3 of 5
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The Ënd of Faith"' argument,
Posted: 08 February 2005 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Let’s see-

Faith postulates that the TRUTH is true because I believe it to be so….and this is humble?

Reason posits that what I believe to be the truth is not true unless I can independently and repeatedly verify what I believe to be true-[referably by multiple lines of independent evidence….and this is self-centered and arrogant?

Is there an Orwellian dictionary in the house?

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Posted: 08 February 2005 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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I find myself in a rather odd position in this discussion. I am generally acknowledged as an annoyingly down-to-earth and logical person. I write and support very complicated computer programs for a living, which requires an unusual degree of logic (admittedly of a particular kind), especially for researching and resolving problems. As a hobby, I am a scholar of some reputation, with expertise in a certain American author. I don’t engage in the sort of flights of fancy which have taken over so much modern criticism. Instead, my published papers are generally of a biographical or bibliographical sort, closely argued, with evidence carefully documented to substantiate my position whenever possible. When conjecture is appropriate, it is clearly labeled as such, and whatever reasoning may stand behind it is given, directly or in footnotes. And yet I also possess humor, whimsy, imagination, and yes a degree of faith, without finding that this curious mix has seriously harmed my life in any way, or inflicted misery on my neighbors.

A particular application of faith may be subject to analysis, but faith in the broader sense, much like art, is a thing unto itself. It does not strike me as logical to presume that faith is inherently bad simply because it cannot be slipped under a microscope or put through a series of repeatable tests. If I get sick, and eventually get better, one might assume that it is a result of faith. If my doctor had diagnosed a bacterial infection and proscribed antibiotics, however, which I took in accordance with directions, I would be more inclined to give credit to the antibiotics. That doesn’t prove that faith was of no value, and certainly not that it was a harmful influence. I would consider a misapplication of faith to be to say that the next time the doctor diagnoses a bacterial infection, I will rely purely on faith and won’t take the antibiotics. I try to do what makes the most sense under the circumstances. When I get up in the morning, I don’t pray that my clothing will leap from the closet or my bureau and onto my body—no, I get dressed. I am not one of those people who think that God should constantly stick his (or her) fingers into my life to ensure that it is full of fun and fulfillment, nor to prove that he (or she) exists. I can certainly understand that a person might look at people suffering from famine, and innocent children dying from AIDS or cancer, and wonder how can this be if there is a merciful God. (Those words have fallen from my own lips.) I also acknowledge the problem with people who gather and pray to avert a hurricane, without considering those who will now be in its path and perhaps praying just as hard without the same result. (I’m not saying that prayer can actually turn the hurricane, just recognizing the convenient narrow-mindedness of someone I once met who boasted of having done exactly this feat.)

On the other hand, my grandmother had two of the closest things to a miracle of which I am personally aware—both, oddly enough, concerned her eyes. In one case, she got a terrible infection which caused her eye to swell closed. It failed to respond to medication and a variety of non-invasive treatments. Eventually, her doctor felt that he had no choice but surgery and scheduled it as soon as he could. My grandmother accepted this as the most reasonable course, but was understandably a little anxious. On the morning of the surgery, she got up and took a moment to kneel and pray that all would go well. As she prayed, she suddenly felt something warm on her cheek—it was flowing from her eye, the infected fluid was draining all on its own. The eye continued to heal and was fine within a few weeks. The doctor said he had never seen anything like it, and could not explain it. Was it a miracle? No one can really be sure. Was her faith a factor? I will never know since it happened the way it happened, and I cannot run the same scenario without her faith. This, of course, is not proof, and I would not expect anyone to be persuaded by it. That is the problem with all such experiences, they are personal and not transferable (something evangelicals never seem to understand). But they are just as real to those who experience them as any set of syllogisms you can assert to knock them down.

