Reasonable and Probable Grounds to Believe

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An introduction

During the 40 days of Lent our principal would start the school day standing between the doorways of our two classrooms and read a gospel chapter. He would follow up with plain talk on what it all was supposed to mean. From this early exposure to Christian theology, at the age of 10, my faith and belief in God got seriously underway. 

Our principal was a kind and gentle man, honest and full of integrity, and everything he said about God and Jesus the Son of God had such a ring of truth to it. From these early days of listening and reasoning and pondering the pros and cons of it all, the practice of praying to God, for me became a lifelong experience. 

At 9 years of age, I was longing to reach 10 so that I could join the Church Lads Brigade (CLB). Most of my school buddies being slightly older than me were already members. The CLB turned out to be everything I imagined it would, a well-disciplined organization with sharp looking uniforms, and real rifles to take on parade. Marching proudly on parade in the company of fellow brigade members opened up a new and exciting period of growing up. Brass had to sparkle, boots had to be spit-polished, and uniforms pressed and spotless. “By-the-right-quick-march” the command to get on parade, and march around a huge armory. Rifles shouldered, arms swinging, the blaring and banging of bugles and drums, the drill sergeant barking out “left-right-left-right”, all combined to produce a pronounced tingle up my spine. I felt as though I was one of those “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war…” 

Our school principal was also the Commanding Officer. Even though we were boys he talked to us as adults, leaving the clear expectation that we were to behave accordingly. His closing addresses, standing in front of the platoon, would include topics flowing from the CLB motto “Fight the Good Fight”, and the parade finale would end with a boisterous singing of the brigade hymn Fight the good fight with all thy might / Christ is thy strength and Christ thy right / lay hold on life and it shall be / thy joy and crown eternally… 

Some 10 years later, the CLB experience served me well in adjusting to life as a new recruit in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. That pronounced tingle up my spine experienced on CLB parades, was activated over and over whilst on recruit marches at the RCMP Academy. 

At the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Academy, Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1961, one of the early sessions on the Criminal Code of Canada included the procedure of laying a charge against someone on behalf of the crown. I Ford Matchim, a peace officer, have reasonable and probable grounds to believe, and do believe, that John Doe, on or about the 16th day of October, 1961, in the town of Anywhere, in the province of Saskatchewan, did unlawfully assault Jane Doe, contrary to and in violation of Section 000(1)(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada… 

The phrase reasonable and probable grounds to believe meant that if you provided the investigational information you had acquired, say to four or five ordinary people, and sat them down and had them discuss the whys and wherefores of your information, then after a reasonable period of pondering the matter, they too would conclude like you, that reasonable and probable grounds were present to believe that the person was responsible for committing the offence. 

So, then for me after spending a life time of pondering and reasoning whether or not there is a God, and concluding that there is, it is in this context that I present reasonable and probable grounds to believe. 

Even when we believe there is a God, to prove or disprove there is, befuddles all of us. Faith is believing without proof. When I say I believe in God, it means there is a divine essence that pervades everything that exists, that is ever present and real. Faith is an experience perhaps more from the heart than the mind, and to logically conclude anything spiritually is beyond ordinary comprehension. There is no rational justification for a final leap of faith, and if I am looking for proof of God’s existence, I am engaging in something other than faith. 

I am mindful of other mainstream religions that do not believe in a single, all-powerful God. Believers in God who are in the Abrahamic faith tradition include those world religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Other religions—which are not God centred—are Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Daoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, and so on. It is difficult to group religions under one or even a few common labels. To find a single meaningful definition to encompass the various faith-based traditions that would be acceptable by all is simply not doable. 

One does not need proof to have faith. To those of faith, the need of so-called facts to support their belief may well be looked on as shallow and irrelevant, not to mention irreverent, and that a claim can justifiably be made it is religiously improper to attempt to explain faith by rational argument. Perhaps the most scientific proof that there is a God comes from the simple fact that so many people believe that indeed there is a God. In essence then, for me to embark on a “reasonable and probable grounds” approach to believe there is a God flies in the face of our common senses. Nevertheless, I shall try and sally forth.

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