Previously and by several faith affirming encounters, both myself and Alex Black, a young trans blogger, have discussed an array of topics, achieving much, from correctly defining atheism out of Alex’s commonplace definition, to upending the idea that self identifying as Christian is enough to mean people are actually Christian (though the exchanges themselves have had their cagey moments). In today’s conversation however, I moved away from my own blog to discuss with Alex and their followers on their home turf, due to which let’s introduce Alex’s backup for today’s exchange. “Hello Internet!” They begin by writing: “I am a girl who enjoys the art of writing. I love to talk about things that can make a change, things that are useful to others, and things that are beneficial.” In addition, Maritza, as they’re named, often shares their love of veganism, mindfulness and do-goodery with the world, while of course denouncing the evils of religion (especially those of Christianity). “Come and enter my thoughts!” They ask, though before doing so, let’s read an article from Alex Black, as it’s their article which will be the backdrop for our discussion.
For humans tell me so.
It took me a long time to realize this, but the only source I have to go on for what is or isn’t the word of God is the word of humans. And different humans say different words are the words of God. Hell, different humans can’t even agree on what god or gods exist, and even among people who agree that a specific god exists, they still disagree about what that god says. So when somebody utters phrases such as “Don’t take my word for it, it’s in the Bible”, it sounds ridiculous to me, because they are still asking me to take their word (or the word of other humans) for it that those words are actually the words of God.
This is a realization I first came to when reading Abul A’la Maududi’s “Towards Understanding Islam”. At the time, I had been looking for a book that explained Islam from a Muslim point of view. This book certainly did that. It also contained a lot of arguments that Islam is right. Some of these arguments appealed to emotion (e.g. unbelievers are misguided fools), or had other flaws, but the book is well written. I disagreed with the thesis, but it wasn’t necessarily easy to point out flaws in the arguments.
One of my most deeply held values is that I should be willing to consider that I might be wrong, and that I should not dismiss evidence or arguments just because I don’t like the conclusions. In fact, if I’m feeling that unpleasant sensation of cognitive dissonance, that I don’t like what this person is saying but can’t quite pinpoint why they must be wrong, that is when I should be paying especially close attention, and not just dismiss their ideas because I don’t like them.
I’m not perfect at following this ideal, of course, but I think I did pretty well with Maududi’s book. It was not an easy read at all. I frequently had to stop and think, and I took a number of breaks from reading, because investigating those cognitive dissonance feelings (or even just having them at all) can be pretty exhausting. Eventually, however, I realized. The only assurance I have that God said, or thought, or did as Maududi said… was that Maududi and some other Muslims said so.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to Islam. I’ve been told countless times that I should believe the Bible because it is the word of God. It isn’t God who told me I should believe the Bible because it is his word (though, if that had happened, I wouldn’t be doubting his existence in the first place). It’s humans who told me this.
The Bible itself was even written by humans (and translated, and transcribed, and preserved, and put together as a single collection of works, with humans choosing which works to include or omit). Christians have told me that the Bible is divinely inspired, that God guided the writers’ hands, or something. Again, I only have the word of humans that this collection of human writings is divinely inspired. Some people claim that the Bible is inerrant and perfect, and they know it was written by God because of how perfect it is. I’m really not seeing it. To me, it reads like a collection of works written by humans at various different points in history.
And given that so many humans disagree so thoroughly with each other about what God says, even within the same religion (by focusing on different statements as being important, and interpreting them in different ways, with no way to just go ask God to say which interpretation is better), I really don’t see why I should accept any of it without proof that God actually said what some people say he said. And it always does come down to what some humans say God said (barring God deigning to speak to me in person, or give some sign about which words are his).
Maritza chimes in soon after: Religion isn’t always about facts. It’s based on faith, so it’s funny how some religious people try to establish their religion as “logical and factual” when it really isn’t. Religion can never be proven, so the choice is yours to follow it or not. I’m sure you already know my views on that though.
