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February 19, 2011

We cannot help it. Everyone who has a world view uses facts to derive, define and, sadly, project it beyond where those facts end and presumption begins.  We all want to be objective but inevitably beliefs that should be fact-based end up being faith-based.

Consider the intensity of belief that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Or those who knew (and still know) vaccines cause autism. Or even that gutters work.

Beyond “issues”, much of the evolution of scientific theory starts as a “connect the dots” proposition that seems less theory and more fact as more facts are known. “Dark Matter” is there for my physicist friends. It has to be. The lack of proof or any little bit of it does not affect the reality of “Dark Matter” because its presence fits a huge construction of how the universe “has to” be.

But the never ending stream of new facts sometimes forces new constructs. “Climate change” has replaced “global warming” just like “ridding the Middle East of a tyrant” replaced “ridding the Middle East of WMD”.

Unlike gutters and the cause of autism, “Dark Matter” and “Climate Change” are virtually at the core of a fact-based basis for living of the brightest and most educated in our culture. These large order constructs have billions of data points of hard evidence behind them, but are, like gravity itself, only interpretations of observable truths without proven causality or mechanisms.

For some, the lack of conclusive proof only makes their advocacy for their constructs more intense. That advocacy often breeds enough defensiveness that the tone becomes shrill, snarky and self-defeating when any reticence is expressed in response to it.

It is the tone that Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have when debunking religion as a mass delusion – a large order construct based on interpretations of observable truths. In petulantly insulting any thought that proving a negative is problematic, angry mockery turns reason into self-righteousness – smacking of the same haughty piety they so aggressively disdain.

Unfortunately any large order construct has any number of low hanging funky fruit for exploitation in the debunking of presumed bunk. But clubbing a baby seal does not make you a heroic hunter of truth. A freakily cold winter here or there does not reveal climate change to be a mass delusion.

Self-reinforcement of pre-existing prejudice is at an all time high, thanks to the new tie that binds (and attracts and enflames) – the internet. Affinity groups are now bound at the smart phone, and the fractionalized social micro-herding takes factoids and ignites a brush fire of hyperbolic scenarios.

This has worked to revolutionize revolutions in Egypt, but has the collateral damage of allowing people to invent connect-the-dot “truths” from selectively assembled data points.

Obama has to be an Islamacist Ninja mole because no one has a hard copy of his original birth certificate. Sarah Palin is a retarded fascist because she shoots animals. Our desperate desire to reinforce our faith in our political views, life philosophy, or questionable judgments has become, for many, their religion.

Mainline churches are largely dead ends for more and more people. Traditional faith-based reality is defined by the assertion of a set of facts that have unknowable meanings, unless a belief system overwhelms the unknowables. Religious dogma, doctrine and canons have been constructed around a set of facts that are connected by faith in their causality and meaning, not unlike so many other deeply thought out and as yet unproved world views.

Fifteen years ago New York Time’s science writer George Johnson’s book “Fire in the Mind” articulated the human desire to find truth – and how religion and science have deeply resonant characteristics in that relentless urge. Science has rolled on with an ever greater velocity, yet the truth of the connection Johnson saw is as fresh as this morning’s coffee – made ironic only by our collective knee-jerk distinction.

I would not be a Christian if I did not believe in the resurrection, but I have absolutely zero proof that it ever happened. A non-Christian life would make everything easier, more fun and intellectually comfy. If we believe that we know it all, then we can be rational about everything, even cancer, children dying and the holocaust.

But we are not Vulcans. We often base the most important things we commit to – spouses, politics, the houses and cars we buy – on unjustifiable faith that our feelings are right. Yet we obliquely sense that every one of us will die – a realization which made an entire generation of European philosophers O.D. on ennui a century ago.

Death is a fact like the sun rising and gravity. If our lives were fundamentally fact-based, death would have the emotional impact of the weather changing – inevitable, uncontrollable and part of our daily reality. But even the abstract death of people we do not know (the Challenger astronauts, Michael Jackson, or a Pope) creates great (and factually indefensible) personal and public sadness.

