Elgin Hushbeck: All Beliefs are Beliefs
Response #1 to Philosophy for Believers.
Edward Vick in his book Philosophy for Believers opens with a statement that is, I believe, undoubtedly true, yet also controversial. Vick claims that, “We all have many and varied beliefs.” It is true because of course different people have different beliefs and not all beliefs are created equal. Different beliefs can have differing levels of support. Even people who hold the same belief may do so for differing of reasons.
For example, studies show that most people get their political beliefs from their parents. Many end up with political beliefs which are fairly similar to those of their parents. However while this is possibly acceptable as a general rule, it is hardly a universal one. Some, for reasons of family dynamics, will adopt views in conflict with their parents. Still others will make their own assessment of the evidence and reach their own conclusions. A wide variety of beliefs held for a variety of reasons.
Where this gets controversial is that for some skeptics, there is an additional factor when it comes to considering religious beliefs. For some skeptics religious beliefs are not just another classification of beliefs, like we might classify beliefs about politics, history or science. Religious beliefs are an inherently different type of belief, a type of belief that is by definition false, though some would soften this somewhat by saying that they are simply unknowable. On the other hand, they do not see their beliefs to be beliefs at all; they are just facts to be accepted.
This is why some skeptics are able to make claims such as ‘there is no evidence for the existence of God.’ Such claims have little to do with the evidence or lack thereof. Rather, this is more an expression of the skeptic’s belief that there can be no evidence because it is a religious belief. Such views are untenable. One can have a legitimate debate about the evidence for God, and whether or not it is sufficient to accept a belief in God, but not whether or not any evidence exists.
Vick’s approach is particularly valuable, in that because of the success of science in discovering the laws that govern the natural word, this has led to the attempt to label a great many beliefs “scientific” on the one hand, and a tendency to automatically accept any belief that is so labeled on the other. If nothing else, the history of science shows this to be questionable as it is full of examples of accepted scientific views which were later to be over turned by further discovery.
Ultimately, Vick’s approach is helpful in that it sees beliefs as something not just to be accepted or rejected, but as things to be considered and evaluated.
Elgin Hushbeck, Jr. is both a Christian apologist and a businessman. He is author of Energion titles Evidence for the Bible, Christianity and Secularism, and Preserving Democracy.