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Does the Torah require me to believe/know that God exists based on premises that I consider to be and reason to be certainties? Is it proper or even just ok to believe that God exists based on uncertainties?

To clarify- the position of uncertainty I'm entertaining is to say that although I am not certain that God exists and is One and interacts with the world etc. (in the way that I'm certain of other things), nevertheless I'm willing to decide to accept the proposition for many different not totally convincing reasons.

To clarify a bit further- I will not be left with doubt. I'm not unsure if God exists. I believe that God exists, but my belief is based on a decision to accept the proposition that God exists based on an uncertain chain of reasoning.

(I know that it seems like I'm double talking, but I don't think that I contradicted myself.)

Is this position explicitly discussed?

(The impetus for my asking this is a youtube video of Moshe Halbertal discussing Faith in which he seems to advance such a concept based on R Chasdai Crescas and William James. It's at approximately the 20 minute mark.)

marked as duplicate by Shokhet, Shmuel Brin, Gershon Gold, Y     e     z, msh210 Feb 16 '15 at 20:43

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  • The distinction between emotional faith and intellectual faith as described by Moshe Halbertal seems to be practically non-existent. Ultimately, emotionally feeling that God exists as an unverifiable experiential truth is functionally identical to choosing to believe and act as though God exists intellectually. Conceptually, the former is far more "irreversible" than professing an intellectual understanding, which can always be changed. – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 15 '15 at 23:46
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The distinction between emotional faith and intellectual faith as described by Moshe Halbertal seems to be practically non-existent. Ultimately, emotionally feeling that God exists as an unverifiable experiential truth is functionally identical to choosing to believe and act as though God exists intellectually. Conceptually, the former is far more "irreversible" than professing an intellectual understanding, which can always be changed. Whether a behavior is "more courageous" simply because it is based upon uncertainty is irrelevant when discussing whether there is an obligation to be certain of God's existence.

There is a very clear passuk (deuteronomy 4:35) that states "You have been shown to know that Hashem is God, there is no other (or nothing) aside from him." This seems to point to an actual requirement as a result of personal experience to know, factually, that God exists.

The question that can be posed is whether this obligation applies only to the generation of the wilderness who had direct experience - they were "shown" - or is it incumbent upon everyone afterwards to a) accept the testimony from those who were shown and/or B) proactively seek-out the Divine and therefore "see it" being shown to you.

While I find Halbertal's argument emotionally compelling, and I laud you for consciously choosing to accept the proposition of the existence of God, it seems that the next step may be that you are now required to find proof you feel is compelling you toward "knowledge" of Hashem's existence, rather than as an intellectual act of faith.

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The Chovos Halevavos (intro) maintains we are under duty to investigate through rational proofs (see Gate 1) and by observing the divine wisdom in nature (see gate 2) as he says in the intro:

On this the believer is not permitted by our religion to remain in ignorance, for the Torah exhorts us on this in saying "Therefore, know this day and consider within your heart, that the L-ord is G-d in Heaven above and on the earth below. There is none other" (Deut. 4:39)

at the same time though, he warns us not to rely on our reason alone as he writes in Gate 5 ch.5

Therefore, be careful that your steps not stray from the path of the forefathers and the path of the early ones towards a new path you have devised, and be careful to not rely on your intellect nor to take counsel only with yourself. Do not reason on your own. Do not distrust your forefathers in the tradition they bequeathed to you as to what is good for you.

the Marpe Lenefesh commentary in the intro reconciles the two seemingly contradictory statements:

it seems the author's view is like that of Rabbi Saadia Gaon, that the Tradition is primary. And if one is of strong intellect, so that he can also delve into rational inquiry in order that his faith will be more firmly implanted in his heart through both tradition and rational proofs and together they will be perfect in his heart and mind - then he can tread this path [of rational inquiry]...

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