm working with a standard view of evidence in epistemology which requires that I think that I'm working with such a view, yes? What I'm denying is that I need to believe some of these things (like that there are other people, or that the world didn't just now pop into existence) on the basis of any evidence, let alone "sufficient" evidence (whatever that means). Alvin Plantinga has some good stuff on why we should think belief in God is properly basic. Have you read it? If so, and you disagree, I hope it's not because you think it's the sort of thing that should send anyone running for the hills of atheism. It's pretty good stuff, even if, in the end, it's wrong.

So, I'm sorry to send you running; but, I'm pretty sure nothing I've said should have that effect on you.

Marcus Arvan

Roger: I'm assuming that you mean by, "nearly all historical scholars on the resurrection", you mean all *Christian* scholars. Because, look, it is simply false that all historical scholars on Biblical times agree on the resurrection. If they did, then surely everyone would be Christian. We would have definitive historical proof that Christ rose from the dead. Now, I assume you will say, we do have such proof. To which I reply: "There. You see. You are insisting that your scholars -- the scholars that agree with your faith -- are correct, and the rest of the world is wrong."

Also, yes, I have read Plantinga's stuff, and yes, it does make me want to run for the hills.

Roger

Marcus:

I never claimed that all scholars believe in the resurrection. What I claimed was that *nearly* all scholars believe that there is good evidence for the resurrection. And, no, I do not mean Christian scholars; I mean both Christian and secular. (BTW, that's a pretty uncharitable inference you made, there. Why would you assume *that's* what i meant? Shouldn't we assume the best of each other, especially on this blog?)

So, I think you should at least check into it. It may be unconvincing, in the end, to you. But that's OK. The point isn't to say that you should believe on the basis of the available evidence; it's to say that there's good evidence for the belief.

Sorry to hear you don't like Al's work! Can't please everyone!

Marcus Arvan

Roger: sorry about that. I really apologize. There's a reason they say not to talk about religion and politics with friends or at family functions. :)

In any case, I guess we just don't see the evidence the same way. But this is part of my point. Given that the religiously inclined and the non-inclined perceive the evidence so differently, isn't this a reason to be *more* epistemically humble, not less? Isn't it reason to admit that the Great Mystery *is* a Great Mystery? I daresay religion wouldn't drive so many well-meaning and intelligent people away -- people who are willing to embrace the great mystery of the world but not take the further leap in believing in a Creator -- if it didn't insist, beyond the evidence that other see, that the proof is there. It took me half a lifetime to reconcile my agnosticism (which I think is epistemically responsible) with my hope for something more. I daresay religion would attract more followers if it were more open to uncertainty and mere hope, rather than insisting upon Belief.

Anyway, this is where I am coming from. Apologies again for the exasperation. I'll try to be more charitable! :) Oh, and thanks for continuing the conversation. :)

Roger

Marcus,

No worries. And I totally understand your agnosticism. Maybe you don't think that the evidence for the resurrection (say) is good enough to convince you. I mean, obviously you don't, or it *would* convince you. And that's ok.

But, do we really have a choice about what evidence does or doesn't convince us to believe something? All we can do is consider the evidence. if we form beliefs based on the evidence, what else can we do? It's not like we can *stop* the belief from forming, not directly anyway. And I doubt we have any good reason to think we *should* try and the stop the belief from forming, not unless we have some good reason for thinking the evidence *isn't* good. But, again, in this case, the evidence *is* good.

Anyway, Christianity doesn't ask for certainty. I don't know any honest Christian who would say they're certain Christianity is right. But that's true about most things in life. You just go with what seems true to you. And the responsible thing to do is continue believing as seems true, unless you have some defeater for your belief. As for me, I can't see what a good defeater to Christian belief could be, so I continue believing what seems to me to be true. (And if there every came a time where someone presented some evidence that cast serious doubt on Christian belief, I'd have the duty to consider it.)

Marcus Arvan

Roger: fair enough -- but a few thoughts. First, I do think we can control what we believe. Not the evidence per se, but our standards for belief. We can decide to be skeptical or not, for instance. We can choose to be skeptical, or, alternatively, as you say, we can choose to believe first and then *not* to believe only if we are convinced there are defeaters. I think the skeptical view is the only epistemically sensible one, not the more permissive approach you suggest. Though I do recognize people differ on this. So we agree to disagree on this. That being said, I think there are plainly a *lot* of defeaters of all-out *belief* in Christianity. The defeaters are legion: peer epistemic disagreement, the fact that miracles are merely testified to thousands of years ago, the fact that eyewitness reports have been demonstrated to be unreliable, the fact that supernatural experiences had been repeatedly tested and never found to reliably detect anything, the fact that people used to believe in witches, ghosts, etc., the fact that there are many alternative religions, including many that far predate Christianity. Etc. There are so, so many reasons to doubt that I think it is the only epistemically responsible thing to do...and, by extension, I think hope is epistemically and morally preferable.

Ambrose

Marcus,
This is an interesting and inspiring post. I wonder whether your point about "hope" might have more epistemic force than you seem to be granting. I've also found that (for similar reasons) I am way more open these days to all kinds of religious possibilities. (Like you, I haven't settled on anything definite.) But I notice that _hope_ of this kind seems to change my intuitions. Things that seemed crazy or silly before just don't seem that way anymore. That makes me wonder whether my earlier atheism or agnosticism was less a rational response to evidence than a non-rational effect of some kind of _despair_. Especially given that, looking back, it's just very hard to find any particularly strong reasons for my earlier anti- or non-religious beliefs. To the extent that it's reasonable to philosophize from intuitions -- apparently a controversial idea on this site -- I think that religious hope might provide a kind of reason for religious belief. Of course the reason is far from decisive. There just is no evidence that clearly tips the scales one way or the other. (And God might well have good reasons for putting us in that epistemic situation.) But maybe hope provides us with intuitions that make belief not-un-reasonable. Leaving room for a "leap of faith" that is epistemically justifiable -- though not obligatory...

Marcus Arvan

Hi Ambrose: Thanks for your kind and insightful comment.

Indeed, I very much identify with your main point here, about how hope can change intuitions. As I allude to in my point that I used to be a militant Atheist, I used to be *totally* opposed to all things faith. Now, although I still there are moral dangers associated with it, I don't think it is inherently wrong. First, I understand for the first time *why* people have faith (how some form of it really is a *need* for some people; *I* need it, at least as a hope). Second, I now appreciate how some people can "leave their faith at the door" when it comes to things that affect other people-- something which I think comes to terms with many of Clifford's worries (my mother-in-law is an excellent case of this. She is devoutly Catholic in many respects, but does not base her moral or scientific beliefs on her faith).

Furthermore, there have indeed been times where my religious hope (my wanting there to be a God) has led me to have somewhat different intuitions about the evidence. More than a few times the past few years, I have asked myself, "Well, am I a Believer now?" Each time, the ultimate answer has come back, "No." I am still agnostic. But still, my newfound religious hope has led me to take some arguments (the Cosmological and Ontological Arguments) more seriously than I used to, and in fact, I am no longer certain that they are unsound (which I used to be). This is not to say that I am certain that they *are* sound (again, I'm still agnostic!), but it is interesting, to be sure, the manner in which embracing religious and spiritual hope has led me to entertain and take seriously arguments I did not take seriously before. And in a good way I think. :)

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