As Easter beckons amid the mud, I know with certitude that “something” happened about 1,970 years ago in Jerusalem – some advocate that it was a manipulative fraud retroactively perpetrated by St. Paul, others that Easter was a unique supernatural event that saved mankind from the living death of cynicism. But something happened. Just like “Dark Matter” or “Climate Change” evidence exists.

And just like those constructs, faith in the meaning of that evidence compels me to bend those parts that are unknowable to contour to what I do know. A “faith-based” life is not delusional if you know what you can’t know. Unfortunately for all concerned “connecting the dots” projects a reality; it does not reveal the truth – unless you have enough dots.

I believe that the only life that is not in some way “faith-based” is the hedonist’s. The only completely “fact-based” perspective is one without a conscience – the self-derived, self-fulfilling life with no constructs – just the undeniable truth of your own fulfillment. “If it feels good – do it.” That outlook has no room for any projection beyond the here and now.

We all do acts of selfish feeling good, but almost all of us want to help others feel good too. The truth is that anything beyond self-indulgence projects a faith in a greater good – a faith that has deeply reasoned arguments for its benefits, but in the end offers no proof that those benefits ultimately have any value – because in the end, we end.

The bottom line for me is whether we are honest enough to acknowledge that our overarching beliefs are built by us in faith – whether that construct is human redemption by Christ, or that the vast majority of matter in the universe is not observable.

As an architect I can tell you the house I build for myself is never the best house for someone else. When those professing any religion presume that those who do not believe go to hell, or when Dawkins or Hitchens equates faith with self-serving delusion they betray a lack of faith in what they assert.

Time proves us fools or seers. Since my time (like everyone else’s), is preciously circumscribed, the objective basis of my “faith-based” life will prove out (or not) long after this portion of my life passes. And I am OK with that, because I have faith whether I like it or not.

43 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2011 11:49 am

    “In petulantly insulting any thought that proving a negative is problematic”

    Proving a negative is difficult indeed. To do that would need a search of everywhere, and everywhere is a very big place. We don’t even know the full extent of everywhere. There could be lots of everywhere far out into space. There could be many dimensions of everywhere. I mean, honestly, it’s going to take a lot of searching to show that there are no gods hiding in our reality. God isn’t like a mouse hiding somewhere in the house, that can be lured out by bait into a humane trap. Perhaps the right prayer will tempt god out from hiding? But no, that hasn’t worked, or at least it doesn’t seem to.

    But on the other hand, why bother trying to prove a negative? There is a far easier way. Just ask the believers where god is and let them do the work. We are lucky. That was asked thousands of years ago. That question has been asked again and again. The believers have searched. They searched in their houses, in the shed, in the loft, down the back of the sofa. They found some old sweets and a forgotten key there, but no god. They searched in their gardens, and then in the forests. Nothing but the trees, the now forgotten homes of wood nymphs, but god isn’t there. Then they looked up in the heavens, but Gagarin reported just space. It got harder for god-seekers, what with Hubble looking back billions of years.

    It seems that god is hiding beyond space and time now. That’s hard luck. As reality is built on space and time, poor god must be hanging on there by his fingertips, like some epic hero over an abyss of non-existence. Some of us think he has already fallen.

    And so, the negative is proven. It’s been long proven. The proof is that believers encountering reason resort to the insistence that the non-existence of god can’t be shown. That’s the paradox of proof. Thousands of years of believers looking for gods, and all they can manage is “you can’t show he’s not there”. That’s proof.

    And as for faith, I have faith in atheism. But it real faith, not like the perverted religious version. Real faith is trust built on experience, not trying to believe the absurd because of desperate wishful thinking.

    I have faith in humanity, not god.

  2. February 20, 2011 1:45 pm

    “perverted” – a word I associate with fundamentalist judgmentalism. Ironically there seem to be fundamental atheists.

  3. Kim permalink
    February 20, 2011 3:43 pm

    I have faith that no one, no matter how hard they try, can not prove God does not exist. I can not prove he does. But I have faith that there is someone bigger than us. I call him “God”.

