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Faith is Greater than Reason
Posted: 11 January 2012 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]
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It is one thing to believe that which is right in front of you. I believe the sky is blue. I believe there are alligators in the lake next to my house. I believe gravity exists. There is no choice but to believe these things, and it is a very natural reaction to make reasonable judgments based on such knowledge that is so obvious to me.

If I go swimming in the lake, I might lose a foot. If I drop a water balloon off the Sears Tower in Chicago, it will make a big splash in the end. That’s normal human reasoning based on direct observations connected with previous experience or the acquired knowledge of what has happened in the past (e.g., others have been bit by alligators in similar lakes).

But this is not the highest level of human mental functioning anymore than the peristalsis that leads to a good poop is a victory of human achievement. We observe and reason by reflex. Faith on the other hand requires will.

When we choose to believe, no matter what is presented to us, we are not only using our rational powers (because we reason that we are not being rational) but we also incorporate our will so that the entire process is more demanding than mere reasoning. It’s actually something that is very difficult to do.

If one is sick, and they choose to believe they have been healed even when they are still in pain or the symptoms persist, or if one simply chooses to have confidence in a situation even though there is only a 50/50 chance they will prevail, this takes more mental capability than simply being rational.

And I’m not talking about delusions here. A deluded person is still on the level of reasoning because they are sure their delusion is true. A deluded person may think they are protected against alligators by space aliens. That’s not faith. Such a person is using rational thinking when they go swimming in the lake. They’re wrong, of course, but they think they’re right; so, that’s not faith.

Because faith uses rationality as its stepping stone and then goes further through the use of will, it is obviously a greater use of human mental capabilities. And couldn’t it be said that the use of will is more godlike than the use of rationality? Thus if there is a God, it may well be the case that we grow closer to Him via the use of faith.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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If this is what gets you through the day that’s great! Everybody needs something to hold on to.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I just glanced through your introductory thread. Sorry I’m going out of order.  Occam made a very relevant post concerning faith. How far do you think it is acceptable to stretch faith? Before it isn’t faith anymore, just powerful groupthink, or successful mass-suggestion based on hundreds of years of organized institutional political ruling…Catholicism, Protestantism, or Islam for example.
Couple this with humans natural propensity to fear the unknown and voila!  You have your Faith.
Obviously there was supernatural worship long before christianity…what of this? It’s so patently obvious what that is!  It’s just the evolution of an idea-a powerful idea that was soooo good at controlling people in a tribe/social group setting.
And it isn’t an idea…it’s as natural as any other aspect of human behavior. Nobody thought religion up…it just started with primitive people staring up at the lightning and being scared.  And one Alpha male in that group saw the fear and harnessed it! Totally scientific. Very rational actually-from a scientific point of view.  Little kids today are still scared of lightning, but we know what lightning is and in time the children will understand lightning.
Now we scare kids with hell..and of course that is far less easy to explain to kids.  And death, that’s scary, but humans offer an idea of heaven.  The old carrot and stick approach.
So the idea of christianity from an atheists point of view is completely ludicrous. But some agnostics, or undecideds etc put forth the proposition that it is possible that some ethereal reason for matter and energy exists. This is because science can’t explain everything either.  So even “scientifically” gods can creep in….
But islam, hinduism, christianity etc…just historical anecdotes that have lingered far too long in this age of reason. Really!

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Posted: 11 January 2012 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Egor - 11 January 2012 12:41 PM

If one is sick, and they choose to believe they have been healed even when they are still in pain or the symptoms persist, or if one simply chooses to have confidence in a situation even though there is only a 50/50 chance they will prevail, this takes more mental capability than simply being rational.

Strictly speaking, not every yes/no decision has a 50% chance of being right. Whether I will be struck by lightning this year is a yes/no question but the odds are not 50%.

Also, I’m not quite sure what you mean by “higher” reasoning. I argue that faith isn’t the abandonment of reasoning ability so much as it is a decision to conform to social norms. From a social perspective, this can be a quite logical choice when conversion is accompanied by social benefits such as networking at a church, some legal protections, family benefits, and so on. In this light, for the faithful, the benefits of not abiding by logical reasoning regarding the specific faith claims aren’t as good as the benefits to gain from joining the religious institution.

Taking that reasoning further, it could be “higher” reasoning to abandon faith when it is popular because you’re rising above the trappings of your society.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Egor - 11 January 2012 12:41 PM

It is one thing to believe that which is right in front of you. I believe the sky is blue. I believe there are alligators in the lake next to my house. I believe gravity exists. There is no choice but to believe these things, and it is a very natural reaction to make reasonable judgments based on such knowledge that is so obvious to me.