Alex replies, though apparently misreading the original point: Yes. You’re not even the only person who reads my blog who sees it that way, and a number of people I know offline share the same viewpoint. I disagree, but I am happy that people with this viewpoint usually don’t try to force their religion on me.
I don’t see religious belief as a choice because I did not experience my religious beliefs or lack thereof as a choice. There is some level of choice involved in shaping your beliefs (choosing to listen to or ignore people who disagree with you, for example), but you can’t just suddenly decide to change your beliefs the way you might decide to change your clothes, or your name.
But, of course, not everyone has the same experiences as me. If someone experienced their beliefs as a choice, I’m not going to try to tell them they’re wrong. They know more about their own experiences than I do. I might ask for more details or question exactly what they mean by choice in that context, though.
It would be funny how people try to claim their unprovable beliefs as fact if they didn’t keep trying to make them into law or force them onto others :S Maybe I’m a bit cynical and jaded, but I’m really tired of dealing with people who try to shove their religion down my throat.
Maritza returns with what reads like a variant of the genetic fallacy: I meant that you personally have the choice to have a religion or not. I agree that many people do not have the choice. They are born into a family of heavily religious people and since they don’t see the other side, it’s kind of like that religion is their only choice. I didn’t mean to disagree with you, I’m just saying that religion is faith based, not logical or factual.
I agree with everything you said. It is hard for religion to be a choice. I’m lucky that my parents were not heavily religious, so I had the choice to choose.
My reply hereafter: Maritza, in your comment you’re misusing “faith” as it relates to religious belief, furthermore, by your message reading “It’s based on faith”, due to which you immediately conclude: “so it’s funny how some religious people try to establish their religion as “logical and factual” when it really isn’t.” it’s shown you imagine faith as the opposite of (or being at odds with) reason and evidence. Yet, you do know what the actual opposite of reason is, right? It’s irrationality. In addition, the opposite of faith would be distrust (not logic or reason).
So, your above message is factually in error (and plainly misleading). Of course people continue to use the very same definition of faith to mean trust today, for example, you have faith a meal served to you by family, friends or acquaintances hasn’t been tainted through rat poison, now, you have no mathematical proof the food isn’t poisoned, you have rationally grounded faith it’s not. Faith isn’t blind as you appear to think, rather faith to mean trust properly grounded in what you have seen, heard and generally experienced can and often is both factual and rational! Wouldn’t you agree? Faith isn’t an irrational blind belief (that’s a crude invented caricature), it’s trust properly formed by way of experience. I hope this message finds you well.
Despite mocking the Christian orthodox, fundamentalist, or whatever they would like to be named, Maritza then takes refuge in the definitions of nominal Christians: Firstly, Old School Contemporary, I hope you know that I am not coming from a place of malice. I am simply stating what I have observed from personal experience, and yes, I am biased, but so are you, and so is Midori Skies, and so is everybody who lives on this planet. However, there is a difference between being biased and stating something that has a logical reason behind it. Many people, including religious people, at least agree with me that religion does not have any facts. Also, there are multiple definitions of faith. I’d just like to point that out. There is a difference between having faith in your best friend and having faith in a mystical unicorn. I said this, and I will say it again. Religion is not based on facts. Religion came from philosophy. Religion was created in an attempt to explain the unexplained, hence no facts. I appreciate your comment, but I stand by what I said. I didn’t mean to start a whole debate, so don’t get hurt if I don’t respond again. I wish you the best.
By way of quoting her, my reply reads: “I am simply stating what I have observed from personal experience, and yes, I am biased, but so are you, and so is Midori Skies, and so is everybody who lives on this planet.”
