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Faith?

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irishrosem

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Contingencies of faith?

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Since this discussion has now diverted to a more general topic, I'm hoping no one will mind if I throw out another question on faith. This is directed more to the theists. How did you get faith? Or perhaps the question should be how did you recognize your faith? I've been considering the issue of the afterlife in much the same way miracles are being discussed above. If it could be, in some way, proven that there is no afterlife will people lose faith? (I recognize that this is rhetorical) Does faith hinge on the afterlife, or, likewise, does faith hinge on miracles? I considered the people around me. In my mind their faith is three pronged. First they have faith in a supreme being, a cognizant and interested force that has a concern for humanity. Second, and related to the first, they have faith in life as an intentional (intelligent) design, a gift, from this supreme being, to be valued. Last they have faith in the soul and all its trappings. This would include the question of an afterlife, but would also include the value of morality and the importance of striving for good. I've confirmed with two theists in particular that their faith does not hinge on the belief of an afterlife. To the best that they can consider the rhetorical absolute proof of no afterlife, they believe they would still have faith. I believe it of them, and assumed it before I asked.Many, I'd say most, of the theists I encounter never truly question their faith. (By question I mean ask why they are faithful.) They are faithful just as a default, as an effect of the way they were raised. If you look at many second generation, non-practicing theists of sorts, I think they still tend to associate with their forbearers' religions, or at least with the belief in a deity. The first generation, non-practicing theists I encounter almost always answer the "what religion are you" question with "I was raised..." But I don't think many of these people truly consider if they are faithful, acknowledge that they are so and develop any reasoning for this. In contrast, I get the distinct feeling that most of the theists (I'm thinking of two in particular) on this forum have thoroughly explored their faith (not just what their faith constitutes but why they are faithful). I think you would have to in order to speak comfortably and intelligently about religion on a predominantly atheist forum. I imagine that at some point in your life you acknowledged that you have faith and have proceeded accordingly. So I guess my question is can you describe that moment/moments? Where did your faith come from? How did you know or recognize that you are faith-filled? One more clarification though. I am not speaking of proof; the concept of faith does not even consider proof. Faith, by definition, is absent the consideration of proof. I recognize this is a request for descriptions of both thoroughly personal experiences and terribly intangible concepts. But, if you don't mind giving it a shot...
Auke van der Velden

Re: Contingencies of faith?

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Though it may not be my place to intervene i will do just that.All of you have transformed the story from an individual encounter to a general discussion. I don't know if that's the path to follow.The woman obviously had a personal problem and succeeded in putting it aside because of her faith. At least for a while as Frank stated. In this way her beliefs helped her (i'm not addressing the semantical issue on belief/faith/religion) and she seemed to be doing better. Although I believe that this unfortunately was a belief in an outside presence instead of a belief in herself i still value her beliefs for doing just that. And that's where the empasis should be i think. I understand that this is not the forum to discuss that. One should probably go to a psychology forum to probe the motives for this behaviour.After having said that I arrive at another point. And maybe that's worth a topic of its own.I enjoy the discussions you're having but to me it seems like needle-picking (in Holland we say ant-fucking). I don't mean to sound demeaning but all of you so easily digress to a biblical discussion about miracles -and even the origins of one's beliefs- that i start doubting the veracity of all of your claims.I wonder if you thrive on the contradiction / dichotomy of theists and atheists?One example of this is that I'd never heard of theists before i stumbled upon this site. That may very well be shortcoming of mine.And that directs me to the real question i have in mind.Is there such a great difference between Europe and the United States?I say this because i dont believe that such a discussion as you're having could take place in Europe (except between people studying theology). And I am talking about the theists as well as the atheists.We are more secularised than you are i think and certainly not prone to putting any faith in litteral renderings of the bible. Even the most fanatic believers among us don't do that.And i am glad we don't suffer the consequences you do (or did with the Bush-government).Do you think my claim, in spite of all the things we share, that there's a huge gap between Europe and the United States is a valid one? That we are more different than i'd like to think?Well that was a bit of an aside.You needn't respond and i will get back 'on topic' for my last remark.quote://irishrose: How did you get faith? Or perhaps the question should be how did you recognize your faith?I'm not so certain that faith is something I have, or got, or have to get. I think it is more akin to a trusting attitude about life (and death) that motivates certain kinds of behavior...in my case, hopefully but imperfectly, behavior that changes the way things are (or have always been) into what they should be. Faith, in this sense, is a kind of fidelity to a shared hope and vision: a kind of loyalty and commitment that carries one forward when all else says, "Turn around...stop...give in...give up...it's a lost cause...why bother...who gives a damn.." Faith is what it means to give a damn about something intimately important, but precariously uncertain and often under direct attack.I think faith must be nurtured and developed, and is always tied to relationships: it is rooted in the ways that significant others have validated my worth and lifted me out of faceless obscurity and into personal integrity....from isolated ego to engaged solidarity. It is never gotten or had, but must be risked and attempted again and again...in much the same way that love between friends needs caring intention and focused attention.I've discovered a kind of endless source of personal excitement, intellectual challenge, psychological enrichment, political insight, historical depth, and hopefilled solidarity as a result of my faith: and plan to nurture, challenge, and deepen it as long as my mind is able and my heart is willing.It has its roots in family trauma, personal tragedy, cultural blindness, ideological presumption, class conflict, gender bias...the whole mix of human frailties and ignorances that inflict terror and sorrow on ourselves and our world.It also has roots in that seemingly universal and ancient desire to rise above limitations, push beyond impediments, to seek emancipation, liberation, and freedom. Close to this is the desire to stop the bully, confront the tyrant, silence the braggart, deflate the pompous, and expose the naked emperor. It is never far from the hunger for justice and essential to delivering mercy.//I have all that and i don't believe in your christian god.Why do you need it?Please bear in mind that all of this is written in a eurocentric catholic background view.
Rich206