Faith isn’t about proof, which is why you apparently will never understand it. You have set your heart on a nice clean box for logic, and since faith doesn’t fit into it, faith must be discarded. It doesn’t have a place in your view of the world, and that is fine as long as you are happy to live without it. Perhaps faith is a crutch, but crutches are very useful for people who have trouble walking. I don’t begrudge you your confident atheism, but I do resent the implication that I am some kind of bumpkin because I also have faith. My faith is tempered by doubt, and by the acknowledgment that it is my faith, and not a weapon to convert the heathen. An unyielding Atheist can be as just as wrong as the fundamentalist Christians you seem to loathe, just at the opposite extreme. For both there are no degrees of faith—and for neither can there be any compromise.

I, on the other hand, am a Christian who hasn’t been to church more than a few times in years. I believe in the separation of church and state. I believe that it is Christian duty to help others when I can, to give money to the poor, and to pay my taxes. I disagree with the idea that the ten commandments should be in public buildings and taught in school as the basis of our legal system (which, of course, it isn’t). I resent being lumped together with people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (and Torquemada) just because I hear the notion of God and think that perhaps it is so. (I might add “ryan” above to this mix.) You claim the highroad by enshrining logic as the ultimate good, but logic can be cold and unforgiving (and flawed if the assumptions used are invalid). Logic can be a wonderful tool, but people are not purely rational, and no amount of wishing will make it so. As long as you insist on discussing faith only at the extremes and only on your terms, discussion is pointless. And you won’t find much interest in discussion when every response contains an implied sneer against the faithful as weak-minded. You ask people to abandon faith, and offer what in return? You are essentially demanding that everyone set aside his or her own experiences, accepting your evidence and your interpretation of it. You are essentially saying: “Surrender your faith and it will set you free—trust us.”

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Posted: 08 February 2005 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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JAS, Please believe me when I say I would be happy to have a thoughtful person such as yourself living next door, but you will never get me to believe that faith is the reason anything happens. As a physician, I’ve seen too many bad things happen to “good” people and likewise “miraculous” things happen to “bad” people. The power of coincidence is incredible sometimes as is the ability of believers to attribute every fortunate outcome to faith without feeling the opposite must be punishment. As a comedian once said ” Imagine that in all of San Fransico there must have been at least one father who just before the earthquake turned to his kid and said…pull my finger!”. We are all like that kid in that we are far too ready to draw conclusions without good evidence of cause and effect. What you have is hope that something will happen not faith. If faith really worked I’d challenge all to forego those antibiotics.

Rod

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Posted: 09 February 2005 12:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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[quote author=“Rod”]JAS, Please believe me when I say I would be happy to have a thoughtful person such as yourself living next door, but you will never get me to believe that faith is the reason anything happens.

I’m not asking you to believe that faith can work miracles. (If you read carefully, you can see that I took pains to admit that I’m not even sure these are miracles myself.) I’m not asking you to consider having faith yourself. (The demands for change mostly seem to be on the side of the atheists here.) I have no problem accepting the possibility that you are content and happy as an atheist, and that your beliefs, or lack thereof, are no direct threat to me, or to what I believe. All I am asking is that you allow for the possibility that all faith is not necessarily the boogeyman that The End of Faith seems to think it is, or as it is being portrayed by the supporters of Mr. Harris’s argument. I find that my faith gives value to my life, and you should consider the possibility that it might be true even if I cannot translate that value into terms which meet your preferences or evidentiary methods, even if you really think that it is only a feeling or a crutch. I am asking you to consider the possibility that I (and lots of other people I know) might have faith and still be perfectly decent and intelligent people. I am asking you to consider the possibility that we might have faith without being inclined to strap on a bomb and blow up a bus, or in any other meaningful way of being an inherent threat to you which must be eliminated.  This should not be a referendum on faith, but on extremism. Otherwise, your message comes across as “Thou Shalt Not suffer a person of faith to live.”