  4. Mary permalink
    February 20, 2011 4:22 pm

    Huh! Funny. When I searched for God in the house, the shed, the loft, the sofa, and especially in the gardens, the forests, and the trees with their wood nymphs, I found God, felt God, knew God. God in sweets and in the scratches of old lover’s forgotten keys. God in the photos taken by the Hubble telescope, God in space and God in time. Look again.

  5. Kerry permalink
    February 20, 2011 8:43 pm

    Mary, I couldn’t have said it more sweetly. I totally agree. Thanks, Duo, for your piece. Peace.

  6. Edward Andersen permalink
    February 20, 2011 9:05 pm


    I believe that there is no God. I’m beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy — you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no work to do. You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word “elephant” includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

    So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

    But, this “This I Believe” thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life’s big picture, some rules to live by. So, I’m saying, “This I believe: I believe there is no God.”

    Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I’m not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it’s everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I’m raising now is enough that I don’t need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

    Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

    Believing there’s no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I’m wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don’t travel in circles where people say, “I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, “shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, “How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.” So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that’s always fun. It means I’m learning something.

    Believing there is no God means the suffering I’ve seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn’t caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn’t bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

    Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

    some light hearted views.

  7. Alexandra permalink
    February 20, 2011 9:22 pm

    @Edward Anderson – I came home wanting to write something, but what you wrote sums it up. Absolutely awesome! Thank you.

  8. Alexandra permalink
    February 20, 2011 9:26 pm

    Not sure what a “fundamental atheist” is. A “fundamentalist” of any religion is someone who adheres to a literal interpretation of the basic text. Atheists don’t have a basic text – that’s one of the “fundamentals” of being an atheist!

  9. severalspeciesof permalink
    February 20, 2011 10:44 pm

    “I believe that the only life that is not in some way “faith-based” is
    the hedonist’s. The only completely “fact-based” perspective is one
    without a conscience – the self-derived, self-fulfilling life with no
    constructs – just the undeniable truth of your own fulfillment. “If it
    feels good – do it.” That outlook has no room for any projection
    beyond the here and now”

    Isn’t that in a way, really the god of the first creation story (up to
    the fall) in Genesis? God created and found it good. Nothing else
    except self fullfillment…

  10. February 20, 2011 11:40 pm

    “You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car.”

    Reminds me of a bad elephant joke:

    Q. How do you tell if there is an elephant in your fridge?
    A. Check for footprints in the butter.

    And then…

    Q. How do you tell if there is an elephant god in your fridge?
    A. No footprints in the butter, as you have to have faith, and you can’t prove a negative.

  11. Laurie Fraser permalink
    February 21, 2011 12:18 am

    Beautifully written, Duo. Unfortunately you come at two objects, two concepts, with such a broad brush approach that you leave both – empirical reality and supernatural ontology – mired in confusion.

    I’d encourage you to direct relevant questions towards both ideas. Ask “how” do we “know” that the world of old forgotten keys, and forests, to use Steve’s examples, exist. Then ask a similar question of the “God” concept. It’s not good enough to claim, as Mary has, that we can “see” God in the natural world. Anyone can say that, and it sounds as cute as hell, but, ultimately, it is meaningless. Ultimately, to use strict logical methods, such claims are nothing more than arguments from ignorance – “I find this world so beautiful, so miraculous, that it MUST have had a creator”. Such a claim does wonders for the warm fuzzies, but in the cold light of day, it establishes no truth, and does nothing to further the inquiry.

    Where, apart from your rational (and irrational) cogitations, is the evidence for God? Well, you have argumentum ad popularum, you have the Thomasian conceits (all thoroughly demolished by competent philosophy), and that’s about it. Miracles? Healings? Please – none of these would be allowable in the interior court of your own reasoning in day-to-day life, where you act at all times with reference to your confidence that empirical observation and sound reasoning are the hallmarks of good judgement.

    Why, then, are you happy to cast away that soundness when it comes to the fervent wish (otherwise called faith) that a God exists?

  12. February 21, 2011 6:58 am

    It is fascinating that the reactions to this piece center on the God Question, and while I used it to illustrate the rush to self-justification imperative that has made human interaction pretty shrill in the Internet era, some of the responses prove the thesis by there intensity.

