Faith and Assumptions

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In the last post, I argued that faith-based beliefs are irrational.  To deepen this perspective, we will look at things from another angle.   Let’s compare the definitions of ’faith’ and ‘to assume’.

Faith: Belief without evidence or proof

To assume: to take as true without evidence or proof

‘Faith’ is a noun, while ‘to assume’ is a verb.  But, otherwise, these two definitions are nearly identical. There is a slight difference between believing in something, and taking it as true. Faith is more committed to an idea than an assumption needs to be.  But, faith plays the same role in the mind as assumptions do.  They enable reasoning.

Faith itself is not reasoning.  Faith is belief.  Belief is a starting point in reasoning.  Before we can question our beliefs, we must first believe.  Religious faith accepts its assumptions uncritically.  Faith is acquired and faith is passed on.  Faith is community-defined belief.  The group has a say in what the members profess.  Faith is not knowledge.  It comes without evidence or proof.  Faith does not know.  Faith merely accepts as true.

Faith can be wrong.  When there is evidence to support an idea, we can place more confidence in the idea.  Faith says, “I am true,” but without evidence.  Rationality is more skeptical.  A rational thinker realizes that faith could be wrong.  The rational person does not accept incredible claims without credible evidence.  It is rational to question faith.  It is rational to ask, “Is it true?”

Faith can be taken too far.

Delusion: A strongly held mistaken belief that cannot be swayed by evidence to the contrary

When we question faith, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence that its claims are wrong, we are behaving rationally.  When the faithful cannot change their thinking, even when their thinking can be shown to be wrong, they are delusional.  There is no problem in having faith in an idea before there is evidence to support it.  But ignoring evidence to the contrary is wrong.  Ignoring evidence to the contrary is not honest.  How strong is your faith?  Is it delusional strong?  A delusional person believes they are right when they are wrong.  And when we show where they are wrong, they still claim to be correct.

Rationality is a choice.  We have to choose to be rational, in order to become rational.  Faith happens to everyone.  We are all born into some form of faith.  We do not choose our initial beliefs.  Delusion is also not a choice. Delusion believes what it wants to believe, evidence be damned.  The delusional mind cannot help itself.

Rationality is not an easy choice.  Especially when faith can be so comforting.  It is comforting to believe that your beliefs are valid and true.  It is discomforting to realize they may not be. 

Rationality seeks to believe that which is true.  And to not believe that which is false.  Faith does not aspire to be true or correct.  Faith only claims that it is so.

Faith-based beliefs are fundamentally irrational

My brother sent me an article.  He is a Christian minister.  I am an atheist.  We sometimes argue matters of faith.  I was already looking for a way to highlight my philosophical differences with Christianity.  This article is the perfect jumping-off point for that discussion.

The Irrationality of Doubt is an opinion piece by a Christian writer named Cliff Goldstein.    Mr. Goldstein’s thesis is that, to him, faith is rational, and to doubt is not. But this is wrong.  My counter-thesis is summarized by the title of my post.  Faith-based beliefs are fundamentally irrational.  In another post, I will show the irrationality of Goldstein’s argument.  In this post, I will develop the foundation from which I will mount that challenge.

My issue with Goldstein is that he does not seem to understand the meaning of the word ‘rational’.  He mis-uses it throughout his argument.  He argues that his faith-based beliefs are rational.  I will show that, by the definitions of the words ‘faith’ and ‘rational’, this is not true.

At one time I was just as confused as Mr. Goldstein is about the concepts of rationality and faith.  I was raised Catholic.  There is not much rationality in the Catholic world view.  But at least the Catholic Church does correctly teach that science is the ultimate authority in establishing matters of fact.  Fundamentalist Christians should take a lesson from the Catholics on this.  When Christians deny science, they stand on the wrong side of truth.

Science would not be possible without rationality.  Science is not perfect.  But, to the extent that it does work at uncovering truth, it works because science is rational.  

Rational:

  • consistent with reason, or based on reason.  Logical.