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Re: Faith?

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The federal government apparently believes in the power of prayer in healing. I read not too long ago that they were spending something along the lines of $2.3 million or so to study its effectiveness. Personally, I think that's a ridiculous waste of money. I suppose that prayer could have a placebo effect, but that is hardly worth spending millions of the taxpayer's money on.Government Funding Studies on Healing Power of PrayerApparently a lot of people are convinced that it works though. I remember that I once came across Pat Robertson's television network while surfing through cable channels and watched in a kind of horrid fascination as he and two other people read letters from viewers about their attack of gout or whatever and then held hands and prayed for them to recover. I also recall my neighbor's church members showing up to pray over him when he was dying of bone cancer. It was summertime, and I could hear them quite clearly as they shouted praises to the Lord (I think they were Pentecostals or some Evangelical sect.) The poor guy died a couple of days later.And I vividly recall when my maternal grandmother, who went to Mass daily and followed all the rules (even to the point of not eating meat on Friday after Vatican II dropped that), fell ill. She had a number of problems one after the other - she was 93 at the time - and in a moment of frustration once shouted something to the effect of, "God why have you forsaken me?"She never stopped believing though. I think that she thought that her faith was being tested or something. Also the rituals and community activities of the Church were an important part of her life I guess. My mother isn't nearly as faithful as that, but she does still go to Mass every Sunday, and she does seem to enjoy participating in the various Church functions, so apparently it's an important part of her life too.As for myself, I've never had much interest in all of that, not since I was very young anyway. I don't know whether the faith in our family has declined with each generation for any larger reason, or if just sort of worked out that way.
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Re: Faith?

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Auke van der Velden: (in Holland we say ant-fucking)That's just about the funniest thing I've heard all week.I wonder if you thrive on the contradiction / dichotomy of theists and atheists?It does seem to come up a lot around these parts.We are more secularised than you are i think and certainly not prone to putting any faith in litteral renderings of the bible. Even the most fanatic believers among us don't do that.I wouldn't be so sure of that. Fundamentalists religious groups certainly seem to be more prominent in America than in Europe, but that doesn't mean you don't have your share. England is the seat of a great many anti-evolutionist and flat earth societies. And Islamic communities in several parts of Western Europe have called for the state adoption of Shariah law. And let's not even start with Eastern Europe. If you live in Holland, then you live in a particularly secularized part of the Continent, but Holland, so far as I can tell, isn't terribly indicative of the whole of Europe.Do you think my claim, in spite of all the things we share, that there's a huge gap between Europe and the United States is a valid one?There are lots, I'm sure, and the European attitude towards religion may well differ from the American attitude, but the study I've done on the subject (some of it incidental) tends to point me towards the conclusion that the differences aren't quite how you've portrayed them.
irishrosem

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Re: Working definition of faith