    The fact that I or anyone else finds the reality that billions of humans are not duped dolts and yet feel the presence of something beyond their understanding would threaten no one unless those who have that affliction say others who do not are duped dolts.

    It’s the attitude that has been accelerated by the phone I am holding that is the sad consequence. The obvious frustration of the inability of proof of any large life ordering belief should not catapult the advocate into denegrating those who have not quaffed any variety of conceptual Kool Aid.

    But it does in some – but others, actually most of these responses, simply have reached a place where they have enough on their plate and want to get themselves to a better place, regardless of what others have committed their hearts and minds to.

    It is never wrong to share these essential human impulses – but it is sad that I do this on a phone that does not allow me to edit beyond the last 50 words – so forgive the typos….

  13. severalspeciesof permalink
    February 21, 2011 9:44 am

    “It’s the attitude that has been accelerated by the phone I am holding that is the sad consequence. The obvious frustration of the inability of proof of any large life ordering belief should not catapult the advocate into denegrating those who have not quaffed any variety of conceptual Kool Aid.”

    I’m a bit confused here…

    I’m reading this as the ‘advocate’ being a non-believer in god…

    Non-believers don’t drink conceptual Kool-aid. It is the other way around…

  14. Edward Andersen permalink
    February 21, 2011 9:45 am

    I think most comments above are dealing with the ‘belief’ question, not God the need for otherwise intelligent humans to have a make believe friend up there. All the specious sophistry still has nothing to do with the large amount of suffering and violence done with Gods name attached. Fear is a wonderful thing. The tea party is a weak brew of religion and any human interaction through recorded history has been shrill at the very least. We have better bombs now.
    Which god and what ceremonies one gravitates to to fill that place in ones heart is the remarkable flaw in the human brain.
    Aeschylus, 500 b.c. Before our concept of God.
    “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

  15. duo permalink
    February 21, 2011 10:20 am

    Point of clarification: the piece holds humans to account for any “my way or the highway” absurdities – so the “God Hates Fags” lunatics and the posited fact that faith is a brain defect
    (and uses the “God Hates Fags” folks as proof of that defect) are to me two sides of the same coin – the fraility of our ego’s that compels extension of our most personal beliefs into the widest prescriptions of good and evil for millions never met or known.

    The one clear and abiding blind spot for many is the denial and denigration of several billion datapoints – as factual as any quark or carbon molecule – the billions of humans who know that they sense something beyond the observable world. To dismiss what you do not experience as delusion is hubris at its highest – just like condeming those who feel the “The Bible is Bullshit” as being possessed by the devil.

    In this dialogues anger wells up, put-downs abound and huge assumptions are made about who people are. It is the downside of a large brain that we feel compelled to equate faith with priests abusing choirboys and lack of faith with Stalin murdering millions.

    Humans tend to autonomically reinforce the realities they hang their lives upon – the facts in evidence have exploded in our lifetime, and rather than clarity and provide confident perspective that explosion has created new venues for judgmental prescription – you are a brain damaged fool for believing anything perceived that is not a fact in evidence or you are an agent of evil if what is in your heart ain’t whats in mine.

    Thats at the core of my piece – not whether anyone believes in anything, but how belief manifests itself.

  16. Edward Andersen permalink
    February 21, 2011 10:41 am

    After witnessing sacrifices of large animals in several countries for “god”, and the smug clubbiness of all religions how can one believe any of it. There was mostly civil talk above and the video is quite accurate even with the wording..
    When my neighbors put a severed rams head on my door lintel to honor and to make their ‘god smile on my home do i take it seriously? Of course I do not eat the liver raw as they always beg me to.