Science is based on reason and logic.   This is why science can be called rational.  And scientists are generally reasonable and logical in their thinking.  At least within the bounds of expertise.  Here are two other definitions for rational.  These adjectives are often used to describe scientists and their thinking.

Rational:  

  • having or showing the ability to reason.
  • of sound mind; sane.

I can understand why Cliff Goldstein would want to call his faith rational.  Who wouldn’t like to be thought of as sane and reasonable?  Who wouldn’t want their beliefs to be judged as consistent with reason, or logic?  The trouble is, calling yourself rational does not make one’s self rational.  Don’t just call yourself rational.  Be rational.  Rationality is both a choice and a practice.  

A rational person is reasonable.  To be reasonable means to do form one’s opinions based on evidence or reason.  A rational person is in control of their faculties for reason.  They are sane.  A rational person says things for reasons that make sense.  They believe things for reasons that make sense.  They do things and say things for reasons that make sense.

Now compare these meanings with the definition of ‘faith’.

Faith:  

  • To believe something without evidence or reason

Faith is not rational.  Faith is almost a polar opposite of rational.  A rational person believes things for reasons that make sense.  A person of faith believes things for no logical reason.  Faith does not depend on reason.  Faith is to simply believe.  Faith inherits beliefs from the past.

Now understand.  I am not saying that it is irrational to engage in a spiritual practice.  I can’t say that practicing a faith is irrational.  But I am saying that faith-based beliefs are not rational.  A faith-based belief is a belief that is held without evidence or reason.  A faith-based belief is not a logical belief.  A logical belief is a rational belief.  And a rational belief is based on reason.  Faith-based beliefs persist for no apparent reason.

God and Time

Someone once said that we should think of God as the set of all true statements.  If that is all that God is — an infinitely large set of true statements — then I believe that God exists.  Because I believe in true statements.  I can’t argue with that.  But I am not sure that we should worship God either, if that’s all He is.  Don’t get me wrong.  I hold truth as the highest virtue.  And the set of all true statements would be of the utmost importance in society, especially if we could somehow tap into it.  But I don’t believe that a mere set of true statements can hear prayers.

There are different levels of infinity.  Some infinite sets are countable, in the sense that each member of the set could be associated with a unique counting number.  Other sets are uncountably large.  There are many more members in the uncountably large set than we have numbers to associate with each of them.  The set of all true statements is uncountably large.  If there are an uncountably infinite number of points between 0 and 1 ( — and there are —), then there is an uncountable infinity within set of statements that could be made about just those points between two consecutive integers.  Now extend that to how many true statements could be made about any given point within the space-time continuum.  Try to imagine a mind with a total and comprehensive awareness of everything.

I can’t do it.  I cannot imagine it.  I do not believe that such a mind could exist.  What is the mind of God made of, if everything that exists came after God?  How could the mind of God exist before anything that does exist was actually created?  How could a mind with no physical substance think everything that would need to be thought of in order to make the universe a reality?

If God had thoughts before the universe existed, then thoughts predate existence.  How can thoughts predate existence?  Before the existence of time, how did God think?  Thinking is a form of processing.  Processing is an action.  What changed in God’s thinking that caused Him to create the universe, if He had always existed before He created time itself?  What is the nature of a timeless eternity?  Why did God’s timeless mind suddenly change?  That would have had to have been the starting point of time itself.  That point where God’s thoughts were set into motion.

Significant Finding — The Interbrain

The Science section of today’s edition of The Telegraph features a story about how a form of  ‘wi-fi’ connects human brains.  This phenomenon is known as The Interbrain, and is based on the research of Professor Digby Tantum, a clinical professor of psychotherapy at the University of Sheffield.

Reading this article helped fill in some blanks on my own theory of culture, and how it manifests within people.  I would like to develop a paper, after putting finishing touches on a different (current) thesis, that comes at this very same idea from a different angle.  I already believe that we are wired together, and I have a lot to say on this subject.  This only confirms some of my suspicions.