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Quote:You're more likely to find that I just don't know how to give an adequate answer to some questions, either because I can't figure out the best way to express what I think, or because I haven't yet decided exactly what I think.Ditto that with regard to my questions. I can't get a firm grasp on what exactly I want to know outside of why some people are religiously faithful and some are not. I'm sure it's a question without an absolute answer, but I wouldn't mind having more of a concrete personal understanding as to why.Quote:I think that's a pretty big problem, and it seems to me that most people would be better off if they gave at least a little thought to what they believed. That's a little pet peeve of mine, and I'm not really sure why it bothers me. People sometimes (often?) seem ignorant about what they believe and why they believe it, especially with regard to religion, it's almost frightening. I just don't think some would necessarily hold the same religious beliefs as their parents if they actually did a bit of soul searching (and I use that term generally). Again, I don't know why this has anything to do with me outside of my guess that, if people truly considered their own religious faith, there wouldn't be such an outcry against atheism. Not to say that people on a large scale would become atheists, rather they, perhaps, could more readily understand why others are.Quote:Unfortunately, on this count, I think pro-active atheists are shooting their own feet. If you go around presenting critical thinking as a sure fire way of killing a person's religious beliefs, then a lot of people are going to treat critical thinking as the enemy. Hmmm...interesting thought. I imagine you're right. If, as many atheists believe, reason is the tool for atheist thinking, then critical thinking should be the goal, not atheism. Personally, I think that goal is quite enough. If people were, on a large scale, open-minded, critical thinkers, religion would not so readily pervade public and government life.Quote:Basically, I'm just trying to side-step a lot of connotations that have been linked to faith in the last, oh, say, 300 years or so. I will absolutely try not to make assumptions with regard to religious faith. If you feel that I am, please let me know so I can get a clearer picture. This effort will be useless if it is mired in prejudices and assumptions.Quote:We can talk about what qualifies as my faith when we've gotten around to agreeing on what faith is. I don't feel terribly comfortable throwing that word around when it's very likely that I'll be trying to mean one thing and you'll be understanding another.So let's get down to semantics with regard to faith; this is my perception. Generally faith constitutes a firm belief. When speaking of having faith in people it also connotes the idea of trust, which I think is also informed by faith's Latin roots. Religious faith means belief and trust in a deity. Where my presumptions are likely to lie is religious faith always meant true belief without proof and without questioning. (Nobody wants to be a doubting Thomas.) Also my faith was always wrapped up in my belief in the Bible, with the added dogma of the catholic church. Last, deity always means for me an "intelligent" being with an interest in humanity.As a jumping off, can we pursue religious faith as a belief and trust in an interested deity?Quote:...the basic premises on which we build any kind of elaborate reasoning must necessarily be taken on faith. I have to think more about this statement before I can respond. I'm going to throw out an example to make sure I understand what you mean by this statement. Let's stick with faith in family. I have faith in my family, that the relationships I have with them are good for me. That strong, healthy families, in general, are good for society. I assume your position on this is that this belief is not grounded in psychological, social reasoning based on the significance of family. It is first taken on faith that family is good. Am I right there?Quote:But it's a mistake to think that all elements of religion are faith. Some are the logical elaborations of those faith-engendered premises. And I think that's where you start to arrive at belief.Ah, I think I see what you mean in your distinction between faith and belief. So faith would be your ground zero. The point where you step up and say I have religious faith, according to the very general working definition above. The rest is the development of your belief system based on that groundwork? If so, my curiosity centers on religious faith, not beliefs. I have a pretty solid understanding of how religious beliefs develop, I just need to know where and how that point A, ground zero occurs.Quote:...more on generalizations than any serious inquiry into the nature of religious belief and practice.I wonder if this has to do with the assumption that when you talk about faith, or religion, you must be inclusive of all different sects. I am very much aware that my idea of faith is bound by my religious upbringing. Unless I equally delve into all the world's different religions, I will be more influenced by my original knowledge of religion and faith. Harris, on the other hand, writes a book crying out for the end of faith. He then feels it necessary to touch on every major type of religion, and yet never truly narrows the scope of the concept of faith.Quote:Auke van der Velden: I enjoy the discussions you're having but to me it seems like needle-picking (in Holland we say ant-fucking). Velden, welcome aboard. I enjoy discussions of ideas even if they become discussions in semantics, and can appear to be insignificant. That being said, looking around the world, a discussion of faith doesn't seem to be unimportant.
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Re: Working definition of faith

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Quote:People sometimes (often?) seem ignorant about what they believe and why they believe it, especially with regard to religion, it's almost frightening. I just don't think some would necessarily hold the same religious beliefs as their parents if they actually did a bit of soul searching (and I use that term generally). Again, I don't know why this has anything to do with me outside of my guess that, if people truly considered their own religious faith, there wouldn't be such an outcry against atheism.There is another reason that this becomes a problem and in fact why the term Christian bothers me as a whole.When someone claims that they are Christian (weather they are practicing, questioning or indifferent) they become counted among the evangelists and bible thumpers seeking to show their majority.This perceived majority has allowed countless stupid laws to be passed and has also aided in the infiltration of higher government. It is a problem that has nearly destroyed the education system in this country with intelligent design desguised as science, movie and book restrictions. and these are just a few examples. People of little or questionable faith, who have never really questioned these ideas feel comfortable with the idea of other "Christians" making decisions for them. But these people have failed to determine the nature of the other's Christianity or even their own. But Christians are good people so why worry?On the other hand, when some of these people (like say, the fanatical wackos) claim that they are Christians they are discounted as being not proper Christians.It is a fuzzy numbers game that has been abused in the politics of this country for a long time.later Edited by: Frank 013 at: 11/20/06 11:35 pm
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Re: Working definition of faith