You might put out someone’s eye with a pen, so pens are bad and we need to get rid of them. While we are at it, let’s include fire pokers, pencils and fingers. (As a child, my eye was almost put out by a rake, so let’s get rid of those too.) That is basically the argument you are making, and frankly, particularly in the lofty context of cold logic, it looks pretty silly to many and perhaps even most people. It flies in the face of the evidence of our own experiences.

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Posted: 09 February 2005 12:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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[quote author=“JAS”]A particular application of faith may be subject to analysis, but faith in the broader sense, much like art, is a thing unto itself. It does not strike me as logical to presume that faith is inherently bad simply because it cannot be slipped under a microscope or put through a series of repeatable tests.

As far as I’m aware no one has made any such argument against faith, and again, the objections we have (or at least that I have) are in reference to faith in the specific form of belief without sound supporting reasoning or evidence, as is required, by definition, for any and all belief in the “supernatural” (things that allegedly exist outside of nature).

If you can’t apply the same tools for analysis that you normally do for other concepts, then red flags should fly up. to defend this form of faith you would either have to successfully argue that it’s valid to form conclusions without basis in evidence or sound reasoning, or that, somehow, there is evidence and/or sound reasoning that supports the existence of given supernatural things.

[quote author=“JAS”]I try to do what makes the most sense under the circumstances.

That’s a good example of why faith is a bad thing—it compromises intellectual integrity (as in sound structure). Faith does not and cannot make sense unelss you change the rules of what that means. Faith compromises normal analytical functions—it shifts presumption into the place for evidence and/or reason in the equation for finding a valid conclusion, and religion teaches very ardently that it’s highly virtuous to do this. It’s a very dangerous precedent, as history demonstrates.

The reason people such as yourself (and I think most believers) don’t actually normally become dangerous is that I don’t think you can pull off “genuine” faith—you tend to think based upon normal, valid standards, and you have too much integrity to really compromise them as faith would have you do. The problem is that you’ve been successfully programmed by socialization (an extremely powerful influence we tend to drastically underestimate) to believe faith is this high virtue, and that if you’re a good person you value faith. In reality, if you’re a good person (and a responsible thinker) you can’t sell out intellectually like you have to in order to really practice faith.

NOTE: All of that is strictly about the form of faith previously defined and not other forms.

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 09 February 2005 03:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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JAS-
Every single thing you have said contradicts that you are a person of faith except one thing…that you accept on faith that faith is okay….otherwise you do try to justify everything with evidence—-I would point out that your justification for faith based on evidence would not work if you put it to the same scrutiny you do other things—you mention that the Bible is MOSTLY written by men—by what method do you distinguish the parts written by men from the part by THE HOLY ONE who exists both outside our world and yet within it as well…Every Bible I have ever seen is all the same font and typeface throughout—so what is your method for accepting some and rejecting other parts?  As has also been pointed out you seem to argue that it is Faith that could have healed your grandmother’s eye, your friend’s alcoholism, etc—but I would ask that you go back through your posts and replace the word God or the word Faith with the words pickle juice…and explain to me if that would prove to you anything about the value of Pickle juice if someone were to maintain it had these powers so described…I would also say that your claims that believing in a supernatural being is necessary for kindness and caring for fellow humans, etc is both insulting and half-baked…Is not the entire human race larger than any one person…that is not a belief-it is a conceptual fact—it will exist beyond any one individual-so caring about things bigger than oneself has never required making the leap into supernatural referrees and post death judgements…every positive effect of faith you cite is justifiable strictly considering the effects of life in this world only…being kind instead of totally self-centered and deceitful is not bad because a book says so or it will cause you eternal suffering in the next world…it is demonstrably bad right here in this world… such people are isolated, unhappy and suffer here and now…sorry but what you are asking for is a carte blanche to believe whatever you want because you believe it—that is the free pass that faith has gotten by insidious socialization….The world would be demonstrably better in this life if all ideas are subjected to rational justification (which requires independent reasoning by others than one’s own justifications and at the same time is not groupthink/mob rule)

Does faith lead to good things sometimes?  Sure, so does blind guesswork, and dumb luck…none of them are reliable ways to look at the world and all are ultimately verified or rejected on the alter of reason.  Your very engagement in this discussion is a concession that ideas must be offered with reasons…if you believe that faith can substitute you need offer nothing…you just say it is so because it is believed…there can be no argument or debate if faith is enough…but it is not for any rational person willing to fully subject ALL of his life and beliefs to reason.

