At the end, I bawled my eyes out. Literally collapsed. It was a stunning evocation for me of what it felt like in those days. I wore the loose t-shirt with the rolled up cuffs, didn't have the guts for the crazy hair, and danced to Dead or Alive.
But for the grace of God, I could so easily have perished along with Mark Ashton.
Mark, I hope we have done you proud. I'm proud I could have followed in some small way behind you.
Why did nobody tell me about this brilliance? What other things have you all been hiding from me?
I don't mean to say that these people agree with this post (though they might) though their comments seemed on a similar page. And here's why the post is really kinda sadly wrong.
"I define faith specifically and narrowly as the willful explicit or implicit willingness to believe propositions that the believer perceives to be either unsupported by scientific, historical and/or philosophical evidence and argumentation or has good reason to suspect are undermined by such evidence and argumentation."
That's the quote. Now certainly there are religious believers who have held that their beliefs are of that sort. This point of view is called "fideism", and has a long history. However, it is an extremely rare view, so rare that those who are often thought to hold to it reject it; it's a thing that gets inferred about them even though they don't accept it.
If you ask religious believers why they believe what they do, with almost no exception they proceed to give you a reason for what they believe, what in their life or the world around them leads them to the beliefs they have. And, interestingly, the more thoughtful, the more committed, the more well-read the religious believer, the more likely they are to have a richer account to offer of the reasons for their beliefs.
Now I have no complaint about people who think that this or that person's reasons for religious belief are insufficient, but that's a far cry from what the linked post is concerned with. Remember, the problem isn't belief which happens have insufficient evidence; the problem is the holding it while also thinking there is not sufficient evidence.
So my question is: where did this odd little meme come from? Where did the idea come from that religious faith has anything to do with believing a thing while also thinking it doesn't have evidence? This has nothing to do with the word; "faith" means trust or confidence in someone or something. Where did anyone get this meme that it means this kind of foolish believing without any reasons with a kind of middle finger up at rationality? It doesn't match the professed beliefs of actual religious people, but for a pretty tiny minority.
The linked article is filled with other foolishness too, such as the idea that religious believers are all followers of authority (which is, by the way, contrary to fideism, since "I believe it because X says it's true, and I have reasons to think X is a reliable authority" is not believing X without reasons (even if it happens that X isn't a reliable authority after all).
So where did this made-up little fiction about religion get started?
Suppose I trust John very highly, and John tells me, "hey, there was a nasty accident on the highway." And I report to you: "I think there was a nasty accident on the highway." And now you ask me, "why do you believe that?"
Normal grounds are, "well, because I saw it" or "there were many reliable reports; here, you can read them yourself." But in this case, it's actually, "Because John said so, and I trust John."
Keeping in mind that faith = trust/confidence, this is essentially equivalent to saying, "on faith". Now, there are other questions to ask: "How do you know John told you that" and "Why do you trust John". But note that those are different questions.
It doesn't mean there is no story to be told, or that my belief about the accident is cut off from normal sources of knowledge. Now what about sense of "immune to reasoning?" Well, you're going to have to convince me not that "accidents are really unlikely" or something like that; you're going to have to convince me "John doesn't really exist" or "John can't be trusted because he lies" or "John can't be trusted because he might have gotten this wrong" or "John didn't really say that."
So when someone says, "on faith" as an answer, and the sense is "immune from other reasoning or evidence" that's because the attendant other propositions in the religious context are things like "God doesn't really exist" or "God can't be trusted because he lies" or "God can't be trusted because he might have been mistaken" or "God didn't say that to you."
But those are different propositions, and the person may simply take their opposites to be really about as self-evident as arithmetic propositions. (At least the first three of them.)
- Software Engineer, 2010 - present
- BorderStylo2008 - 2010
- Massachusetts Institute of TechnologySoftware Engineer, 1998 - 2000
- Free Software FoundationHacker, 1990 - 1998
- University of California, IrvineMA, PhD: Philosophy, 2000 - 2007
- Virginia Theological SeminaryTheology, 2007 - 2008
- Carnegie Mellon UniversityMathematics, 1985 - 1985
- University of New MexicoMathematics, 1986 - 1988
- University of Massachusetts BostonBA: Philosophy; Classics, 1996 - 1999
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