March 26, 2012

Is Faith A Poison?

I received this comment to my St. Patrick's Day post last week:
"Faith: No one word personifies the absolute worst and most wicked policies of religion better than that. Faith is mind-rot -- it's a poison that destroys critical thinking, undermines evidence, and leads people into lives dedicated to absurdity. It's a parasite that's regarded as a virtue. I speak as a representative of the scientific faction of atheism here -- it's one thing we simply cannot compromise on. Faith is wrong, and at the same time faith is a central tenet of just about every religion on the planet. We can't ignore that-- that's the thing we are interested in fighting."-P.Z. Myers (comment left by truthoverfaith)
I didn't post it because I have a rule against leaving comments that have nothing to do with the topic, and this had very little to do with images celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Technically the rule states that I'll wait 10 days but A) I've been thinking of getting rid of that in the rule and B) a hit and run comment like this which so blatantly ignores the rule doesn't really deserve that level of consideration.

However, I felt the quote was worth responding to. 'Faith' is a very abused term in our culture. Often it refers to religious belief in general, but more specifically we generally understand 'faith' to be the belief in something despite evidence. This is clearly the definition which Mr. Myers is using here.

However, in the Bible 'faith' does not have this meaning. The biblical understanding of faith is that of trust. We have faith in God because we trust Him to be good and honest with us. When it comes to the acquisition of truth, what this means is that when God says something is true, we believe Him. But that doesn't mean we close our eyes. We no more abandon reason than Mr. Myers does when he trusts a particular study by an established scientist. He trusts in that scientist's credentials. That is faith.

A rejection of faith as a general concept then is not only foolish, but also the epitome of hubris. Just due to our nature, we, as individuals, lack the perspective to completely comprehend the full volume of evidence pertaining to the universe. We need the assistance of others to disseminate it.

Faith isn't a cancer; it isn't a poison. It is the backbone of society: the capacity to go beyond oneself and rely on the power and understanding of others. It is one thing to have a different understanding of the nature of the world then others, but to attack abstract concepts like 'faith', especially without fully understanding what they are, is simply pretentious and intellectually lazy. It is a way of ostentatiously avoiding the real issues, and quite frankly, it does not impress me.

March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!!


*For more on St. Patrick's Day, see here.

March 12, 2012

Playing With Dolls

A question that I was recently considering was whether or not God could truly love us if we did not have free will. Clearly He could care about us like I care about my grandfather's jacket or my car, but could one really say that He loved us? I think the answer is both yes and no.

For context let us consider the kind of love that we are dealing with. In the Bible, it uses the analogy of marriage to define God's love for His elect people. However, it uses the analogy of a parent and child to define His relationship with creation. When we are talking about free will, we are naturally talking about how God designed us so the parent/child relationship is at the forefront and so it is this kind of love that I am going to be addressing.

So back to the question: Could God truly love us if we did not have free will. I think the answer is both yes and no. First I'll address the yes. There are examples of humans who love objects which have no capacity to effect the course of their own existence. The best example of this is a young girl playing with her dolls. When young girls do this, they are in fact imitating motherhood, and imitating it in a way which is quite real for them. I think it would be presumptous to deny that the feeling that girls often have for their dolls is a kind of love.

We can even extend this in a compatibilist direction if you want, for girls usually cause their dolls to interact with each, and have their own distinct motivations from each other. I remember my sister was quite good at this (my sister who is now a skilled writer).

However, it is not very difficult for one to discover the fundamental flaw with the analogy. Simply put, when girls grow up, they stop playing with dolls. Dolls are basicly a surragate for babies, and when a girl becomes a woman, she wants to have a real child.

What's the difference? Is it simply that babies are cuter? I don't think so. There is a fundamental desire within every parent to have a child who will grow to become more like them. Parental love is not a possessive love. It is a love which desires the child to mature and become more independent (though usually not completely independant. We don't want to be left in the dust). Is a parent more proud when their child does precisely what they are told, or when they do something good on their own?

This, I believe, is the main reason why God gave us free will: to see us grow and mature. He wants to see us make our own choices. He wants to see us learn. Otherwise, He would just be playing with dolls.

March 5, 2012

First Blood

Yesterday, my son mananged to stand up all on his own! This was very exciting... until he stopped mananging to stand. He fell very suddenly and his chin landed on his toy train. This put his tongue in the midst of an unexpected closing mouth. He ended up with two very deep puncture wounds on the top of his tongue, and two other puncture wounds on the bottom that we never got a good look at.

He's been clonked in the head a few times, has had his fingers pinched, and all sorts of minor injuries. However, this was the first time he has been injured so severly that it drew blood (and anyone who knows tongue injuries might guess, it was a lot of blood).

There are a lot of "first moments" when raising a child, and most of them are things you look forward to. You are also looking out for them: expecting them. This was not one we were expecting, yet it was inevitable. Needless to say, his crying was quite infectous.

In reading this, if you find me a bit glib, it is only because I deal with pain and suffering through humor. You generally know that I am taking a matter very seriously by how hard I work at finding a way to joke about it.

I guess what shocked me the most was how unprepared I was for this kind of thing: emotionally I mean. I mean, come on, he's a boy. He is going to bleed a lot. But despite the inevitablility of it, I really did not prepare myself for the day I would first see him bleed. I guess it is just typical of us to not expect the expected when it is unwanted.

I really have no ending to this post, since I am not really intending on going anywhere with this. I really just needed to get this off of my chest a bit. So instead of trying to force an ending here...