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Posted: 10 February 2005 01:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Look just at the case of the grandmother’s eye—and the LEAP to give faith and prayer the credit for the improvement - a conclusion that requires confidence in a phenomenon outside all known laws of nature—


....so the doctor has said he has never seen anything like it…if we assume the doctor has a large enough experience to make the denominator big enough this is a very rare phenomenon…now unless this doctor specializes in atheist care we can also assume that grandma is not the first patient to pray for a cure before surgery—that is a safe assumption given the habits of faithful people and their prevalence in most medical practices…so in fact we can conclude LOTS of people have prayed including granny- and yet only granny got better…so why are we extracting out granny’s prayer as the CAUSE of her cure—I would look for something UNIQUELY present in this rare case for the cause—but then I am not trying to find a positive benefit for prayer, a bias clearly seen in those claiming prayer is the reason—-

this is the sort sloppy logic used all the time to justify all manner of nonsense from special healing diets to crystal power, to the power of positive thinking….it is a very HUMAN failure of our ability to process everyday information—

I would suggest reading How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich as a primer on how to train your mind in avoiding these very common misinterpretations of reality.

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Posted: 14 March 2005 09:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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This is my first post on these forums - I’ve been reading a fair bit and wanted to chime in.

[quote author=“JAS”]I find that my faith gives value to my life

First, is it necessarily the case that human life has any value, intrinsically speaking, at all? If yes, why? If not, why would that be so bad?

Second, to refer to some other comments made further up in the thread, why is it that we would need to “fill in the gaps” of human scientific understanding (with something other than more scientific understanding)? Why are we not able to accept the existance of those gaps, that there might be things we simply will never know, answers we’ll never find? What compelling reason, aside from fear of the unknown, is there to fill in those gaps with a “magic superhero in the sky”?

JAS, I do not think that what Sam Harris and many people on this forum are attacking - blind acceptance of unsubstantiated propositions - is quite the same thing as what you are defending. The trouble is, I’m not *exactly* clear as to what it is that you ARE defending: the above; a more rational spiritual experience; something else? What I can say is that it’s far more interesting to read what you have to say that anything TheChampion has said (and that’s a fair bit, too).

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Posted: 20 March 2005 04:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Alan Slipp (and, of course, anyone else who cares to read this post),

I have not ignored your questions out of rudeness, but because I do not pop in here every day. I still have not had the opportunity to read Mr. Harris’s book beyond a quick scan, and do not expect to do so for some time, and it is unfair to judge his full argument based on his CSPAN presentation (although that is why I bought the book). I did notice your inquiry when I came back to look for entries posted by the person calling herself “MJ” (I think “herself” is correct), which I have found consistently interesting. As for the self-named “TheChampion,” the less said the better. Every time he posts (and I’m pretty sure that Champ is a “he”) he ironically gives the opposition such great credibility that I almost wonder if he is a plant.

Anyway, I will address your questions one by one. Forgive me if my responses are not as comprehensive as you might like. I am deeply involved in a long-term project which is finally reaching its end (I hope) and I am writing this as I print the resulting 1,000+ pages for the next going over.

(A) Is it necessarily the case that human life has any value, intrinsically speaking, at all?

No, it isn’t necessarily the case. It is the case if what I feel through faith is true. (This should not be taken as a presumption that human life begins when egg and sperm meet, which I feel is a much more complicated issue. Nor should my position be presumed in the terrible current case of Terri Schiavo.)