  17. Mary permalink
    February 21, 2011 10:44 am

    On my warm fuzziness, cute-as-hellness (thanks by the way), and false logic (“I find this world so beautiful, so miraculous, that it must have a creator”). I guess I’m okay with fool science and fool proof. With trusting my instincts, electromagnetic rushes, biophysical connections, sensory quanta perception, vibrational vibes, sentimental Romantic elevatory highs, and other God-dishy moments. I’ve done atheism. Done “I don’t know.” I’ve been through the fire of the valley of the shadow with my husband when he nearly died and received a pacemaker; I work every day to keep my son alive. (Chronic diseases are no picnic.) So yeah, maybe my own quest for spiritual truth and meaning to all this is mere desperation and death-fearin’ suckerdom worthy of a Monty Python spoof, and reflective of my place in cultural history as an Oprah a-ha-gotcha girl. Regardless, sign me up for the P.T. Barnum show. I have no interest in beating the drum for-or-against God and agree that, yes, either way is arrogant fundamentalism. Besides, my brain is so full of Hallmark rainbows that I can’t hang. But yeah, I’m just gonna go with the murky science of truth and joy in my skin, that something that tells me it’s okay to trust this gratitude and happiness, to believe in these moments of seeing and feeling huge, wordless power and presence in beyond-ness and within-ness. Purely personal. So pour me another drink because this stupor is good, all good, and deliciously real. Quantih. Quantih. Quantih.

  18. severalspeciesof permalink
    February 21, 2011 12:14 pm

    “Thats at the core of my piece – not whether anyone believes in anything, but how belief manifests itself.”

    There-in lies the crux of what I perceive as a grave misunderstanding that many people have, That of conflating belief through faith/because of faith, and belief through reality shared and able to be tested by everyone, not just via a personal revelation or feeling…

    It is demonstrated here by you when you wrote: “The bottom line for me is whether we are honest enough to acknowledge that our overarching beliefs are built by us in faith”.

    In other words ‘Faith’ belief is NOT the same as ‘Tested or able to be Tested and shared’ belief…

    If this is confusing, let me know…

  19. February 21, 2011 12:25 pm

    Perhaps hopelessly ignorant, but unconfused: In the face of angry assaults on Climate Change I know that despite any chance of proof in my lifetime observations are real and interpretations of those observations are done in good faith – yes faith – that what is observed comports with an understanding of it’s meanings. Unfortunately the reality – yes factual reality – that the majority of humans on this planet believe in something that is not explicable without faith is not something I can dismiss with a disdainful sweep of my hand as deluded self-interest.

    I assert nothing they or I feel may feel has any meaning to anyone else. How does that in any way cause you pause?

    • severalspeciesof permalink
      February 21, 2011 12:55 pm

      Here you seem to once again conflate and confuse ‘faith’ with scientific method/belief…

      Again, two completely different animals…

      “I assert nothing they or I feel may feel has any meaning to anyone else. How does that in any way cause you pause?”

      Well, I’m confused about this (may be be due to lack of sleep)…

  20. Alexandra permalink
    February 21, 2011 1:33 pm

    “I assert nothing they or I feel may feel has any meaning to anyone else. How does that in any way cause you pause?”

    Well, the thing that causes me pause is the way you’ve expressed your feelings about non-believers in this “why can’t everyone just get along” blog post. Here are some stated and implied assumptions of yours about atheists that “project…beyond where…facts end and presumption begins.”:

    Noted atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins are so intellectually dishonest that they are using shrillness and snarkiness to conceal what they know is the weakness of their positions.

    Atheists are being “petulantly insulting” when they point out that “Absence of evidence is evidence of absence – when the evidence that should be there isn’t there.”

    I draw your attention to the following words and phrases in paragraph 7: “angry mockery,” “smacking,” “haughty piety,” “agressively,” “disdain.” A lot of negative emotion there.

    Atheists who point out the glaring inconsistencies and questionable moral behavior that are part of religious faith are intellectually lazy in going for the “low hanging funky fruit,” equivalent to “clubbing a baby seal.” More emotionally loaded imagery.

    Atheism is a “pre-existing prejudice.” That’s another way of saying that atheists just haven’t bothered to think about things as hard as the believers have.

    Atheists are unfairly trying to make their voices heard by using technology never available in the old days when all the “self-reinforcement of pre-existing prejudice” was being done every Sunday in the churches.

    Atheists have chosen not to believe because it’s “easier, more fun and intellectually comfy.”

    Atheists think they “know it all.”