A teacher writing to me out of the United Kingdom recently misused “bias”, as I believe you too have, since you’re not writing to say Alex, yourself or I are universally biased, rather you’re meaning to say we’re biased on the subject of interpreting faith. But to write the above means you’ve only disqualified your own opinion! Neither me nor Alex need say we’re compromised by bias on the subject of how to interpret faith as it relates to certain religions (nor could you accuse either me or they of bias without first knowing our background knowledge). So for you to write the above means you’ve only thrown doubt upon yourself. Neither me nor Alex need say we’re compromised by bias on the subject of how to interpret faith as it relates to certain religions (they might).
Rather, to pinpoint bias means merely to search the thing out as an inclination in somebody else. It’s behavior, and due to being behavior whether or not an actual term or viewpoint is being compromised by bias would rest entirely upon an individual subject’s background knowledge. Possessing sufficient background knowledge and insisting upon a course of action contrary to said background knowledge would then mean they’re being compromised by something other than the relevant knowledge. Meaning to accuse people of bias would only be appropriate given their warrant (or the lack thereof) to believe as they do. Rational warrant would be the deciding factor. Take for example an ancient thinker who by observing the apparent motion of the sun and planets comes to the conclusion that the planet upon which they reside is stationary. They’re mistaken, though nobody would say they’d had an unjustified bias in favor of concluding how they had.
When you flippantly accuse others (the entire world even) of being biased you’re saying they have made their choice without taking into account the available body of relevant facts, moreover you’re saying in substitute of the relevant facts available the accused has substituted something irrelevant from which they’ve drawn their opinion (how could you know that?).
There is a difference between having faith in your best friend and having faith in a mystical unicorn.
Now, your category error shouldn’t be made into a believer’s problem, right? Just because in your mind you have classed God (so it would appear) as a “mystical unicorn”, or mistakenly believe they are somehow analogous, that’s your mistake (not their problem). The inference from apparent lack of evidence for God to atheism is fallacious. “I see none” therefore “there is none” is clearly faulty. Alex does this too with the Bertrand Russell teapot example, about which I’m going to explain. Faith, bias and now unicorns, you’re aware of the properties which go to make up “a unicorn”, right? Unicorns as Rich Deem writes would reflect electromagnetic radiation (i.e., light). Therefore had someone said to me “I have faith in unicorns”, my reply could only be “Faith grounded in?” Because they have nothing to build their faith upon and plenty of evidence against. Perhaps to save your criticism critics of belief in God could claim the unicorn is invisible: “Is it possible to determine whether or not invisible unicorns exist somewhere in the universe? Technically, it would be very unlikely that any organism would be invisible. The only reasonable chemical basis for living organisms in this universe is carbon-based life. This would ensure that unicorns would “always” be visible.”
You rightly expect to find an elephant in your room when someone says they’re in there, you don’t however expect instant confirmation if the same person says there’s a flea or fly in the room. So to say “I can’t see the elephant, thus neither the elephant nor the fly is here!” isn’t in any way accurate.
“I said this, and I will say it again. Religion is not based on facts. Religion came from philosophy.”
The late Christopher Hitchens wrote otherwise, saying instead religion pre-dated philosophy: “Religion is part of human make-up. It’s also part of our cultural and intellectual history. Religion was our first attempt at literature, the texts, our first attempt at cosmology, making sense of where we are in the universe, our first attempt at healthcare, believing in faith healing, our first attempt at philosophy.” Religion even began before agriculture based upon our most recent findings. So, you can write of philosophy being originally drawn from religion, but not religion from philosophy. Also, as for you writing “I have said this” (you have), and “I will say it again” (you probably shall), that simply means for however many times you have written it you will be mistaken that many times. Writing an error one time or one million times wouldn’t make the error more or less wrong.
“Religion was created in an attempt to explain the unexplained, hence no facts.”
You’re mistaken (or at least making faulty assumptions) in two ways. Firstly, you’re assuming religion in its entirety or inception is an invention of humanity, you have offered nothing to show this claim isn’t yet another product of your rampant bias. 😛 Secondly, to assume Religion with a capital R has to it some unified reason for being created is absurd, rather religion would have as many reasons for being either revealed or created as the God or human inventor had desire/creativity.