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irishrosem: I can't get a firm grasp on what exactly I want to know outside of why some people are religiously faithful and some are not. I'm sure it's a question without an absolute answer, but I wouldn't mind having more of a concrete personal understanding as to why.I'll do what I can to help out in that regard. And for contrast's sake, you may want to keep tabs on the Asana thread. I can't imagine a person who came about their religious beliefs in a way more diametrically opposed to me own.People sometimes (often?) seem ignorant about what they believe and why they believe it, especially with regard to religion, it's almost frightening.Maybe the best way to approach an understanding of why this happens to be so is to draw a distinction between personal belief and the systems associated with some beliefs. So, for instance, a particular Christian strongly believes in the death and resurrection of Christ and the forgiveness of sins, but holds to the Virgin Birth mostly because it's associated with the firmly held belief by the doctrines from which he learned the former. Taken on its own, the same person might reject the Virgin Birth, but because one belief seems to follow the other, he uncritically upholds the former.That's all hypothetical, of course, and I'm sure there are some people who have thought a great deal about the Virgin Birth and still believe it fervently, but you get the gist, I hope.Again, I don't know why this has anything to do with me outside of my guess that, if people truly considered their own religious faith, there wouldn't be such an outcry against atheism.My guess is that the general uproar you hear over atheism is related to the historical association of religion with civil society. Maybe we've progressed beyond that association, but from my reading it does seem at least probable that, in previous societies, civil religion was integral to the cohesiveness of the community. And even if we have progressed beyond that basis for integration, it would seem that some people still perceive some need for it.If people were, on a large scale, open-minded, critical thinkers, religion would not so readily pervade public and government life.So long as there is religion, it will probably continue to seep into public and government life. That isn't necessarily a bad thing -- people also carry their aesthetic and philosophical biases into government and society. What I think is desperately needed, however, is a more complex way of mediating between one's personal beliefs and one's involvement in government. Should a senators religious conviction bear on their work in the Senate? Yeah, sure, particularly when that Senator's moral values are intimately tied up with their religion. But religion shouldn't serve as a form of auto-pilot, and knowing his religious background shouldn't necessarily stand in the place of a decision making process. That we lack that critical tension in so many cases is the really worrisome part about the role religion plays in government.Religious faith means belief and trust in a deity.That's where our understanding of faith really starts to diverge -- either that, or that's the first symptom of a prior divergence. The idea of "trust" is a useful way into the idea of faith, but for me, it doesn't quite get to the root of it.For example, one thing that I've argued over and over on BookTalk is that all logical arguments are ultimately based on premises that are irreducible, and which the person arguing the point simply takes on faith. That isn't necessarily obvious just from looking at any given argument. Thus, if I were to present the argument that A, therefore B, we might think that we have sufficient logical grounds for supposing A to be true. But how do we justify that belief? With another logical argument: a, therefore A, or something to that effect. And how do we know that a is true? In effect, in order to rationally justify any given premise, we have to make recourse to another logical argument, which potentially leads to infinite regress. I say "potentially" advisedly, because, in reality, we ultimately come to a point where the premises become so fundamental to the way we think that we're practically incapable of really breaking them down into any form of logical justification. That hardly matters, though, as we very rarely argue that far back. For the most part, we're just willing to take certain premises on faith.And in that sense, I don't think faith is really trust so much as simply a practical lack of foundation. It isn't that we've chosen to trust a given premise rather than distrust it. We simply can't go on without it, so we're left with the choice of going on or not. If we really had to break everything down into a logical reason, we'd be entirely incapacitated by our very finitude.Ultimately, what I'm getting at here -- and I'm skipping a whole lot of intermediate stuff to get to the gist -- is that religious belief probably starts at a more root level than the pretty