The essence of faith

7 08 2006

Kent Newsome: “The essence of faith is to believe what you cannot prove. If you question it, if you can make the argument that it is logically impossible, yet you still believe it- that is faith. The more capable you are to question it, the stronger your faith is when you conclude that you believe it anyway.”

Let me see if I understand this: I can make the argument that the Tooth Fairy or the Flying Spaghetti Monster are logically impossible, but if I still believe in them, this is faith, right?

Then why, if I were to seriously go around and try to convince my friends of the existence of the Tooth Fairy or of the FSM, I’d be rightfully ridiculed whereas, if I did the same in the name of Jesus F. Christ, or of some other invisible big daddy in the sky whose name was spelled in an ancient book, this would be seen as OK?

It takes more faith, I think, to believe in the Tooth Fairy than in Jesus. There is at least some pale shred of historical evidence about Jesus, after all. On the contrary, when we forgot to put some money under our daughter’s pillow one night when she lost one of her teeth, she was very disappointed to still find the tooth the morning after and no money instead. No Tooth Fairy showed up.

But if faith is a good thing, more faith must be better, mustn’t it?

Hmm, well, I suppose I could live with that. I mean, I think I can accept the fact that people believe that having faith in the face of total lack of evidence or even in the face of contrary evidence is a good thing.

What I find less acceptable is when people start using faith to justify their actions. Like when people use their faith in the existence of WMDs to justify a war and when pressed about it tell “God told me to do it”. Like when people use their faith to justify dressing up in C4 and ball bearings and blowing themselves up together with other people who might or might not share their faith. Or crusades, or the Holy Inquisition.

I suppose it really takes faith to do those sort of things. Faith that you can go to heaven for this. Just about enough faith to turn good people into evil ones.

Then I start to think that maybe we’d all be much better off with much less faith and more reason. Just maybe.



One response

7 08 2006

Here here!

Small note though:
I do think in essence Kent’s statement is correct: faith starts where prove and knowledge ends. The crux is however in how you apply the consequences of this:

– You and I would use it as a stimulus to grow prove and knowledge in a scientific way so the amount of topics requiring random ‘faith’ shrinks…

– Others just look at science’s history track of not explaining ‘Everything’ as accumulated evidence of the fact that ever so long(er) there is (and will be) room left for an ever ‘deeper’ faith…

In the end it’s not about what or how much you believe or don’t, it’s about what it makes you do…

(I guess, people could easily counter your paragraph on ‘evil-faith-samples’ with examples showing not so pretty consequences of what was ‘achieved’ in the name of ‘scientific progress’)

PS: I enjoyed the Steven Weinberg link as well.

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