If I go swimming in the lake, I might lose a foot. If I drop a water balloon off the Sears Tower in Chicago, it will make a big splash in the end. That’s normal human reasoning based on direct observations connected with previous experience or the acquired knowledge of what has happened in the past (e.g., others have been bit by alligators in similar lakes).

But this is not the highest level of human mental functioning anymore than the peristalsis that leads to a good poop is a victory of human achievement. We observe and reason by reflex.

Hardly. Why did it take several thousand years of recorded history before experimental science got off the ground? Because careful experimentation is difficult. Correct reasoning is difficult. Actually paying attention to observation rather than believing what one wants to believe is difficult.

Why is peer review so important? Why is a double-blind, placebo controlled experiment better than one which is unblinded and not controlled? Because people—even trained experimenters—are prone to keeping a finger on the scale, if they know which end they’re supposed to hold down. Everyone finds it easier to believe what makes them happy than the reverse. It takes active mental conditioning and constant vigilance not to fall into that trap, and even so we are prone to fall into it more often than we should.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to live in a bath of beliefs that make us happy.

Egor - 11 January 2012 12:41 PM

Faith on the other hand requires will.

When we choose to believe, no matter what is presented to us, we are not only using our rational powers (because we reason that we are not being rational) but we also incorporate our will so that the entire process is more demanding than mere reasoning. It’s actually something that is very difficult to do.

If one is sick, and they choose to believe they have been healed even when they are still in pain or the symptoms persist, or if one simply chooses to have confidence in a situation even though there is only a 50/50 chance they will prevail, this takes more mental capability than simply being rational.

You can’t will to believe something you don’t believe. All you can do is will to pretend to believe it, or will to put yourself into a situation which you believe might change your mind.

And “confidence” isn’t the same as “faith”, at least not faith in a religious sense. An atheist can have confidence in their doctor or medical treatment. A non-religious person can have confidence in the airplane’s design or the weather report. And of course anyone can hope for the best.

OTOH confidence in the absence of reason (where there is no chance, or a very low statistical chance, of success) is irrational and can be downright dangerous.

Egor - 11 January 2012 12:41 PM

Because faith uses rationality as its stepping stone and then goes further through the use of will, it is obviously a greater use of human mental capabilities. And couldn’t it be said that the use of will is more godlike than the use of rationality? Thus if there is a God, it may well be the case that we grow closer to Him via the use of faith.

OK, firstly, how are you defining “faith”? I define faith as “belief in the absence of, or in opposition to, the evidence”. As such, faith makes no use of rationality, it simply disregards rationality and believes whatever it wants. Faith is lazy.

Re. God, there’s no reason to think he exists, but IIRC the general theological interpretation of “we are created in God’s image” is that our reasoning ability is like God’s. As such, ‘faith’ should simply be a hindrance.

As I see it, “faith” is often simply a sophistry put out by certain believers in the face of evidence that their beliefs are factually erroneous. It’s a convenient crutch to use when arguments fail. “Oh, well, I may not know what I’m talking about, but I have faith.” Again, this faith-based attitude is lazy. It’s no greater a use of human mental capabilities than is the capability to disregard evidence, which is something we all have but should avoid using.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Egor - 11 January 2012 12:41 PM

But this is not the highest level of human mental functioning anymore than the peristalsis that leads to a good poop is a victory of human achievement. We observe and reason by reflex. Faith on the other hand requires will.

I have never seen anybody to base their argument of God’s existence on poop, but hey, what do I know about theology? That said, I assume if you poop on reflex, you probably do it anytime and anywhere, right?

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Posted: 11 January 2012 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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George - 11 January 2012 01:36 PM
Egor - 11 January 2012 12:41 PM

But this is not the highest level of human mental functioning anymore than the peristalsis that leads to a good poop is a victory of human achievement. We observe and reason by reflex. Faith on the other hand requires will.

I have never seen anybody to base their argument of God’s existence on poop, but hey, what do I know about theology? That said, I assume if you poop on reflex, you probably do it anytime and anywhere, right?

George I nominate you for a Great Moments in “Succinctness, clarity’s core” Award.

Egor - 11 January 2012 12:41 PM

We observe and reason by reflex.

if that were the case there wouldn’t be near as many brain dead people walking around - and we wouldn’t have near the amount of problems on our hands as we do these days.

Doug, thank you for wading through that post.  Lots of good thoughts in there.

dougsmith - 11 January 2012 01:26 PM

As I see it, “faith” is often simply a sophistry put out by certain believers in the face of evidence that their beliefs are factually erroneous. It’s a convenient crutch to use when arguments fail. “Oh, well, I may not know what I’m talking about, but I have faith.” Again, this faith-based attitude is lazy. It’s no greater a use of human mental capabilities than is the capability to disregard evidence, which is something we all have but should avoid using.