    Atheists are trying to be Vulcans. Trying to be rational is the same as trying to be uncaring. Atheists are trying to achieve a state in which, for them, “cancer, children dying and the Holocaust” are no big deal.

    Atheists are lying about their lack of faith otherwise they wouldn’t care about their own mortality.

    Atheists are lying about their lack of faith if they aren’t pursuing lives of unalloyed hedonism.

    Briefly, you’ve made a laundry list of the same old unfounded negative assertions about atheists: They’re angry, arrogant, intellectually lazy and dishonest hedonists who don’t care about people – and who are, in fact, so clueless that they need to be told what they REALLY believe by the religious.

    And you wonder why we get shrill.

  21. Edward Andersen permalink
    February 21, 2011 2:32 pm

    Seems as if the ‘believers’ are more shrill than the non believers…
    What one chooses to believe in has more to do with what environment they were exposed to. I do not like murdering large animals to appease god but millions do, the small town I stay in kills 200+ at every celebration…(vegetarian -a thoughtful veggie) How many belief systems have there been that are gone with no trace but meant everything to the believers.. If your system ordered you to kill (pretty slowly) a large animal and eat its liver raw- would you?? or is it too ‘primitive’ a belief system that does not fit your comfort zone?
    No atheist I know of thinks they know it all. Opposite! Most are secure enough to wonder.

  22. duo permalink
    February 21, 2011 3:11 pm

    Nerves have been touched.

    Clarifications again: Hitchens and Dawkins are not intellectually deficient in and way – they are just angry and defensive – I have read and listened to both at length, and their tone really hurts the truths they use to try to prove out their attitudes.

    All the things that are ascribed to me as breing applied to “atheists” are not about atheism – any time anyone simply writes off the thoughtful belief of anyone else it creates the shrillness thatnow abounds – religion is full of pontificating hypocrits – (Jesus got that, btw)

    All the items taken as dissing to those who are atheists were not limited to any group – that is the point of the piece – not “why can’t we all get along” but why do so many ardently believe/”know” make highly selective use of facts to create aggressive denial of alternatives that question their choices. It may shock, but I do not believe the Grand Canyon was made in a week 8,000 years ago.

    I noted that my being afflicted by faith in something beyond my day-to-day reality would be easier on me – and I can tell you that for me, and me alone, that is true.

    None of us are Vulcans, thats the point – and I have actually never met a hedonist, which is why I speculated.

    If you have numbered my paragraphs you can count the words where I mention religious faith (versus all the other faith-based realities I cite) in any light, and they are a small part of a much larger piece that does not cite atheism, but includes science, politics, and gutters.

    I appreciate the time and effort of everyone’s responses-

  23. Edward Andersen permalink
    February 21, 2011 3:24 pm

    this is clear, calm and well done. I urge you all to see this.

  24. Alexandra permalink
    February 21, 2011 4:47 pm

    “None of us are Vulcans, thats the point – and I have actually never met a hedonist, which is why I speculated.”

    You speculated that the explanation for the non-existence of Vulcans and hedonists is “faith,” and reasoned thus:

    “If people didn’t have faith, they would be Vulcans or hedonists. I don’t know any Vulcans or hedonists, therefore my speculation that everyone has faith must be true.”

    But the premise is faulty. It’s far more likely that the overall tendency of people not to be Vulcans or hedonists is due to their humanity, no added “faith” required. But what you’re asserting throughout this piece is that “faith” IS a basic quality of being human, which would put atheists squarely outside of the conversation. That might be interpreted as a bit extreme, so you contend that atheists really DO have faith even though they think they don’t.

    I’ll leave it to the scientists and the gutter salesmen to post their own replies. 😉

  25. duo permalink
    February 21, 2011 5:10 pm

    at last the nub:

    “faith” does not equal “religion”

    faith simply means belief that overcomes a lack of proof.

    everyone has to believe beyond facts because we do not know much – gravity is always there, but no one knows why, so there is no other guarantee it is constant except that its always been – to me thats faith – and I have it, – as I do in evolution, the world being formed billions of years ago, and in pitched roofs.

    no one I know is a Vulcon or a hedonist, no one – and I know some some serious freaks: religious, agnostic and atheist – all of them have an emotional connection in things they can’t know or control – the love of family and friends, a place they love, a song that moves them – we are human

    please believe that what I write is what I mean – if I wanted to ascribe all the negative connotations you infer, there would be no inferrence, I would have said them – but since I don’t believe what you ascribe/infer, I did not write them…

  26. Alexandra permalink
    February 21, 2011 7:08 pm

    “Faith” does not equal “religion.”

