In the Unbelievable podcast episode 27 Oct 2007 - Top reasons for belief there is a discussion around the results of a small survey of reasons for belief in God and belief in Christianity specifically. They discussed the tension between analytical justifications and those based on revelation or personal experience. It was interesting that they never addressed the fact that personal experience is an unreliable way of determining the truth of a proposition.

When they did discuss reasons, the usual suspects came up - arguments from first cause, morality, and design. I was however struck by the conviction that these arguments were basically unassailable. For example, one Reverend summarized the first cause argument. “Everything that begins to exist has a cause” - which he added “was a matter of logic and can be proved and thus is uncontroversial.” He followed with “the universe began to exist.” to which he added “of course that’s true because the universe is here.” He then expressed his admiration that this argument was written hundreds of years ago. What I find interesting is not that someone would believe this argument, but that they would so uncritically accept it - the universe existing does not necessarily imply that it began to exist. Just because your common sense suggests that everything that begins to exist has a cause doesn’t mean that your common sense should hold for things outside of your own personal scale - things may be quite different and unintuitive on the scale of the very big or very small.

The discussion did mention the practical benefit of Christian belief, in the specific case of forgiveness taking away bitterness. This may in fact be true, but can’t one achieve this without believing all of the other parts? I think so, but sometimes I wonder whether people need a form of narrative to structure their most fundamental beliefs - a human limitation perhaps - and that this narrative could be a requirement to get the levels of positive behaviors we’d like out of humanity.