(B) If yes, why?

Well, I guess I don’t need to answer that since my answer was “No.”

(C) If not, why would that be so bad?

I think it would be “so bad” because it would completely dismantle the foundations of any system of human interaction which I would consider ethical or moral. If human life has no intrinsic value, then the only human lives I should value would be my own (presumably that is one life which does have intrinsic value), and to a lesser extent the lives of my family (particularly those who have been supportive and I like), and others I might find useful to my existence or enjoyment. Outside of that circle, no one would matter, and my actions should be determined only by my ability to obtain and my willingness to wield power. If making those people miserable served my purposes, and I can get away with it, then I should do it. I think a world based on such thinking would be a pretty terrible place to live, except for those with the most power (and even that would be a rather empty existence, although they would probably never realize it). It might be possible for a rational person to make the choice that other people do matter, but I think that choice itself is not inherently rational, and most powerful people—particularly in a world such as I describe—will not be inclined to make it. Most of those who might wish to make that choice will not actually have the opportunity to apply it.

(D) Why is it that we would need to “fill in the gaps” of human scientific understanding (with something other than more scientific understanding)?

I suppose that we would not “need” to fill in the gaps of human scientific understanding, but if there was something which did so, why should we not consider it? Are you suggesting that there are no gaps in human scientific understanding? Does human scientific understanding really explain the existence of life? (I ask this question as someone who thinks that the theory of evolution, while not having every detail, is essentially valid. But I also don’t think that evolution in any way precludes the existence of a creator.) I don’t need faith to explain the direct causes of thunder and lightning—science clearly has that pretty well documented even if there is still much to be studied about that subject. But what does human scientific understanding say about the existence of a soul (or even a conscience), about the possibility of afterlife, about a purpose or meaning of life, or about the nature of goodness or evil? These seem to me the realm of philosophy and religion rather than science. Perhaps these question do not interest you, but they do interest me. Science studies the natural world. If in fact there is an ultimate creator, then God is outside of that natural world, and his (using “his” purely as a grammatical convenience) involvement within that world might mostly seem pretty natural. We can use logic and reason to evaluate the merits of some claims which may be made based on faith. (For example, does every sincere prayer result in the desired benefit? I think clearly the answer is no.) But why should we think that such a God is available to scientific scrutiny? What laws of physics would we apply to the creator of those laws? What tools would we use to observe him?

(E) Why are we not able to accept the existence of those gaps, that there might be things we simply will never know, answers we’ll never find?

There might very well be things we simply will never know and answers we will never find, but we won’t know unless we at least look at the possible answers and give them due consideration. Ironically, one of the things I expect I will never know (at least not in this life) is the essential validity or error of my faith, nor the complete implication of what I understand as God or his intentions. I think it is a terrible mistake to read the Bible as the absolute, complete, and unalterable expression of God’s will. It is a document created by all too fallible people, even if all/most/some of those people genuinely sought God and may have literally divined some truth along the way. To me, the Bible is a book of questions rather than answers. As a Christian, part of my goal is to seek the answers (and to call myself a Christian, much of what I find must fit within what seem to be the teachings of Christ, or I will have to call myself something else). In my quest, I can use any outside sources that might be available to me, but ultimately I must find the answers for myself.

(F) What compelling reason, aside from fear of the unknown, is there to fill in those gaps with a “magic superhero in the sky”?

Putting aside the description of God as “a magic super-hero in the sky,” which is a rather negatively loaded characterization, I’m not sure I would consider fear of the unknown a compelling reason. I think I prefer C. S. Lewis’s contention, which I hope I am applying appropriately, that the presence of the question “is there a God” and the depth of my feelings as I approach that question at least suggest that there may be one. The question itself may be the only real direct evidence of God’s existence I ever encounter. Ultimately, I suppose I want to know because I might be able to know (or at least to reach some level of knowledge) and the potential promise of those answers is what I find compelling.