In concluding: Honestly I’ve little doubt you’re generally a kindly and caring person, meaning when you write you’re not malicious I totally agree, you’re just ignorant. You want to write about how religious people are irrational and behave in “funny” ways, yet to my criticism you reply by misunderstanding basic logic, pop history and the idea that you’ll take your ball and go home because someone has pointed out you’re wrong. At least for most modern ignorants (i.e. racists) they plainly say to a minority of people they hate the black/Hispanic or Irishmen on account of their perceived [white] superiority, you however hide your feelings of superiority behind pop history, pseudoscience, psychobabble and whatever other sturdy structure of rhetoric can hold the weight of your own hubris.
You’re not loving when you caricature, mischaracterize and belittle the beliefs of others. You have done all three. I look forward to your reply.
Alex returns so to defend their friend’s conclusions: Hello again OSC. Maritza has it right. Everyone has bias. It’s part of being human. Having bias doesn’t automatically make a person wrong, though. Also, I find your argument disingenuous in the way you switch back and forth between one meaning of a word and another. Faith can mean trust, or it can mean belief without conclusive evidence. So no, you can’t just assign one word as the opposite of faith, because it has more than one meaning!
You misunderstood Maritza’s point if you think she was calling your god a unicorn. She clearly stated that she was trying to illustrate different meanings of the word “faith”. When a person has faith in a friend, then faith is being used to denote trust. When a person has faith in unicorns, then faith is being used to denote belief.
In any case, I have had more than one Christian tell me straight out that they have no proof of their god’s existence. It then follows that their faith in their god is of the “belief without proof” type, though they might also have faith in the sense of trust. If your faith is not of the “belief without proof” sort, then please, show me the conclusive evidence you have for your god, that I might learn and have the option of dedicating myself to your god.
Maritza’s cringeworthy approval hereafter: You explained it a lot better than I could have, so thank you for that. I agree 100%. What a great and thoughtfully written response!
Untangling the web of doubletalk, which Alex, to their credit, is fairly consistent with, my reply reads like so: ‘Maritza has it right. Everyone has bias. It’s part of being human. Having bias doesn’t automatically make a person wrong, though.’
Would you mind interacting with anything (anything at all) I actually wrote on the subject of bias as an inclination with regards to a particular subject? Because the question is whether or not a person is biased (i.e not taking into account relevant data and deciding based upon irrelevant data) with regards to a certain subject, not some sort of blanket claim to everyone experiencing a bias.
Also, I find your argument disingenuous in the way you switch back and forth between one meaning of a word and another. Faith can mean trust, or it can mean belief without conclusive evidence. . . .So no, you can’t just assign one word as the opposite of faith, because it has more than one meaning!
Whose meaning would be the pertinent question, Alex. Maritza wrote: ‘Religion isn’t always about facts. It’s based on faith, so it’s funny how some religious people try to establish their religion as “logical and factual” when it really isn’t.’ So, Maritza is choosing to belittle a specially selected group of believers who do write faith to mean trust! Writing “logical and factual” means of course that that particular section of the believing population claim to trust based upon reasonable pre-conditions and evidences, hence their faith in God (oops capital letter 😛) [a pet hate of Alex’s] is indeed a trust based belief. Maritza first applies her use of faith (blind belief), then continued to belittle a believing group who aren’t using her definition. Imagine a reply of mine that read like so: “Asexuality means being sexually attracted to toddlers, so it’s really funny when Alex Black says they aren’t into little kids.” You’d first reply “That’s not how I use the word asexuality! Why are you bashing me with a definition I don’t even use?” To which I (AKA Maritza) replies: “Well, I know some people who do use the word that way.” It’s irrelevant if others use the word in that sense because I’m using the slur to undermine you (who clearly doesn’t use it that way).
You misunderstood Maritza’s point if you think she was calling your god a unicorn. . . She clearly stated that she was trying to illustrate different meanings of the word “faith”.
