Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Faith is faith

Skeptics like to attack faith for being illogical, for not being based on reason etc. But I personally think we should give faith a break. We can argue the evidence as much as we want, but faith is faith.

The world we live in has untold levels of complexity, and I think skeptical arrogance easily allows us to think that science (in its current state, at least) is able to master all these myriad levels of complexity. I think that where the evidence is very weak, or where we are dealing with issues that science can't (and probably won't ever) get a grip on, it's ok to have faith. To say that we know what we really don't know, and can therefore deny particular faiths, is simply arrogance.

Skeptics don't know that G-d doesn't exist. They should admit their ignorance, or at most claim it's unlikely given the very scant evidence as they read it. We can talk about the likelihood of something being true, but unfortunately when we talk about the essence of reality likelihood generally goes out the window. The great irony of life is that the most important things in life, we have the least certainty about.

Skeptics should have the honesty to say that they live with a great deal of uncertainty regarding the world. That's what it means to be a skeptic. And yes, that applies to the flying spaghetti monster, gremlins, and fairies too, but especially with regard to a concept as basic and vague as G-d, where evidence is almost meaningless. If they don't believe in G-d, then they have faith that G-d isn't pulling the strings somewhere behind the scenes. Again, they may feel that they have justification (not real evidence, but justification). But it's still faith.

Reasons for believing in G-d may be personal experience, social, finding the (general) arguments convincing. All are ok.

Believers in G-d, however, need to learn not to kvetch the evidence (in my opinion, obviously). Evidence is evidence and needs to be treated as such. The rest -- is open to faith. For example, in my opinion, the Tanach contains enough evidence to suggest a man made-document made from different patches. But that doesn't mean G-d wasn't working behind the scenes to make it evolve a certain way. It doesn't mean G-d didn't inspire the interpretation stage (a la James Kugel). One could even theorize that G-d wanted to deliberately have a conflicted document -- one that would be seen as whole by the ancients and therefore inspire the Jewish religion at the right time, but that would then be seen as human in later times, allowing the relaxed grip of religion, technological and social progress etc. There is no limit to the possibilities, and they're all deep within the realm of the unknown and the cannot be known.

Both sides should separate the two domains: evidence is evidence, faith is faith.