Monday, August 4, 2008

Fifty Reasons and the Obvious

The latest Point of Inquiry podcast features Guy Harrison, author of 50 Reasons People Believe in a God, which he discusses on the program. Harrison comes across as a reasonable and personable fellow, perhaps to the disappointment of cage-rattlers on both sides of the belief/nonbelief divide, and framed his book on a disarmingly simple question: what reasons do everyday people give for believing in god (or gods)?

The answers people gave didn't resemble the high-flying discussions found in philosophical, scientific, or indeed theological circles. For example, in the podcast, Harrison mentions that one of the most common reasons given is, simply, because it's obvious. That is, people believe from day one that god (or gods -- Harrison is careful to include polytheistic faiths in his sweep) exists and is watching over the world, and they've never found a reason to doubt it.

The takeaway, or one of them, seems to be that people need to get out more and take note of the world's religious diversity. Christians would do well to notice, for example, that roughly four billion human beings living today don't consider Jesus a god (if they consider Jesus at all). And Muslims should bother to note that roughly five billion people see no good reason to pick up a Koran or take Mohammed seriously. There are nearly a billion Hindus, and hundreds of millions devoting their lives to sundry gods and god-like entities, the existence and relevance of which is just obvious.

Insofar as questioning the obvious is a serviceable definition of what it means to be educated, Guy Harrison's book sounds like a worthwhile read.

No comments: