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Chapter Four: Why people believe

Section 10: Nature calling

Experience of nature leads some to believe in God's existence - but the existence of nature itself is more than enough.

Nature is beautiful. It's wonderful. It's awesome.

From the tiniest bacterium seen under a microscope to the vast cosmos of the night sky (if you are lucky enough to live in an area with no light pollution), nature astounds us.

Some of us even lose our sense of self. We feel at one with nature. We are part of the cosmos. We glimpse God.

4.10a Nature = God?

For many people nature itself is proof of God. This is either an emotional response - the "glimpse of God", or a quasi-rational one.

We saw in Chapter Three that the rational argument (nature is complex; that complexity can only have been created by a supernatural being - God) is attractive but false. How about the emotional argument. Do we glimpse God?

Unfortunately for believers, all we see is a mirage. As Section 2 demonstrated, we are merely interpreting our experience as oneness-with-God-or-the-cosmos-or-whatever.

But the fact we do not glimpse God does not mean that our experience is valueless. In fact the sense of wonder that nature induces in us should only be the first step in our appreciation of the world and universe we live in. There is so much to see and so much to discover - and our lives are so short and so full that we will only be able to glimpse a small part of the wonders that surround us.

We can interpret the spectacle of nature as God's handiwork if we wish, but we would be fools to do so. There is enough to explore in nature itself, from the complexity of atoms to the grace of gazelles, from the weirdness of deep sea organisms to the gore of carnivores, from black holes to nuclear fission; we do not need facile fairytales to

The deep roots of belief

Despite reason and evidence indicating that God does not and cannot exist, billions of people across the world continue to worship him in one of his many forms.

Belief in God draws its strength from a wide range of sources and provides a sense of security and wellbeing for many. Transforming that belief into an understanding and respect for rationality takes time and much effort.

4.1: The origins of religion
Where did faith come from?

4.2: In the genes?
Are we programmed to believe?

4.3: Community and identity
Defining ourselves through faith

4.4: Peer pressure
Faith as fashion

4.5: Death and despair
There must be a better world

4.6: A sense of justice
Evildoers must be punished

4.7: God and meaning
Religion gives us a purpose

4.8: The power and the glory
They reflect on us too

4.9: Against the tide
Converts and natural-born rebels

4.10: Nature calling
A glimpse of God?

4.11: Pick 'n' mix
What are your reasons?

4.12: Summary

Finished this chapter? Move on to

Chapter 5
Faith in action

People create God in their own image. What happens when they not only believe in God but put their faith into action?

The results are predictable: good people do good things in the name of religion and bad people do bad things. They act in God's name but God is irrelevant.

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distract us from the reality around us.

Chapter Four: Section 11 Pick 'n' mix

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

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