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.

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.

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?

Only Two Names

In the news stories about the 14 condemned Saudi protesters, I only saw 2 names being shared.  Munir al-Adam and Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat.  I wanted to learn the names of the other 12.  Sharing their names would be a great way to bring awareness to their plight.  I emailed Reprieve.org.uk, looking for a full list of names.  They responded first thing this morning.  Unfortunately, at this time we don’t even know the identities of the condemned men.

Reprieve has an online petition to the Saudi Government speaking out against the death sentence handed to these political prisoners.  Anyone who values human rights and democracy, and wants to do something, they can sign the online petition.

The Limits of Faith

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This has been in the making for some time.  I was inspired to write a book.  I was disturbed enough to try.  For the past few years I have been hard at work developing the themes and concepts I wish to discuss, and integrating them into a model of the book.  The book itself was too complex to write in one go.  I had to build a model of it, to help me see what I was trying to say.

In some ways, the book has been a healthy diversion from life’s problems.  I have a form of muscular dystrophy that makes things quite challenging.  Several years ago I was forced to quit the working world, and deal head on with this.  It took a lot of effort to learn how to live with failing strength.  But I have.  Recently I moved from Arizona to North Carolina.  Soon I will move from an apartment into a home.  This was unthinkable three and four years ago.  But think it I did and now here I am.

Last year, at the beginning of summer, I made my first road trip, on my own.  I went to the 29th annual Pima Writers Workshop, in Tucson.  I submitted a manuscript to be critiqued by an agent.  First time doing that.  The guy likes my writing, but not as a book.  This did not stop me.  But it got me thinking about the scope of what I am trying to describe.  I have an awful lot of material that contradicts our understanding of ourselves.

One of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of this year was to write for an audience.  Begin publishing.  This blog has been on and off the back burner since its inception.  It has been difficult to keep this up while dealing with everything else.  But when I found the home, it occurred to me that I had achieved a goal I had set when I first could no longer work.  I had gotten myself out of one living situation I could no longer handle physically, and into one that I could.  A couple weeks ago I met at the house with a contractor to get a quote on a wheelchair ramp and a front deck, to replace the wooden staircase leading to the front door.  Afterwards, getting back in my van, I had to pause for a vision.  Something was telling me that I could finally pick up the blog again, and sustain it.

We live in a world gone mad.  I have been following the problem of radical Islam with intense disturbed fascination.  My writing interests have converged with world events.  I have spent my life finding the words to describe a phenomenon that regularly now is making the news.  Then, in the past few days, news broke of the pending executions of 14 pro-democracy demonstrators in Saudi Arabia.  As a writer, I feel a need to do something.  It is time to put an end to this madness.

My goal is to stop these executions from happening, by bringing attention to their plight.  But this is a short term goal.  Long term, my goal is to challenge our understanding of God, so that radical Islam loses its power.  My method will be to counter the narrative of radical Islam by describing it in new terms.  Religions like Islam and Christianity present a false view of God.  I am building a case.  We need a new understanding.  Something rational.  Because we have reached the limits of faith.