well-developed idea of God. In other words, people don't buy into a religion because they believe, a priori, in God. Belief in God, rather, is probably the result of a whole lot of other, practically unarticulated beliefs. Or to put it another way, belief in God requires a foundation, so the best place to look for faith in religion is far below the level at which a person says, "God exists."Where my presumptions are likely to lie is religious faith always meant true belief without proof and without questioning.I don't think that's born out by any kind of critical inquiry into the realities of religion. The history of religion, in particular, is full on instances of religion as a creative activity. Rather, it looks to me that the notion of religion as unquestioning submission to someone else's revelation is more a byproduct of the Catholic Church's tendency (itself inherited, as so much of the structure and behavior of the Church was, from the Roman Empire) towards a universal agreement on matters of religion. But to take that as indicative of religion itself likely distorts our understanding of religion as much as taking modern European civilization as indicative of the whole of human civilization.It is first taken on faith that family is good. Am I right there?If I understand you correctly, what you're suggesting is that we believe a certain thing, then support a whole slew of supposedly rational arguments in support of a belief that we were willing to take on faith anyway. Does that sound about right?At any rate, that's not what I was getting at. My point -- and I hope I made it fairly clear above -- was that you simply can't have a logical argument without premises, and that those premises are ultimately grounded in something other than logic. There is no completely logical argument.A little background on this. BookTalk has actually been really helpful in helping me sort out my understanding of faith, and to test ideas regarding what faith is and how it works. Of particular importance were a set of threads in which I discussed and debated faith with a guy who went by the tag Interbane, who still checks in from time to time. Those threads weren't widely read, so far as I can tell, so most people probably don't remember this, but he and I played around with a distinction that seems pretty useful in considering faith in most circumstances. The distinction is between simply faith and complex faith. Simple faith, as I proposed it, is the faith that covers those irreducible gaps, the faith we have in premises that we're indisposed towards probing any further. Complex faith is a faith that's constructed, mostly by means of logic, out of premises of simple faith. Thus, you can point to the Catholic Church as a instance of very complex faith, but it's ultimately founded on simple faiths that are, by virtue of their centrality, very difficult to point to or describe.I would say that, conceived as a belief, the claim that family is good is a kind of low order complex faith, and that it's probably founded on a set of premises which are difficult to surmise because they're so fundamental to the way you think about topics like "good" and "family".If so, my curiosity centers on religious faith, not beliefs. I have a pretty solid understanding of how religious beliefs develop, I just need to know where and how that point A, ground zero occurs.That, I think, is problematic, and not just in terms of religion. Because simple faith takes place at such a low level of cognition that it's often difficult for a person to recognize that they're asserting anything at all -- that it isn't, in fact, just the obvious fact of reality. And that is by no means unique to religion. We take mathematics as something obviously existent in the universe, despite the fact that it's really just a bunch of symbols that seem to correspond to the way reality works. I don't mean to deny or even question mathematics in saying so -- I just want to point to the fact that our faith in the basic premises of mathematics is so central to the way we think that we have a difficult time questioning it or even articulating it. So far as I can tell, that's the nature of all belief and knowledge.So the big hurdle in attempting to understand why some people have religious (complex) faith and some don't is trying to get at what you might think of as the atomic level of faith. We all feel fairly confidant that we're made up of atoms, but we can't point to any particular atom in our bodies. Or maybe we can, but it sure as hell ain't easy.I enjoy discussions of ideas even if they become discussions in semantics, and can appear to be insignificant.Semantics are important to any discussion, if for no other reason than that we don't always use words in compatible ways. Semantic discussion becomes contemptible when it's semantics for semantics sake, or when discussing how a word ought to be used is nothing more than a way of stacking the cards in your own favor.
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Re: Working definition of faith