(G) I’m not *exactly* clear as to what it is that you ARE defending: the above; a more rational spiritual experience; something else?

I am not actually defending anything, at least I was not intending to offer some kind of apologetics for faith, although I suppose, in part, my comments must function that way. What I am doing is criticizing the presumption that any belief in general, including a belief in a deity, is necessarily a failing of intellect, or that the consequence is the terrible results we would attribute to terrorists or other violent fundamentalists. The idea of “a more rational spiritual experience” is a bit vague, and I think evades the point that much of spiritual experience is probably not truly rational. I think the problem Mr. Harris addresses is really not faith per say, but unthinking certainty, whether it reveals itself through religion or politics or any other function of life. I think I am advocating faith with doubt, faith with an acknowledgment of uncertainty.

JAS

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Posted: 20 March 2005 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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What I see is not faith with doubt but an argument that faith is valid sometimes and not others and since it is sometimes valid for something it is okay…and what Sam seems to me to be arguing and with which I agree is that faith is not worthwhile because it does not “really” work.

What is “valid?” as far as I am defining it - valid refers to things which are validated…and validation in this NATURAL world only relates to those things which can somehow be measured by natural means…this is the scientific method-simply or rational inquiry if you will that is rational both in the general sense and the sense of something which can be Rationed or measured and divided….so JAS is correct in one sense in saying that things outside the natural world are beyond rational inquiry….BUT that is not the issue -because all proponents of faith and spirituality lay claim to some REAL WORLD connection….example- life after death-you live some certain way NOW and it effects your life in the “other” world….except the other world is not in any way supported by any evidence whatsoever in this world…this must just be accepted….on faith…

Imagine if you will that before Calculus was invented there was a book which said it had the answer for the area under various curves…and suppose that book actually had some correct answers—so people would consult it when they needed answers…then alongs come Newton with his new methods of inquiry and we see that sometimes that book was correct -but some of its answers were just plain wrong….would we keep looking to the book for answers and then check them against Newton…or just instead use NEWTON?

Rational inquiry is like this…the way to validate something is through careful logical rational thought…not by revelation from a book that says it has the answers, yet which is demonstrably WRONG in several places…

JAS your attempt to say that the world would devolve into a terrible place if people did not value each other is the SCIENTIFIC and RATIONAL reason why we do value others…it is a simple scientific equation not requiring any divine help to get the answer

People + values = happier world
People -values = unhappy world even for those in power as your own example explained.

which equation do we choose?  DO we really need to invoke a Creator to solve the problems in THIS WORLD?  No we need to better understand how OUR real world actions affect our real world—we never need to think about proposed and unproven and unproveable supernatural places, things etc….GET IT RIGHT in this world for starters

KEEPIN’ it REAL

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Posted: 20 March 2005 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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JAS, it is refreshing to see another believer in this forum. I pray you will be successful in leading others to the saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:12

The life we’ve chose as believers can be a difficult one in this world, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. So keep the faith JAS! grin

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

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Posted: 20 March 2005 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Dear Champion, for the purpose of this forum, please put the good book away and think for yourself. I know you can do it. Don’t worry, I’m sure it is not a sin to reason, even if it is to question your faith.

(and yes you’ll probably compare me to the serpent in the tree, saying it’s okay to eat the fruit)

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Posted: 20 March 2005 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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JAS,

I have to thank you for your considered response to what questions I had and I hope the project you’re preparing goes well with all those concerned. You’ve given me much to think about, so I’ll address what I feel I have a real grasp of. First, an apology: I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into the history and philosophy of the Christian Right, and the toxic nature of the thoughts I’ve been reading about has made me a bit… angry, I suppose, and strangely impotent. Anyway…