    “There’s glory for you!”

    The problem is that you are using the word faith to mean a number of different things, and then lumping all those different things together under the definition of faith as “belief without evidence.”

    1.Faith, i.e. belief without evidence, or religious faith, such as belief in the Resurrection is not the same as

    2.Faith in our friends, faith in the goodness of humanity, which is trust based on the evidence of previous experience, which is not the same as

    3.Faith in things like gravity which is actually a “justified true belief*,” or a belief founded on evidence and which can only be called faith by stretching the meaning of the word to its breaking point.

    There is no “lack of proof” for things like evolution, the age of the universe or the preferability of pitched roofs (in temperate climates), so no need for “faith.” “Emotional connection” is not “faith,” either, nor is the frisson I feel at the opening bars of Layla.

    *for someone to have knowledge of something, it must be TRUE, it must be BELIEVED to be true, and the belief must be JUSTIFIED.

  27. February 21, 2011 7:45 pm

    Very nicely put, Edward.

  28. February 21, 2011 8:36 pm

    Duo, I want to address a few of the things in your piece to get more clarity. Alexandra just went into clarification about “faith” and along the same lines I want to say a few things about “proof.”

    First, we don’t have the kind of proof in the physical world that is the standard in mathematics and mathematical logic. What we do have are progressive degrees of confirming evidence in the absence of contradiction. Here in the USA we have a standard of proof for civil legal cases set at “a preponderance of evidence” whereas in criminal cases guilt has to be shown “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Next, contradictory evidence has a quicker ability to show an idea to be wrong than even vastly more confirmatory evidence. For example, when Galileo first saw the moons of Jupiter that one piece of evidence disproved the thousands of years of belief that all celestial bodies when around the Earth. Furthermore, a couple of thousand years ago, very nearly 100% of humanity was absolutely sure the Earth was flat and stationary and that the Sun went around it. It looks that way, it feels that way, even today, but we use the evidence we can gather, but not necessarily directly feel, to know that we are not on a flat Earth.

    Those of us who are not persons of faith simply ask others to present us with any convincing body of evidence that we should believe religious ideas. It has nothing to do with disproving something that no one has ever established. We see the vast numbers of religions in the world and hear their incompatible descriptions of their deities and the attributes thereof. They can’t be all correct, and as none is a majority, it means that most must be wrong. Without evidence to sort it out, the most reasonable conclusion is simply that they are all wrong.

  29. February 22, 2011 7:32 am

    There ee two issues: in my piece I use the base meaning of the word faith: belief in something that is not proven. It’s not a code word for relguon.

    Second the desire if all if the above to impose a conclusion on those who have had a different set of beliefs is at the essence of my piece. Traditionally conquering western armies imposed a conclusion of Christianity or in other times Islam on those with a different set of beliefs.

    I completely acknowledge the lack of direct conclusive physical evidence of most of everything in religion. But calling billions of prople wrong, brain defected, the core of their beliefs “bullshit” is exactly what I wrote about.

    Of course religion has a leap of faith involved in it’s acceptance. And it’s threshold is suspension of disbelief and the acceptance of what you feel.

    But climate change asks those to suspend disbelief when the winter in your area is brutal. And billions if data points of human experience are as valid as billions of data points of temperature change.

    Those that ask atheists to experience what they know in religious faith or face hell are sadly desperate to validate their belief. To dismiss all that do have religion in their lives as “wrong” is just as desperate in it’s need to justify what is believed.

    Once again no ability to proof, so forgive typos.

  30. Alexandra permalink
    February 22, 2011 10:23 am

    “Second the desire if all if the above to impose a conclusion on those who have had a different set of beliefs is at the essence of my piece.”