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Quote:And for contrast's sake, you may want to keep tabs on the Asana thread.Asana and you have one other significant difference than how you arrived at your religious beliefs. When you string words together into a sentence, they make sense. When he strings words together, they make word salad (I think that's how Chris described it). I'm tired of trying to sort the salad. You and I will often disagree with issues of faith. However, I can strive for a better understanding of our differences through the discussion. That is impossible with Asana, recognizing any actual cognizant thought is impossible with Asana. Quote:So, for instance, a particular Christian strongly believes in the death and resurrection of Christ and the forgiveness of sins, but holds to the Virgin Birth mostly because it's associated with the firmly held belief by the doctrines from which he learned the former. In this situation I always saw belief in the Virgin Birth as acceptance of the dogma of the religion they are raised in. My fear, and what I often find, is people accept their belief in Christ himself (and all the trappings you mentioned) in sin, in the soul, in the afterlife, etc. because that is the box in which they are raised, without ever truly investigating the idea for themselves. I guess it is a matter of indoctrination, but it is on this kind of subconscious level. So even people who aren't necessarily raised in any kind of devoted faithful household, still believe in the god/religion of their ancestors. It is the default position. I find such incurious beliefs deplorable. Quote:My guess is that the general uproar you hear over atheism is related to the historical association of religion with civil society. I think it's mostly grounded in ignorance and fear of the unfamiliar. Seriously, I don't give people that kind of credit when it comes to prejudice. If they can't think through their own religious beliefs, they certainly aren't working through their foundation for prejudice.Quote:What I think is desperately needed, however, is a more complex way of mediating between one's personal beliefs and one's involvement in government. Hmmm...okay...??Quote:Should a senators religious conviction bear on their work in the Senate? Yeah, sure, particularly when that Senator's moral values are intimately tied up with their religion. We immensely disagree here. Religious "conviction" should have no influence on government. Conviction is the opposite of curiosity, inquiry and thought; it is assurance and certainty, and religious conviction is blind conviction, absent of sound reasoning and logic. Religious conviction is the antithesis of what should influence the U.S. government, and personal religious conviction is outside the scope of the constitutional framework of a Senator's influence. Quote:Religious faith means belief and trust in a deity.That's where our understanding of faith really starts to diverge -- either that, or that's the first symptom of a prior divergence. The idea of "trust" is a useful way into the idea of faith, but for me, it doesn't quite get to the root of it.By trust, I meant trust in the deity, itself, not trust in its existence. People trust that god is an interested deity. That he has consideration for humanity that sets them apart from animals. That trust is often verbalized in the belief of a soul, an afterlife and prayer. I don't find that religious people merely believe in god, they tend to believe in a relationship between god and themselves. But, according to your explanation below, you wouldn't consider that faith so much as a developed belief. Quote:And in that sense, I don't think faith is really trust so much as simply a practical lack of foundation. It isn't that we've chosen to trust a given premise rather than distrust it. I don't understand how this "practical lack of foundation" results in the development of an intelligent being. How does one go from saying, "I don't know what 'a' to the nth degree is" to saying "it must be a deity"? Or, according to my understanding of your explanation, "...so it must be some foundation of "unarticulated beliefs" which ultimately result in the recognition of a deity." Is religious faith an actual belief in a god/gods or is it just the random naming of the unknown? Mad, how would you define religious faith, generally and personally?Quote:Rather, it looks to me that the notion of religion as unquestioning submission to someone else's revelation is more a byproduct of the Catholic Church's tendency (itself inherited, as so much of the structure and behavior of the Church was, from the Roman Empire) towards a universal agreement on matters of religion. But to take that as indicative of religion itself likely distorts our understanding of religion as much as taking modern European civilization as indicative of the whole of human civilization.No that wasn't my intention. I meant that perceiving faith as being unquestioned was where my bias was likely to lie with regard to religious faith. I am aware of that and try to respond accordingly, but was giving you some insight on where my misperceptions are likely to occur. I did not mean for that to inform a working definition of faith.Quote:Thus, you can point to the Catholic Church as a instance of very complex faith, but it's ultimately founded on simple faiths that are, by virtue of their centrality, very difficult to point to or describe.I'm hesitant to accept the obscurity you infer here. Is it fair for such an intangible concept as the simple faith of religion to have such influence, influence you just wrote of supporting, in public life? Are we to accept that the premise of religious faith is so simply foundational it cannot be defined or argued? I predict your argument would be that all concepts that govern public life are reducible to equally "simple faiths" that are equally "difficult to point to or describe." I'm not sure I agree. Quote:That, I think, is problematic, and not just in terms of religion. Because simple faith takes place at such a low level of cognition that it's often difficult for a person to recognize that they're asserting anything at all -- that it isn't, in fact, just the obvious fact of reality.I'm not sure this isn't an exercise in obfuscation. Religious faith takes place on such a simple level it can't be explained? So we're supposed to just take it on faith that some people have religious faith while others don't? You used math and science speak to explain your point, which, well I'm a humanities student so I am totally ignorant on the subjects. However, science seeks to discover their atomic particles; it does not settle on the answer that it happens at such a simple level it can't be explained. I know we're talking about abstract ideas here, and I love the abstract. I just think it's possible to get a bit more concrete with our language and concepts. As I asked above, how would you define faith? I understand what you meant about the regression of questions to a leaping off point that you define as "simple faith." At some cognitive point, however, the majority of the world's population says "God exists." I would like to understand the reasoning. Or are we to accept there is none?
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re: faith

