All atheists, whether of the village variety or their more educated colleagues, need to appreciate the link between belief and knowledge. In fact this also applies to all theists of whatever species, especially Pastors who dialogue in the public square.
All knowledge is belief but not every belief qualifies as knowledge. As two of my former philosophy lecturers at Biola University advise “…belief is a necessary condition for knowledge. But mere belief is not sufficient for knowledge. People believe many things that they do not know to be true…And the traditional or standard definition of propositional knowledge is the view that knowledge is justified true belief.” (J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview, 2003, 73, 74)
In the brief inputs I had occasion to make in dialogue with an atheist on CVM TV’s “Live at 7” on Friday, April 15, 2016 in Jamaica, I introduced the point about knowledge as warranted belief but could not develop the point because the phone link went dead on me. So all and sundry need to understand that every datum we claim to know we also believe to be true based on supporting evidence or reason (the warrant or justification for the belief).
Moreland, in another of his books, says there are three fundamental aspects of belief that impact on behaviour that ought to be constantly, not occasionally, examined and kept as they ought to be kept. These are 1) the content of the belief 2) the strength of the belief and 3) the centrality of the belief in one’s outlook on life or worldview. (In his Love Your God With All Your Mind, 1997, 73-75).
The content of a belief is the very stuff of what is believed and is more important than the fervency or sincerity with which we believe because “reality is basically indifferent to how sincerely we believe something” (p.74). I could believe passionately that the rooster crowing near my home early on mornings is what makes the sun rise but that would fly in the face of reality despite the emotional quotient behind the belief.
Moreland explains the strength of a belief thus, “If you believe something, that does not mean you are certain that it is true. Rather, it means that you are at least more than 50 percent convinced the belief is true. If it were fifty-fifty for you, you wouldn’t really have the belief in question…A belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced the belief is true. As you gain evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you.” (p. 74)
“The centrality of a belief is the degree of importance the belief plays in your entire set of beliefs, that is, in your worldview.” (p. 74) If the belief is truly central, not just peripheral though important, then the greater the impact for one’s worldview of surrendering that belief.
Moreland’s sage counsel is vital for all. He says, “Beliefs are the rails upon which our lives run. We almost always act according to what we really believe. It doesn’t matter much what we say we believe or what we want others to think we believe. When the rubber meets the road we act out our actual beliefs most of the time.” (p. 73)
I have coined an aphorism from Moreland’s insightful argumentation on beliefs especially for Christians it is this “behaving is believing”. When you genuinely believe or know something biblically it radicalizes your living.