If you have not read today’s article from The Telegraph, do so.  It helps to explain aspects of our social nature.  Here is a passage I found particularly pertinent.

Prof Tantum believes that the communication between brains may happen as an ‘inadvertent leak’ and it may be linked to smell. Areas of the brain which have the most activity of neurons are located in the prefrontal cortex, and are linked with smelling. They also are situated where they follow the gaze.

Our social nature may be linked to smell?  I am willing to go out on a limb with a detail of my own theory.  I think the word ‘may’ is not necessary.  But in order to explain this, I will have to first explain how similar we are to social insects.  In my younger days, before i lost my strength, I was a beekeeper (among other things).  I had the chance to study bees, and later ants, up close and personal.  Those experiences have remained with me.  I look at human behavior through a lens formed during those years.

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I have not abandoned my NaNoWriMo project.  I have only set it aside for the time being.    When i finish the project i started 36 years ago — only days from doing so — I will have more time for that, and this blog, and maybe talking about some things that Professor Digby Tantum is introducing to the world.  His ideas allow me to begin discussing my own.  Many of which bleed over into spirituality and its various forms of religious manifestations throughout history.

Have a wonderful day.

 

 

A new direction

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What I originally envisioned as a book has instead become a project to occupy me until my death.  Instead of a book, I have decided to begin publishing papers and articles.  The last few years left me with a lot of time to think about what I wanted to write.  I have so much more than a simple book.  Eventually, (hopefully), a book will come.  But my goal at the moment is to stir the cultural pot.  I seek to challenge conventional religious thinking.  I am convinced that Christians and Muslims see the world incorrectly.  I am convinced that for many, faith has become an obstacle to thinking.

Without rationality, we are socially controlled by a dynamic system of opinions.  Without knowledge to compare with our beliefs, we cannot know whether our opinions are actually true.  A correct understanding of the world allows to make correct decisions.

My goal is to marry rationality with our collective spiritual practices, by challenging the idea that Christians and Muslims speak for God.  I am an atheist who believes in God.  My goal is to demonstrate that within Christianity and Islam, a false understanding of God is being taught.

How do I know Thee, father?

As a former Catholic with a more naturalistic understanding of the world, I have long suspected that many Catholics, maybe most?, must have priestly ancestors.  There was a scandal in my own community that was kept hush-hush when I was a teenager.  A priest had become a real father with a girl from the church.  She was my age, +/- 1 year.  No one talked about it.  Years later my mom brought it up.  For some reason, we didn’t discuss these things as a family while they were an actual threat.  Ah, but that is the Catholic way.  We were kept ignorant by our own inability to speak about sexuality without feeling shame.

Now we have strong evidence that children fathered by Catholic priests is a worldwide phenomenon.  Thousands of people around the world have strong evidence that they were fathered by priests.  They are pressured not to speak about these things.  Why did I leave Catholicism?  Because the ideology does not allow for open and honest communication about things that matter.  Plain and simple.

 

Two Symptoms of the Same Problem

In Saudi Arabia, the 14 prisoners who were condemned to death for attending a pro-democracy rally have had their death sentences upheld by their ‘justice system.’  The prisoners have been transferred to Riyad, where executions are typically held.  Now they await a royal decree that the executions can take place.

In Davis, California, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric named Ammar Shahin gave a sermon this past week during which he prayed for the death of all Jews.  Why?  Because, in his mind, this is what Allah wants.

Mr. Shahin and the Saudi judicial system are guilty of the same flawed thinking.  They both believe that God ordained the violence in their hearts.  He did not.  They merely have dark hearts.  Neither party speaks for God.  And neither speaks for Islam.  I keep hearing that Islam is a religion of peace.  But I cannot see peaceful intentions in praying for the death of Jews, nor in the execution of people who simply want a voice in how their government is run.

Islam has to change.  It is unimaginable that a hatred for Jews, or the execution of these prisoners, is something that God would want.  Ammar Shahin.  Saudi judges.  Why are your hearts so dark?  Why do you stand on the side of evil?