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irishrosem: In this situation I always saw belief in the Virgin Birth as acceptance of the dogma of the religion they are raised in.It depends on the person. Some people do simply accept whatever dogma is handed to them. I think a totalism of that sort is probably exceedingly rare. It seems entirely more likely to me that the bulk of orthodox religious believers simply don't think too much about the aspects of their religion which they sense they're likely to disagree with.That said, there are logical links between a lot of the elements that an outsider may take as arbitrary. That's especially true of an institution as old and as frequently tested as Catholicism. As such, it is sometimes necessary to take part of the structure intact if you want to maintain the validity of another part. And such maneuvers are hardly unique to religion, as Thomas Kuhn has pointed out.Religious "conviction" should have no influence on government.If a person is religious, then they probably can't draw such clear lines between their personal belief and their public involvement. That's especially so when it comes to moral conviction. Think about it. You've hinted that you have an in depth interest in feminist issues. Can you really separate that interest from your political stance? I don't mean to the degree that you'd prefer a female candidate to a male candidate, but can you really consider an issue like, say, abortion apart from your moral convictions?In the case of a religious believer, the difficulty is that the issues that matter to them are usually bound up with their religion. Thus, for a religious believer like Martin Luther King Jr., the interests of justice are likely inseparable from his religious beliefs. And the same goes for any given Senator. If their religion figures in their determination of what is just and injust, right and wrong, then how can they just sideline their religion when it comes time to do their job?Incidentally, I'd say that the same is true in a very indirect way for secularists. The values they hold dear are, in very large part, an inheritance from an age when religion and the state were socially identical. In the long run, I think it's likely to prove very dangerous for committed secularists to ignore the fact of that inheritance. Someone, at some point, is going to have to make a very big deal out of the geneology of secular values and morals, determine how they're related to their religious ancestors, and determine how to re-situate them such that secularism isn't always just the ghost of religion.By trust, I meant trust in the deity, itself, not trust in its existence.I assumed so, but I still think that fails to grasp what's at stake in religious faith. If nothing else, there's the quibble of historical accuracy. Other cultures have certainly worshiped gods they didn't precisely trust. Religion as a general phenomenon permits of a number of different relationships between the individual and the presumed deity.I don't understand how this "practical lack of foundation" results in the development of an intelligent being.Neither do I, really. Is religious faith an actual belief in a god/gods or is it just the random naming of the unknown? Mad, how would you define religious faith, generally and personally?Belief in god or gods is probably ultimately irrelevant to religion as a phenomenon. There are a lot of religions that name gods, yes, but there are also presumably religions that don't have gods in them. No do I think that religion is particularly preoccupied with the "unknown". That isn't really the point.Ultimately, I think religion occupies itself with providing the foundation for transformation, both personal and cultural. If you really want to understand the role that deities play in religion, I'd say the place to start looking is at the range of possibilities provided by whatever form of deity the religion presupposes.Me: Thus, you can point to the Catholic Church as a instance of very complex faith, but it's ultimately founded on simple faiths that are, by virtue of their centrality, very difficult to point to or describe.Rose: I'm hesitant to accept the obscurity you infer here. Is it fair for such an intangible concept as the simple faith of religion to have such influence, influence you just wrote of supporting, in public life?I'm afraid it doesn't much matter whether or not it's fair. It's unavoidable. As I've said, that sort of structure of belief isn't unique to religion. Once you really start picking away at the ideals and values of modern secular humanism, you find the same obscurity underneath. The studies of Russell, Whitehead and others seem to indicate that mathematics is founded on a similar kind of obscurity. What I'm trying to get at is that, when we talk of simple faith, it's misleading to draw a distinction between the religious and the secular. That's a real distinction, but it occurs on the level of complex belief, not at the level of those premises which undergird all belief.Are we to accept that the premise of religious faith is so simply foundational it cannot be defined or argued?I'd say that just about all elements of faith can be defined or argue, but only by situating them on another set of premises, ergo, but withdrawing them to a further remove. That process is not without its own advantages, but it also complicates things a great deal, which is probably why most people are so reluctant to seriously consider the grounds of their own belief.me: That, I think, is problematic, and not just in terms of religion. Because simple faith takes place at such a low level of cognition that it's often difficult for a person to recognize that they're asserting anything at all -- that it isn't, in fact, just the obvious fact of reality.Rose: I'm not sure this isn't an exercise in obfuscation. Religious faith takes place on such a simple level it can't be explaiI don't mean as a phenomenon. Rather, on the personal level, most people are ultimately going to be unable to point to discrete, nameable elements of faith that have led to their acceptance of a given belief. And I see no reason to limit that to religious belief -- it seems to me indicative of all belief.However, science seeks to discover their atomic particles; it does not settle on the answer that it happens at such a simple level it can't be explained.Science ultimately aims at building a kind of map, but each of the elements of that map are composed of metaphors for things we don't experience directly. (cf. Kuhn, "The Structures of Scientific Revolution"; Ziman, "Reliable Knowledge"; any number of books by Bronowski). Science is ultimately a creative endeavor, and it usually begins by defining the scope of what it's looking for. Distinguishing signal from noise is one of the essential steps in the observational method which forms the core of science, and the categorization of a thing as signal is as much a matter of the scientist's intent as it is of the nature of reality.As I asked above, how would you define faith?The best I can offer is that faith is a) the assumption of a fact for the purposes of moving forward, and b) the structure of belief that rests on that initial foundation. I think that two-part definition is entirely congruent with our ordinary understanding of what it means to have faith, but also has the advantage of allowing us to understand how faith develops in both religious and secular contexts.At some cognitive point, however, the majority of the world's population says "God exists." I would like to understand the reasoning. Or are we to accept there is none?On a personal level, there probably isn't much in the way of reasoning. I'd say that it's fairly common for people raised in a religious household to undergo, fairly early on, some sort of crisis of faith, but that usually ends with them assuming a more personally grounded faith.What's really interesting to me, however, is the historical genesis of the idea of god. Because, without some sort of starting point to the belief, you can't get to the stage where so many people are taking the idea and running with it. Individual acceptance of the notion of God is, in this day and age, probably as much the effect of cultural and personal influences as it is an act of reason -- the same goes for a great number of beliefs which atheists have insisted are not unique to religions, such as justice, morality, and so forth.Sorry if this is all a little disconnected; I'm ill, and struggling to write this through a minor headache.
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Re: re: faith

