Why Should I Believe My Belief?

by J. Budziszewski

beliefPeter had stopped by to ask what I would be teaching the next semester. None of my planned courses fit his schedule (which didn’t seem to surprise him), so he seemed to be ready to leave.

But he didn’t. Each time he stood up, he thought of some trivial question, then sat down again to ask it. I began to think he’d get leg cramps if he kept this up.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s really on your mind?”

“What do you mean? I wanted to know what you were teaching next semester, and — “

“But you knew that already. And you didn’t really come here to ask about the Semester in Uzbekistan, or the Internship in Antinomianism.”

“What are you, psychic or something?”

I grinned. “Yes.”

“Well,” he said, “there is something I’ve been wondering about. It’s not why I’m here. But since you bring it up, I guess I might as well tell you.”

“You might as well,” I agreed.

“I was talking with my friend Don. You know him.”

“Sure. It’s through him that I know you.”

“Well, the other day he asked whether I believe in God, and I didn’t know what to tell him.”

“You don’t know whether God is real?”

“It’s not that. I don’t know whether I believe in Him.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No. See, I do believe in God. But I don’t see why my belief should be true. So maybe I don’t believe in Him, if you see what I mean.”

“Maybe you’re trying to say that your belief doesn’t reflect real knowledge, so even though you believe in God, you also think maybe you shouldn’t. Am I getting warm?

“Yeah, that’s it. See, one of my other professors said that the only reason I believe in God is that I’ve been brought up that way. If I’d been brought up by pagans, probably I’d believe in lots of gods. If I’d been brought up by atheists, probably I wouldn’t believe in any god. So I have this belief — but so what?”

I reached for my coffee. “Peter, tell me something.”

“What?”

“What makes you sure that you believe in God only because you’ve been brought up that way?”

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Why Should I Believe My Belief?

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