Why not knowledge?
This is something that perplexes me about religion. We spend a lot of time here discussing the beliefs of theists, but very little time talking about the knowledge of theists in their religion.
Religion is always couched in terms of belief; rarely knowledge. Oh, there are some fundamentalists, and maybe even a few Catholics who claim that they “know god”, or will proselytize people to get to “know god”, but when you dig down into their knowledge, you always, without exception, find that their knowledge is still just a belief. They can never point to a fact that you can confirm that enables you to know the same god they do. They certainly can’t introduce you to the god they know, they can only tell you why they believe in their god.
Knowledge, unlike beliefs, can be confirmed objectively. For instance, I know when I see a mountain that it is a mountain. I can climb it, take pictures of it, share my experiences with people who have also climbed it or photographed it, and they can confirm, exactly, my understanding of the fact that we call a mountain. It is there, right where I can see it, and where others can see it, and experience it exactly as I do. It is an objective fact, and that fact results in my knowledge of the mountain, a knowledge that is the same as everyone else’s, without exception.
Gods, on the other hand, are illusory. They cannot be seen (except, perhaps by the delusional). Even if someone claims they can be seen, that sensory experience cannot be shared by others, as my mountain example can be. This suggests that a person’s claim that he sees his god, or talks to his god, is individually based in that person’s brain, which is where all beliefs reside.
Correlative of this is the phenomena of multiple descriptions of gods. It would be a rare thing for any two theists to describe their knowledge of the gods they believe in, exactly the same. If one delves into the details of any theist’s beliefs, one will always find some discrepancy between his description and the next man’s. And that’s just within the same religion. Compare the descriptions of gods of different religions, and you will find a wide variety of gods, the existence of which completely belies the term “knowledge”, but supports the term “belief” when talking about god.
So why don’t we have any knowledge of god? One would expect that something so prevalent, and so fundamental to the existence of the world, its past, present and future, would have some state of existence that we could know, rather than simply believe in. The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are things to believe in. Leprechauns and Unicorns and the Mad Hatter are subjects of belief. Presidents, kings, Einstein and Newton are the subjects of knowledge. History, science and economics are the subjects of knowledge. Why doesn’t god fit into the latter category? Why is he subject to the uncertainty of beliefs, and the vagaries of individual mentalities, when he is in charge of, and the alleged first cause of, all reality?
Does that make any sense to anyone?
Someone or something that important, that pervasive, that instrumental to our very existence should be known, not believed in; categorically, without any equivocation, and without any disagreement as to the nature and extent of its existence. We should not have wars or people tortured over theological issues, any more than we have wars or torture over issues involving our favorite football teams.
The fact that we have to believe in gods, as opposed to knowing them, says a lot about their existence.