We believe in God.
We believe there is one supreme being Who created the universe. This is not a vast leap of faith - at this basic level, there aren't many options to choose from.
We believe that God created the universe out of nothing - he did not use some pre-existing building blocks. Rather, He is the one Who created those building blocks in the first place. If you want to be slightly more precise from the scientific perspective, He is the one Who created spacetime and energy in the first place.
After all, the greatest mystery in the universe is that something exists rather than nothing.
People sometimes say that the existence of God solves nothing: perhaps God created the universe, but who created God? You simply push the question back one step. But the two questions are not the same at all.
We know about matter. We have been studying it for a long time. For centuries, science has explored the various interactions of matter with matter. We know the meaningful questions we can ask about matter.
On the other hand, we know very little about the nature of God.We can reason on the basis of what we see and understand of His work, but the different conclusions people come to on this basis demonstrates that it is not a very reliable method. If He communicates, then we know only what He chooses to tell us. And why do we imagine our minds can grasp the nature of God Who, if He exists, must be far beyond our comprehension?
We would not expect an ant to be able to appreciate the art of Pablo Picasso, the humour of Groucho Marx or the motivation of Hamlet, yet we must be far closer to an ant than we are to any God capable of creating a universe. Does God exist in time, like us? If not, then the whole question of His beginning is meaningless.
God, unlike physical matter, is not susceptible to scientific examination.. This is sometimes considered to be a dreadful weakness on the part of those who believe in Him. But whether we like it or not, the fact remains that we only know about God what He chooses to reveal of himself. And what we know does not indicate that the question "Who made God?" is a meaningful one.
The questions you can ask about something depend on its nature. About a tennis ball, you can ask "Where is it?" but not "Who was its father?" About love, you can ask "Do you feel it for your partner?" but not "How much does it weigh?" or "How much does it cost per kilogram?" About a bar of steel, you can ask "How well does it conduct electricity?" but not "Does it like me?"
We know it is meaningful to talk about the origin of the universe; we don't know if it is meaningful to talk about the origin of God, and even if it is, there is no reason to suppose that we can even begin to grasp what the question means.
So it is meaningful to talk about God as the creator, and He is the best theory we have to explain why something exists rather than nothing.
People raise various objections to belief in God.
Err... how? Proving something in science is difficult at the best of times; proving the non-existence of something in a scientific way is even harder. Most scientists would say that the hypothesis of the existence of God is not a scientific theory, so it is not something that science can either prove or disprove.
The furthest that most scientists will go is to say that science has no need for the hypothesis of God. But then, science has no need for the hypothesis of your existence - and you probably don't think this means that you don't exist.
The question of whether science needs the hypothesis of God really comes from the days when God was used to explain the bits that the scientists didn't understand - the 'God of the gaps' position. This was both bad science and bad theology, and most people today are very glad we have moved away from it.
If science had disproved God, you would expect to find people choosing between science and faith in God. The reality is that many scientists - and many of the greatest scientists - have been and still are Christians. They find no conflict between the two fields of interest.
The one area left today where science and God seem to interact is the question of origins... which we will presumably look at later.
If faith in God is a crutch - that is, if it works - then we must need it. You don't use a crutch for the fun of it, or just because it is there. You use the crutch because you are damaged, and you can't function as well without it.
Some people say, effectively, "Religious people need this crutch because they are damaged, but I am not damaged and need no such support." It is easy to maintain this position when everything is going well, not so easy when life is difficult. "No man is an atheist on the battle field."
Christians believe we are all damaged. There is no shame in admitting it. Rather, admitting your need is a courageous step towards receiving the help you need.
And why does faith in God function so effectively and so universally in the human race, helping us be strong and good and brave? If we function so much better with this belief, perhaps we were designed to work this way?
This form of argument is futile. You cannot infer from a psychological state to the proof or disproof of any alleged fact. People do believe things because they want them to be true, sometimes. They also believe things because they want them to be false and fear they may be wrong.
The truth or falsehood of God's existence rests on facts and evidences beyond the emotions and desires of my heart and yours. The fact that you love does not in itself prove that you have a lover - but neither is it evidence that your lover is a figment of your imagination.
As I say, there are only a few alternatives.
This one gets really confusing once you start trying to understand the details. How many gods are there? Is it a fixed number, or do they get born and die? Where did they come from? What is the relationship between each of them? Does it change (has it changed) with time? Which of them is in charge? And so on.
This possibility is the popular picture given by many ancient stories, such as those told by the ancient Greeks. But the figures in these stories were not gods in any meaningful sense: they were simply bigger and stronger people, just as selfish and petty as the humans they were modelled on. And, clearly, they represent powerful forces which were created by a more powerful presence, which points back to a shadowy creator God dimly remembered.
Animists can also talk of many gods. But, again, these creatures are not gods in any meaningful sense. The god of a tree may perhaps be some kind of spiritual entity, but is not a god in the sense we are talking about here. And many animists believe in a 'Great Spirit' behind all the smaller spirits they relate to.
This has the advantage that it is simple. It has the disadvantage that it doesn't explain where everything comes from.
In any case, how can you possibly be sure? It takes a great deal of faith to believe that there is no God. Some people spend years searching for God and are still not sure, yet other people seem to make very little effort to find Him and still find it easy to conclude that He cannot exist.
In my experience, this is usually a cop-out.
How sure do you want to be? How sure do you need to be?
The point is that we live our lives on the basis of the best evidence available to us. When you accept a job, or move house, you can never be sure that you are doing the right thing. Most obviously, you can never be sure of what will happen when you get married, but most of us are willing to take the risk - sometimes many times!
I have talked with people who claimed they were totally sure they were doing the right thing in some of the big decisions of life. I suspect that they were really closing their minds to the prospect that they were making a disasterous mistake. Certainly, in retrospect, their feeling of confidence proved to be no guarrantee of success.
So we take big decisions although we cannot be sure these decisions are right. We all do this, simply to live. The alternative is to choose the certainty of an empty life - empty of commitments, empty of relationships, empty of purpose. Why, then, on this one point do some people say, "I cannot be absolutely certain that God exists, so I will ignore the question until I gain that certainty."?
You cannot be certain that your chosen partner will be faithful to you - or you to them. You cannot be certain that nice employer will not frame you for some dreadful fraud, or make you responsible for inadequate safety measures when people are accidently hurt. You cannot be certain that anyone loves you...
In all these areas, you weigh the evidence and take the risk. Faith in God is no different: nobody can prove that God exists, but the supporting evidence is very strong. With God, as with all these other aspects of life, you can choose not to take the risk, but only at the expense of being certain that you will miss out on all the experiences that this risk opens you up to. It's your choice.