Why do real people worship unreal God

Filosofix - Are we only allowed to believe in things that we can prove?

Mr. Hübl, do you believe in God?


How do you know it doesn't exist?

Nobody can know for sure. The question must rather be the other way around: How do the believers come to their convictions? Assumptions about existence are an obligation to bring. For example, anyone who claims that Zeus hurls lightning is obliged to show that this god exists. And anyone who claims that lightning bolts are electrical discharges must prove that electrons exist. Science has succeeded in doing this with electrons, but not so far with Zeus and other gods.

Shouldn't you be a skeptic or an agnostic rather than an atheist? After all, you don't know for sure that God doesn't exist.

Agnostics and skeptics are atheists who lack the courage to be consistent. With Wotan, Osiris or Manitu, nobody is agnostic either. Then why with the God of the Abrahamic religions?

Are we only allowed to believe in things that we can prove?

There is only strict evidence in the formal sciences, i.e. mathematics and logic. When we talk about God, we are more about clues, that is, the question: What speaks for it? "Believing" means "holding true" in everyday life. This can be seen in sentences like “I think it's snowing”. We are more familiar with the phrase “believe in” from sentences like “Jogi Löw believes in his team”. To believe in God must mean to believe that He exists. Before “being allowed to believe” the question arises again: Why should one accept God's existence?

There are people who report visions and claim that God appeared to them or that he spoke to them. In your opinion, are they charlatans or even mentally disturbed people?

An aphorism says: “When you speak to God, it is a prayer. If God speaks to you, it is schizophrenia. " In a psychosis, schizophrenics actually hear "foreign" voices and then attribute them to the television, extraterrestrials or God. Such ascriptions do not even require illness.

In many religions, believers interpret their spiritual experiences as the presence of a higher being. Behind this is the misconception that we have some kind of inner sense to communicate with others. Research shows that wishful thinking leads people to reinterpret their experiences in meditation. And yes, fraudsters also use this idea for their own purposes. George W. Bush may have had both when he said that God had recommended the illegal war in Iraq to him.

If faith gives us strength and hope, then we should hold on to it - shouldn't we?

I ask myself whether it is really about strength and hope and not rather about repression and self-delusion. Life is meaningless because there is no "higher" meaning besides what one gives to life.

Instead of facing this, many people suppress their mortality and sway themselves in the hope that there is life after death. Nietzsche would say that they do not feel like the "brotherhood of death" because they are subject to an existential illusion.

What is it like to live in a godless universe with no meaning or purpose?

The universe is so fascinating that there doesn't have to be more. As evidence of a higher meaning, believers often cite special experiences such as love, beauty or awe of the infinite expanse of the universe. But why should these phenomena point to God or to a meaning?

Why don't sorrow and pain speak against God? The search for higher purposes is an anthropomorphism: humans build clocks for a purpose, but animals or planets are not designed according to a blueprint. They have arisen through evolution or other causal processes. We tend to humanize meaningless nature, but luckily reason helps us to recognize this as a mistake in thinking.

Suppose you could swallow a pill and then believe in God: you would feel safe and would no longer be afraid of death. Would you swallow the pill?

I am not afraid of death, because one does not experience death, but fear of no longer existing afterwards. So if the pill gave me eternal life, I would swallow it right away. But if it prevented me from directing my life towards certain death, it would amount to a deliberately chosen self-delusion. Many people had to swallow this bitter medicine under the name "religion", often without having given their consent. I prefer a depressive realism to bliss through ignorance.

The interview was conducted in writing.


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Philosophy asks the really big questions and helps us to find our own answers with thought experiments. «Filosofix» presents the most important thought experiments in animated short films - an entertaining stimulus to think for yourself. Here you will find:

Philipp Huebl

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Philipp Hübl is junior professor for philosophy at the University of Stuttgart and author of the book "Follow the white rabbit ... into the world of philosophy" (Rowohlt 2012). Most recently he published: «The underground of thinking. A philosophy of the unconscious »(Rowohlt 2015)"