What is needed for this discussion—more than a neuroscience of belief or a biology of belief—is a human psychology of belief. And until someone shows me a better starting point, I will begin with William James’s essay “The Will to Believe”. If there are real truths that cannot be objectively decided—and the entire point of the avian fettuccine avatar is that science has nothing to say about such putative truths—then we can either cut ourselves off from such truths and remain secure in the fully justifiable, or we can leave safety behind, daring to know. James’s contribution is the idea of the live option: that for any particular person, some ideas will be plausable and some ideas will not. The avian fettucine avatar is not a live option for anyone, as far as I know. For cultural and historical reasons, the Christian God is much more likely to be one in our place and time.
Now, I think this discussion has largely run its course, and I won’t offer up much more at this time. But I think Will is on to something here. Not everything is quite so plain or so cut and dry as we’d like it to be. Psychology, plausibility–these things don’t fall on the side of rational thought. Just because the Spaghetti monster and the Christian God are both equally unprovable does not mean humanity won’t gravitate more to the one than the other. Similarly there are dragons in ours and many other cultures myths, but rarely are there noodle behemoths. There is something indefinably human about our belief in these things, in our decision to draw lines between what is spiritual and what is silly.
Will finishes his piece with something I think strikes this whole question dead-on:
A person’s fundamental beliefs have less to do with the questions she can answer and much more to do with the questions she can afford to leave unanswered.
Now isn’t that precisely correct? Doesn’t that cut to the very heart of the whole notion of Faith? Even atheists have unanswered questions that they cannot but help to leave unanswered, and they resolve to do so as a matter of Faith or perhaps inevitability, I’m not sure it matters what it’s termed.