People vary in their beliefs about God, Heaven, and so on. Why is this? Surely not because they have had different experiences with respect to God, Heaven, and so on.

Usually, different beliefs imply different experiences. Ava lives in Trenton and works in Manhattan; she believes that commuting to work is the worst lifestyle ever invented. Ben lives in Hilo, and bikes a couple miles to work; he believes that commuting to work is kind of fun. So these are beliefs based on experience. But if Ava tells us that God is the personification of kindness, while Ben describes him as terrifyingly judgmental, this cannot be because they have had differing experiences of God. Neither person has ever talked to God or seen God doing anything. So, what can be the reason for their different opinions? Only that they have been told different things about God. Their beliefs are based not on experience but only on rote learning. And this learning is of course not about God (since there’s no such thing), but only about what you’re supposed to say about God.

A belief about what you’re supposed to say about God is not the same thing as a belief about God. So the truth is that, although Ava and Ben offer us different verbal descriptions of God, they do not have different beliefs about God. They don’t have any beliefs about God; they’ve just learned to recite different slogans.

Advertisements