December 07, 2011

Being certain about god's existence

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 64% of people in the age range 18-29 say they are 'absolutely certain' that god exists. This is lower than the 73% of people over 30, another sign of the decrease in religiosity of younger people.

What I find really curious is that the respondents say they are absolutely certain of something that they cannot possibly be certain about. Absolute certainty, as commonly understood, means that you have no doubt whatsoever and that is a very high threshold that cannot be met for something as lacking in evidence as the existence of god. I am about as hard-core an atheist as you are likely to meet and even I would never say that I am 'absolutely certain' that god does not exist and most of the atheists I am aware of are like me.

So why do religious people say such things? I suspect that such assertions of certainty are the means by which people try to convince themselves of their beliefs in spite of their misgivings, the equivalent of sticking one's fingers in the ears to shut out unpleasant sounds. Such emphatic assertions of certainty are really symptoms of doubt.

An interesting follow-up would be to ask those respondents what it is that makes them so certain.


Trackback URL for this entry is:


yes, sometimes doubt has become a problem in itself. To cope, sometimes people get confused by trying to convince himself by force. As a result, they are getting messy ..

Posted by Belly Setyanto on December 7, 2011 01:21 PM

It's easier to say "I am absolutely certain" because then you don't have to actually THINK about it. Critical thinking is way to difficult for most Americans.

Posted by Mary Ann on December 7, 2011 02:31 PM

The only way to be certain of something is to take in knowledge of the subject. God himself tells us to do this very thing. In His word the Bible he instructs us with these words found at John 17:3, This means everlasting life, there taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.

Posted by Paul on December 8, 2011 07:45 PM