Re: virus: Re: Thinking clearly about faith
Mon, 15 Feb 1999 08:58:27 EST

In a message dated 2/12/99 7:34:26 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

<< << If faith is
everything, then it may as well be nothing.>>

No one is saying that faith is everything. But consider that any belief system takes certain things on faith.

Any belief system is going to have a certain set of assumptions, but not all belief systems require that the assumptions be taken on faith. You can operate on a set of assumptions and still hold them in principle open to rational criticism.

>><< But there are important

distinctions to made between faith, trust, hope.>>


Good. Then you can uderstand that I can reasonably trust an assumption. In otherwords, I can in practice rely on it now, while in principle holding it open to rational criticism.

>><< Faith means not holding a representation (or belief) in
principle open to rational criticism.>>

No, I don't think that's what it means. It's more a decision to take a position and base other parts of your worldview on it. Christians from Thomas More to C.S. Lewis have been quite open to rational criticism of their faith.<<

I am not going to pretend to be knowlegeable about these two, other than a general familiarity with their names and that they are Christian apologists. However, allow me to suggest to you that being tolerant and/or responsive to others' rational criticisms of your articles of faith, is not the same as holding them in principle open to rational criticism. Rationalizing your faith is not the same thing as rationally criticizing your beliefs.

>><< It does not mean belief without

evidence. If that were the case, I could say "I believe in God only until I have evidence against God." That is not faith. Look to Job, the sine qua non
of faith,>>

I don't think you mean sine qua non here. Maybe "epitome"?<<

Thank you for correcting the flaw in my vocabulary. Though partially in error, I don't think I was entirely off-base either. "Epitome" may be a little better. Job was holding belief, or commitment to his supposedly benevolent "God" thingy in contradiction to reason, and I think that is the "acid test", the essential without which there is no faith in the sense that the religious use the word. Many religious may claim faith, and agree that Job is the example, but don't really have it when it comes down to it. Whether they actually have it or not, all of the usages of word by the religious that I have heard are compatible with this.

>><< and you see that faith is not faith unless you are willing to
believe in contradiction to the evidence. That do that requires that you not hold the article of faith in principle open to rational criticism in the first place.>>

No. It requires that your faith be stronger than your faith in the meaning of the evidence. Scientists do this all the time.<<

Scientists may disagree on the meaning of evidence. Good science entails holding these assumptions in principle open to rational criticism, but it doesn't mean that you don't form or operate on assumptions. Practicing good science does not entail faith in the meaning or a particular meaning of any piece of evidentiary data.


Funny how much that sounds like "I am a Christian. Everyone can be Saved, even the many who haven't yet discovered Jesus."<<

Because it sounds that way to you, doesn't make it that way. It is merely the best description, the best label, that I can find to apply to my mental practices. It isn't a banner to be loyal to, but a label that best conveys information about me to others.

Whether you adopt it for yourself, makes no difference to me. But I do not always sit idly by while some people try to characterize my thought processes as something that they are not.

>><<If you have no faith, then you may be one of those too. Having
faith, is antithetical to being a pancritical (or non-justificational) rationalist. But I certainly can have lots of that hope and trust stuff. That is not faith.>>

If you believe that, you're defining faith as "only BAD cherished beliefs." When was the last time you questioned the validity of the scientific method, or logic, or induction?<<

If your cherished uncriticizable belief is that you should always tithe 10% of your income to me, I wouldn't characterize that as BAD. But the fact that somebody holds it in principle uncriticizable still makes it faith. Though I might not tell them so if I thought they would start criticizing it.

And does it really matter when the last time I questioned the validity of the scientific method or logic, or even if I have at all? As long as I hold it in principle open to rational criticism, I am not required to always rationally criticize everything. If a compelling criticism of the scientific method or logic occurs to me, I will entertain it. But being a rational person does not require me to invent criticisms of *everything*. Being a rational person does not mean that I cannot reasonably assume things, or hold things as being practically justified for now.


I can trust somebody even if I have reasons not to.<<

But my guess is that if you are trusting somebody, you have some reason to trust them, even if you may also have some reason not to. If all you have are reasons not to trust someone, my guess is that you won't. That would be the reasonable assumption, unless you have faith in someone. A lot of times we say that we have faith in someone, when we really have reasons to trust them.

If the "somebody" is a very hungry polar bear, I wouldn't go into the polar bear pit unprotected with only a hot dog and trust the polar bear to only eat the hot dog. I would imagine that you wouldn't either.

>><< I can even believe

something in the absence of evidence, but I cannot believe something in contradiction to reason and evidence.>>

No, you can't. That's what I mean by Level 2. You can only hold one self-consistent worldview.<<

That's all anybody can hold, if by "holding" you mean to operate on. I can understand many different worldviews, but I cannot function on the basis of ones that are incompatible with the one that I operate on. If there are multiple self -consistent worldviews that are consistent with mine, then I can, but then they are arguably actually all one self-consistent worldview. I can and do understand others that are incompatible with mine, and can even deceptively act in "compatibility" with them - but deception is exactly what it is. I am still operating compatibly with my own, even though I may be concealing that operation from others.

The only exception that I can imagine, might be somebody with MPD, but even then I have my doubts. It may just be a more sophisticated scheme of deception.