To illustrate a difference in meaning would mean isolating said difference. So, let’s do that. According to Maritza (and very probably yourself) Religion is based upon their definition of faith (belief without proof/evidence), that’s claim one, having faith in a friend is unlike the faith one has in their religion/God (claim two), but why is one sort of belief justified and the other not, because supposedly the unjustified faith is akin to believing in something absurd or clearly untrue (i.e. unicorns!)
So, is the claim “belief in religion is akin to belief in unicorns” being made, or perhaps it’s that they’re saying “belief in God is not unlike believing in unicorns”. Well, clearly since your original post is in relation to Christianity, Judaism and even Islam the challenge is “To believe in God is akin to belief in unicorns”, because each of these belief systems largely consider their religion a set of facts and duties as dedicated to humanity by God wherein They reveal various truths about who They are. Rather than having faith in the religion the sorts of believers which are fair game for attack have faith in the God (i.e the source their religion) who is revealed by way of Their revelation to humankind.
So, an earlier poster most certainly went so far as to compare God to a unicorn, not to say they were one (a consequence being belief in God is painted to be as credible as belief in unicorns). Hence my need to correct their clear error. Therefore when the poster wrote: “There is a difference between having faith in your best friend and having faith in a mystical unicorn.” They were again insulting the beliefs (even the intelligence) of billions upon billions of people.
In any case, I have had more than one Christian tell me straight out that they have no proof of their god’s existence. It then follows that their faith in their god is of the “belief without proof” type, though they might also have faith in the sense of trust.
The above would be mathematical proof, Alex. There are an array of things you’re reasonable to believe without having “proof” as so defined in the mathematical sense of the word. You “know” or are reasonable to conclude Maritza is a real person when they could be a bot, you’re reasonable to conclude the existence of other minds besides your own, the reality of the external world and a dynamic concept of how time operates. All of these are beliefs without proof, they’re both beliefs without “proof” and justified beliefs backed by rational warrant. In fact, even belief (trust) in logic, the applicability of maths and science are predicated on a wealth of unprovable assumptions, assumptions we are incapable of proving without reasoning in a circle (which is again no proof).
As for your very pointed challenge to produce some proof or evidence for the things in which I believe I could point you to your own copy of Frank Turek’s I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, since if I remember right you did explain you’d been given a copy (correct?) Of course to explain to you myself these various arguments would only be helpful if you really wanted and were open to hearing and having your mind changed on the subject. You wanted a change in your life before, right, a transition, and if somebody offered you said transition without you first desiring the thing you’d find the offer rather unattractive. Wouldn’t you agree?
If you would like to worship my God (as if to joke and write they were mine, rather than we His) would mean to allow Them into your life. It’s about volition. By even agreeing to explain to you this or that God would mean I agree to you being a person with an intellectual issue with belief in God, that rather than simply an emotional one. So you can tell me yourself, if God as defined in the Judeo-Christian tradition was shown to you to be true on a level involving arguments and evidence, would you then put your trust into the mix and worship them, perhaps even change various behaviours of yours? Or would you throw yourself into an echo chamber of sorts, avoiding people who disagree and writing “gee whiz, great reply!” to people who backed up your own faulty assertions?
The famous quote from Blaise Pascal goes: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” About which I couldn’t agree more. Although in the above it’s the religion of secular humanism which grants the atheists their justification for mockery, hatred and misrepresentation of the faithful believer, and aren’t the above people perfectly happy to do so. After several conversations, Alex Black has gone offline, which isn’t abnormal by their own admission, although it’s sad, as their internet history reads as simply dislike of Christianity waxing and waning, there’s no foundation upon which happiness is to be built. Maritza’s contribution certainly isn’t more satisfying, rather their belittling, smug and particular hatred has been covered by a mask of piety and intellect, both of which you can be the judge on whether or not they’re lacking.
― T. C. M