    So, as long as people have faith that vaccination causes autism we shouldn’t try to persuade them that they are wrong because it would be impolite? At what point are there enough people not vaccinating their kids that we should just accept their feelings about vaccination as “valid data points?”

  31. severalspeciesof permalink
    February 22, 2011 11:38 am

    “And billions if data points of human experience are as valid as
    billions of data points of temperature change.”

    Sorry, but the plural of anecdote (human experience) is not data…

    We all, ALL, experience the sun as though it goes around the earth. We
    all experience the moon in the same way (One is correct, the other isn’t). The EXPERIENCE may be valid to the individual, but to use the billions of experiences as data points is not a good
    way to get to the truth of the knowable, and therefore even less of a
    good thing to get to the truth of an unknowable, as your god is
    typically framed in an unknowable manner (outside of space time, etc.)

  32. Steve Zara permalink
    February 22, 2011 11:53 am

    “But calling billions of prople wrong, brain defected, the core of their beliefs “bullshit” is exactly what I wrote about.”

    Goodness. I don’t think anyone should ever call billions of people brain defected. They have wonderful, marvellous, healthy brains (mostly) that all work wonderfully. But they are almost all wrong. We all are wrong. We feel matter as solid rather than as spin-interactions of electrons fighting for space. We see the sky as a roof and not a puff of gas fading out into space. We feel that the hours can be long but the years swift. We think of time as a giant clock ticking away our lives when it’s weird and wobbly enough so that Einstein, not Newton, is the time lord of satnav.

    We evolved to think about people, tigers and mammoths. We evolved to think from millimetres to kilometers, from seconds to years. We weren’t built by nature to get the universe right. So we make up stories based on dreams, and instincts and hope and fears, and they are all wrong. None of our stories are right. Not in the slightest way. We are patterns of atoms that didn’t know that they were patterns of atoms because there was no need to know. Billions of people still don’t know that they are patterns of atoms. So why do we put any trust at all in their stories based on ignorance? Of course what they think is bullshit! It’s fantastic bullshit. It’s everything we should expect from our brains – it’s bullshit full of magic and heroism and good and evil and angels and fairies. But it’s still bullshit. It would be utterly bizarre if it wasn’t bullshit.

    Science does better. Infinitely better. It tells stories that might, just might, be true.

  33. Edward Andersen permalink
    February 22, 2011 12:38 pm

    Lewis Thomas had it right.
    We are not the reason for creation. We have evolved into our present flawed ,frightened, mass of followers looking for alpha dog to show us the way to safety.
    Why do people think that some entity made a gorgeous earth for us to destroy by building contraptions on the beauty and being proud, mining the beauty to heat those things , over fishing the worlds oceans, stenching the air, and over indulging in everything we see?
    where is the magic in that?
    Humans are failures as creations – if we use us as a benchmark.. carrots are better.

  34. Rose-Anne permalink
    February 22, 2011 2:18 pm

    “Consider the intensity of belief that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.”

    Actually, I still believe in this. Mostly because I’m pretty sure that we’re the ones who sold a bunch of ’em to Saddam.

  35. February 22, 2011 3:09 pm

    In the question of the purported divinity of Jesus, which billion data points are wrong, the Christians or everyone else? How about Krishna, the Hindus or everyone else? How about the Koran being divinely dictated, the Muslims or everyone else?

    Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is closer to the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.”

  36. Alexandra permalink
    February 22, 2011 10:04 pm

    Quine: I’m guessing the answer will be that nobody was specifically talking about “Jesus,” but rather about a feeling that “there must be something.” And then you can’t argue because whatever you can disprove, the believer will then claim that “that’s not MY religion!”

  37. Alexandra permalink
    February 23, 2011 11:51 am

    That’s a wrap then! A perfect ending. I must say you’ve been an awfully good sport, Duo.

  38. February 23, 2011 12:54 pm

    I agree with Alexandra. Thank you Duo, for your thread-hospitality. May you live long, and prosper!

  39. severalspeciesof permalink
    February 23, 2011 3:30 pm

    Wow, now what? 🙂

  40. September 5, 2014 4:22 pm

    another interesting way of processing:

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