When you are a little kid, the process of knowing isn’t even visible or self-evident. You just know some things, but mostly you live in a state of complete wonder about the world around you. It is a unique time in your life. I suspect we are most happy before puberty . . . except for those, of course, who have grown up in abusive homes.
But as you step out of your shell of a life you start to discover that other people live in different universes . . . philosophically. My earliest remembrance of this was Amanda, the little girl in third grade who didn’t celebrate Christmas because she was a Jehovah’s Witness.
It was easy to resolve this at first, as my father and mother explained that they reason they believed differently from us was . . . because Amanda’s whole family were very stupid people. I accepted that . . . for a while . . . until Amanda aced all our classes.
As you get older, such challenges to your own world view gets tougher. Within our little Baptist culture (and I expect it was the same for most Evangelical groups) we were taught that the process of “Knowing” was a spiritual issue. God revealed Himself to us and spoke deeply into our spirits. That gave some comfort.
We could bypass the complex process of logical discovery . . . just knowing that God (that is the Christian God) was there because there was this “God-shaped (that is Christian God) vacuum in the middle of your heart” which proves that He is really there. It was a lazy way to know anything . . . although the concept could fit on a Hallmark card, or in the Billy Graham movie Time to Run.
That works for a while. The longer you isolate yourself from deep friendships with Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Atheists, the longer this can work for you. However, as soon as you really get to know one of the above mentioned folks, and a nice person at that . . . then your paradigm starts to soften like a ice cream cone on the fourth of July.
You meet wonderful Muslim people who are at least as sincere as you are. They too, believe that there is an Allah-shaped vacuum in the middle of their heart. That’s when you start to sweat.
Besides this very personal threat to your beliefs on an emotional level, you are exposed to answers from the scientific community, which sub-plant your more simple and supernatural answers. The really tough part, is that if you spend any time within that scientific community, you will quickly find that, in many ways, they are more honest and have more of a hunger for truth than their Christian counter-parts.
Then you are left without any framework for "knowing." You consider the pure logical approach. It depends on which rules of logic that you apply, but if you apply those of pure empiricism, then by default you become a materialist. The only other option left on your table is the existential projection of faith built on faith.
So how do we know with any certainty? This is why I think our kids are lost in the sea in a shroud of fog.