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Quote:It seems entirely more likely to me that the bulk of orthodox religious believers simply don't think too much about the aspects of their religion which they sense they're likely to disagree with.This is incredibly scary to me. Quote:If a person is religious, then they probably can't draw such clear lines between their personal belief and their public involvement. That's especially so when it comes to moral conviction.Then they shouldn't have public involvement. Will the lines be clear? Probably not, but they should be drawn. We demand this of judges everyday. Do we really believe that justice is blind? No. But we do demand that judges at least attempt to put aside their personal convictions in order to administer justice. Every day judges put aside their religious beliefs and personal convictions with regard to abortion and sign releases that allow minors to have abortions without parental consent. Less often, judges put aside their religious beliefs and personal convictions to sign death warrants for convicted felons. Is the judicial system perfect? Not by any means, but it at least strives for perfection. So, at least, we see efforts toward public decisions free from personal prejudices are possible.Now judicial and political purviews vary. We do not demand of politicians the same objective reasoning that we do from judges. The constitution does demand that a politician represent the perspective of its constituents. The constitution is also, despite claims from the religious right, a secular document. When politicians allow their religious conviction to dictate their votes on legislature, they are working outside the confines of the constitution. As we see with judges, everyday, it is possible to struggle for a separation of the two, why do we not demand as much from politicians?Quote:Think about it. You've hinted that you have an in depth interest in feminist issues. Can you really separate that interest from your political stance? I don't think I have hinted, so much as I've trumpeted. But my interest, research and writing is technically in gender issues, rather than feminist issues. No I could not, and would not wish to, separate my knowledge of gender issues from political decisions. Anymore than I would wish to separate my knowledge of law, constitutional theory, history, or even literature. These are all knowledge bases and pursuits. Religion is not. And religious conviction certainly is not. Conviction is the opposite of curiosity and pursuit of knowledge or education. I do not have feminist conviction (gender conviction). I have gender curiosity, desire for inquiry. Do you not see the difference?Quote:I don't mean to the degree that you'd prefer a female candidate to a male candidate, but can you really consider an issue like, say, abortion apart from your moral convictions?Assuming here that I am "prochoice," of course. Actually, I only came to that realization after studying law. Until about ten (maybe even eight) years ago, I was prolife. (I love those two terms, such propaganda.) I also came to the realization that the only option is prochoice apart from my moral conviction that life, all life, is precious. This was not wrapped up in a belief in a soul, but in belief that the potential for life should be protected. I can still see that it is difficult to delineate where the state's interest lies with regard to the potential for life. I do, however, easily recognize that a woman has a right to make her own choices with regard to her body. I also easily recognize that citizenship, and all its protections, is extended to every male or female born in the U.S. Somewhere among all that gray lies compromise, the compromise of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Compromise on these issues is not possible when mired with the convictions of religion.Quote:In the case of a religious believer, the difficulty is that the issues that matter to them are usually bound up with their religion. Which is what makes them dangerous candidates for public office. And when you talk about religious beliefs, you are talking about profoundly personal beliefs. Public officials are representatives of the electorate and their votes are supposed to represent that, not their personal religious convictions.Quote:Thus, for a religious believer like Martin Luther King Jr., the interests of justice are likely inseparable from his religious beliefs. I've written on this ad nauseam with D.H. in the Spiritual Revolutions thread. I'm not going to get into here, except to say that MLK was not an elected official. Quote:And the same goes for any given Senator. If their religion figures in their determination of what is just and injust, right and wrong, then how can they just sideline their religion when it comes time to do their job?If they can't sideline their religious conviction then they should not apply for the job, and obviously a lot of this comes down to voters. Which I think Frank touched on above. People vote because of this unexplored, undefined faith they share with their politicians. This gives a perceived numbers advantage to the religious right, because they scoop up every voter who claims ties to any Christian religion. So, for instance, here in Pennsylvania Rick Santorum was able to win two terms, despite the fact that he believes in very traditional views on women's roles. For Santorum, man is to woman as god is to man. Therefore, the men dictate, they are the authority, while women are baby factories. Religiously, Santorum held strong anti-abortion all the way to anti-birth control views. He was incredibly anti-homosexual, to the point of outright hatred. Accordingly, Santorum's religious views affected votes on bills with regard to gay marriage, financial support for single mothers (who cares about those damn sluts and their bastard babies), financial and medical maternal leave (women shouldn't be working anyway). Ignorant voters set up years of bad legislative votes coming from Pennsylvania due to Santorum's religious convictions, convictions that did not rightly reflect the views of the electorate. But it did not matter to Santorum that he did not represent the views of Pennsylvania's citizens. He was given the seat, as ignorantly as it was granted him, so he abused it in anyway he wished. Look at President Bush. It doesn't matter to him that 50% (I'd wager more) of voters don't agree with his strong religious conviction. There is no longer any responsibility toward the office, toward the constitution, toward the state. It has become a game of religious conviction; if I have the power, I dictate the religious views I value. This is not how a constitutional republic is defined, nor how it should act. Religious conviction is one of the (I would argue the most) influential flaws that corrupts the ideals of the U.S. republic.Quote:Someone, at some point, is going to have to make a very big deal out of the geneology of secular values and morals, determine how they're related to their religious ancestors, and determine how to re-situate them such that secularism isn't always just the ghost of religion.I'm not sure this has anything to do with the issues of religious conviction affecting government. In any case, I've never fully considered this idea, so don't really have a strong opinion on it.
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