Maybe this is a good place for me to put up my own statement of position.
To me, "belief" is an active choice, a decision made where there is ambiguous evidence, or no evidence, and one has several rational options open according to the evaluation of what one does know. "Acceptance", to me, is what happens when the evidence is clear and obvious. Then it's not so much an active choice; it's just, well...acceptance. Like, you know, I don't spend a lot of time "believing in" tables. I simply accept that tables exist. I tend to use them a lot, you see, and the evidence that they exist is fairly overwhelming. Making an active choice to believe in them pretty much seems a waste of effort, if nothing else. They're there.
To refuse to accept the evidence, to make a choice to believe something else, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that is back to belief again. I can't call it faith, because faith involves belief in what can't be proven, not belief in what can be (and has been) proven wrong. I hope it's clear what I mean, here.
I both believe in and accept God.
I believe in the historical Jesus.
I accept that the Bible may have been inspired by God, but it was written by men; it was filtered through human brains and human understandings and human limitations and human pre-existing ideas, and it was changed and limited thereby.
I accept that the world and the universe were the work of God.
I both believe and accept that God is vaster than we are on a scale which we are not really set up to understand.
I believe that if we are to touch the mind of God, then we should look not to the work of men for literal truths, but to the work of God; that we should do so humbly, earnestly, and with an open mind, but with a certain amount of skepticism so that we do not fall into the trap of simply believing what we want to believe. Self-deception is an easy thing, for humans.
I do not accept, in any way, that we have the right to limit God to what we think He did or didn't do, or would or wouldn't do, to something which we understand easily and are comfortable with. We are not in that position.
I believe that the people who make statements on what God absolutely, definitely does and thinks seem to have a strong tendency to pattern "what God does and thinks" along what they can easily grasp and what they want, and what they are inclined towards. As such, it is difficult not to see it as self-indulgence and self-righteousness.
I believe that, frankly, any human being who thinks that he (or she) knows exactly what God thinks is almost certainly wrong, or at best, only has hold of a small part of it. We aren't big enough for a total understanding of God. And a lot of these people aren't even real clear on how their TV works, but they think they can get a line on the mind of God????? That isn't humility, anyway.
I believe that sometimes, at least, such certainty is actually motivated by fear. Because not knowing leaves you in doubt about yourself, and feeling vulnerable.
I believe that the best that we can do for understanding, is to try to gain as much evidence as we can about the nature of the universe, and evaluate that evidence with intelligence and honesty and without regard to our own comfort level about what we find. The universe is older than we are, it is bigger than we are, and it owes us nothing; perhaps part of humility before God, and growing up as a species, involves understanding the true vastness of that.
I both believe and accept that science is simply a set of tools -- mental, philosophical, methodological, and technical -- which best allows us to do that. It isn't perfect, but it's the best way of doing that we've got.
I believe, and accept, that the universe follows rules.
I accept an ancient Earth, one that is probably around 4.6 billion years old. That is what the evidence tells us.
I accept evolution. That is what the evidence tells us. And since this is part and parcel of what I am currently doing on a daily basis, it's pretty much in-your-face, for me.
I believe that God is capable of setting up a system where His hand is so integral and subtle that we cannot distinguish it from the way things simply work. Perhaps God's hand simply is "just the way things work".
I believe that coming to God should be a choice. That each person must make that decision on their own, for themselves, for whatever they decide is the best reason. And that God left it that way.
I believe that telling people "you MUST choose God, or you'll be damned to Hell forever, because the Bible says so and He demands it" is a piss-poor way to make friends and influence people. And possibly not what God wants anyway.
I believe that we can work in such a way as to be an example. I believe that we can speak in such a way as to get people to think and without invoking defensiveness or contempt. And I believe that this serves God far better.
I respect people who ask questions. I fear people who think they have all the answers.
I believe that we should always try to ask better question, and that we should be prepared to change our minds -- but only if better evidence comes along.
I accept that it is absolutely wrong to ignore evidence that we have, simply because we don't like it.
I believe that ultimate judgement is up to God, not me.
And having said that, I accept entirely that there are certain absolute moral duties and requirements. I believe that one of those is looking after my fellow human beings -- but especially the innocents, the children and the people who aren't going out of their way to hurt other people.
I accept entirely that not all ideas, philosophies, cultures, practices etc. are equal. Some of them are one heck of a lot better than others. Some of them are stupid, and some of them are harmful, and some of them are downright criminal. See the clause about moral duties, above.
I accept that although ultimate judgement is up to God, not me, it is still my duty to protect people here on earth from predators, fanatics, and sometimes from idiots. It is my duty to make sure that the human predators don't run loose and do whatever they like.
I am, in general, uncomfortable with designating people as "evil", most of the time. It is far too easily overused. It's too often an easy fallback for not bothering to see other people as human, or a strategy to deliberately dehumanize an opponent. That said, I do not doubt the existance of evil, and some people certainly are. But I do not want that to stop me from trying to sort the truly evil out from the people who are just working from an alien viewpoint.
Despite the fact that there are some very bad ideas and philosophies and practices out there, I don't believe that it is enough simply to blow them off. I believe that it is important to know what those ideas, etc., are, and where they actually, really come from in the normal run of human motivations. What other people believe and want informs what they do, and what other people do makes up a lot of the world around us.
If we don't understand the root of that, we can't manage it effectively, and let's face it, managing it effectively can be fairly important. Sure, we can kill lots of people. As a management technique, that actually has a tendency just to breed more bloodshed. And innocents get caught in the crossfire. And we become what we should be fighting. And that sucks, and at some stage, I think we will have to answer for it.
I also believe that I have taken up quite a bit of room here, now, and that I should quit.
<i>Forte est vinu. Fortier est rex. Fortiores sunt mulieres: sup om vincit veritas.</i>