Faith with an acknowledged uncertainty. I like that. Most of my 24 years has been spent wandering back and forth from a strong desire to believe, to something of a spiritual agnosticism, to outright atheism. Never have I been able to commit to one system of belief, and I’ve looked at a few. I’ve never been able to fully reconcile myself to the apparent contradictions in the Bible (Christianity being the faith I was brought up in), largely because the questions I’ve had went unanswered. Hell was the last straw, really. I couldn’t understand why, if God loved all his children, vast swaths of humanity would be condemned to eternal suffering. I felt much better when I stopped believing in God, thereby saving humanity from endless pain in the hereafter. smile

Here’s the thing. I don’t really have a problem with other people “filling in the gaps” however they wish. I simply don’t want to die and find out that the afterlife doesn’t exist. I don’t want to have lied to others about the truth of its existence or the means by which to get there. I certainly don’t want to have lied to myself. To live my whole life saying that I should live with suffering, accept it, because all pain ceases in Heaven, and then find out I was wrong? That would be worse to me than Hell itself. The only way you get to find out about half of this stuff for sure is death - why not embrace what life is available to you now, here, on this lonely planet in the inky black of the universe, instead of waiting until it’s too late?

That brings me to the second thing I had to say. If I’ve only got one shot at this existance thing (and nothing that I’ve ever encountered suggests anything else), then I’ve got to assume that its the same thing for everyone. If I want to make the most of my life, why on earth would I make things deliberately more difficult, more full of unpleasantness, for anyone else? It just makes sense that if I’m able to assign my life value, then I’m able to do the same for others, based on nothing more than our common humanity. I know that every single person on this planet is experiencing, in various times and places, most of the things that I will ever encounter in my own life. There isn’t much in this universe that even has the capacity to care about human life, other than humans themselves. That, just by itself, is enough for the foundation of a moral code. Am I really going to kill one of the relatively few things in the vast, unknowable dark of the cosmos that can possibly understand me? No way!

I don’t know how much of this makes sense; it’s after midnight and I really need some sleep. I’m just glad that there is someone of faith posting on these boards that is able to articulate some of the more complex issues of belief, instead of saying something flip, quoting Random Bible Verse 487 and then running away.

Oh, thanks for the C.S. Lewis reference, BTW. If I might make a recommendation? Check out Bertrand Russell’s “A Free Man’s Worship” (it’s online somewhere). It far more eloquently expresses some of the things I’ve tried to talk about here.

Alan

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Posted: 21 March 2005 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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Particular thanks to JAS, Fun2bFree, Alan Sipp, CanZen, Rod and ScepticX for keeping my wee brain humming.  And also to TheChampion, who by trading Mind for FileCabinet has given me the courage to post here.

I wonder if you have thoughts on Harris’s general idea that religious moderation is more Part Of The Problem then Part Of The Solution?  It seems to me that perhaps a really rigorous tolerance for religious and non-religious diversity of thought could improve our level of thinking and discourse until (if) there is an end of faith.  Perhaps that’s wishful thinking on my part since from where I’m sitting, the end of faith is a long way off.

I accept most of Harris’s views on the problems of faith: magical thinking, violence, bigotry, mystical absolutism, etc.  In day-to-day life, however, most of the trouble I have with fundamentalists comes when they scourge politeness or demean civil liberties.  It’s true, they are also very hard to talk to, but I don’t usually have to do that.

Is it possible to pick battles (evolution, cotton/polyester blends, “inspired by” rather than “inerrant word of” and so forth?  Or am I just being a pantywaist because I see a big difference between say, Garrison Keillor and John Ashcroft?

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Posted: 13 April 2005 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Alan Slipp, JAS and others,

1)It seems to me a person doesnt have to be a Christian in order to do the right things.

2)The only beef I have about religious faith is that it tends to hold back scientific progress. Biology teachers are under tremendous pressure to quit, to teach ID or creationism as ‘alternative theories’ and so forth. Other realms of science are under attack as well, as they have been for centuries. To what end?

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