Egor can you come up with something more to point, there was an awful lot of wandering around in your post… and I know less about your position now than after following your Intro post.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Egor
We observe and reason by reflex. Faith on the other hand requires will.

The first part of that statement is a strawman argument, which might apply to animals. Reflex is an auto-response and requires no thought.
OTOH, observation and reason are fundamental constituents for thought and analysis, which define the word “reflection”, not “reflex”.

The second part of that statement seems to confirm that god is man-made.
“I have willed god into existence, even in the face of insurmountable logical obstacles”.

Thus, by “reflecting” on the message in that statement, I must come to the reasoned conclusion that the statement it is wholly false. Not because I willed it to be false.

[ Edited: 11 January 2012 04:11 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 11 January 2012 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Ok I will keep the argument going.

Faith is as necessary to human societies as reason.  The “rules of time constraint” (I made that up, it’s a metaphor) prevent any individual human from thoroughly examining every situation and coming to independent rational decisions in each and every case.  i.e. I am having a fairly serious problem with my intestines so rationally i am seeing a specialized MD.  I am following his instructions and having the recommended surgery, not because I have researched the problem myself, but because I have faith in this doctors training that is based on recommendations from other MDs and other people he has treated successfully in the past.

Much of religious faith is of then same this same variety,  It is not rational for me to research every situation, but successful religious tradition and organization is the result of the combined experiences of many humans, often over many generations, that aid in survival and success in any particular society.  Therefor it can be a useful and rational way to exist in many circumstances.  And yes as I point out with my signature, all religions are human inventions and can be a useful survival tool.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 04:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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garythehuman - 11 January 2012 04:11 PM

Ok I will keep the argument going.

Faith is as necessary to human societies as reason.  The “rules of time constraint” (I made that up, it’s a metaphor) prevent any individual human from thoroughly examining every situation and coming to independent rational decisions in each and every case.  i.e. I am having a fairly serious problem with my intestines so rationally i am seeing a specialized MD.  I am following his instructions and having the recommended surgery, not because I have researched the problem myself, but because I have faith in this doctors training that is based on recommendations from other MDs and other people he has treated successfully in the past.

Much of religious faith is of then same this same variety,  It is not rational for me to research every situation, but successful religious tradition and organization is the result of the combined experiences of many humans, often over many generations, that aid in survival and success in any particular society.  Therefor it can be a useful and rational way to exist in many circumstances.  And yes as I point out with my signature, all religions are human inventions and can be a useful survival tool.

True, we all use crutches of one kind or another.
But IMO, it is more rational to believe in the competency of a medical doctor, who has studied the latest information on the physical components and machinations of the human body, than to believe in a clergy whos only source is a single book based on myth, written a thousand years ago.

[ Edited: 11 January 2012 04:22 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 11 January 2012 04:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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garythehuman - 11 January 2012 04:11 PM

Ok I will keep the argument going.

Faith is as necessary to human societies as reason.  The “rules of time constraint” (I made that up, it’s a metaphor) prevent any individual human from thoroughly examining every situation and coming to independent rational decisions in each and every case.  i.e. I am having a fairly serious problem with my intestines so rationally i am seeing a specialized MD.  I am following his instructions and having the recommended surgery, not because I have researched the problem myself, but because I have faith in this doctors training that is based on recommendations from other MDs and other people he has treated successfully in the past.

Much of religious faith is of then same this same variety,  It is not rational for me to research every situation, but successful religious tradition and organization is the result of the combined experiences of many humans, often over many generations, that aid in survival and success in any particular society.  Therefor it can be a useful and rational way to exist in many circumstances.  And yes as I point out with my signature, all religions are human inventions and can be a useful survival tool.

I would classify this under “confidence”. It’s true that some have used faith to mean confidence, and if that’s what we mean by faith then it’s not particularly problematic, so long as the confidence is in line with the evidence.

OTOH I think you’ll find that in practice “faith” in a religious context means something quite a bit different from reasoned confidence: it is a belief had in the absence of, or in opposition to, the evidence.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Gary,
Faith is as necessary to human societies as reason.  The “rules of time constraint” (I made that up, it’s a metaphor) prevent any individual human from thoroughly examining every situation and coming to independent rational decisions in each and every case

I keep thinking about that equation, because prima facie it sounds reasonable. We must have faith in something, right?
But there is a catch when it comes to have faith in a self created imaginary friend. Staying with your comparison to medicine, any imaginary friend, would be classified as a clinical condition. When it is a self created enemy it is called paranoia. When the self created imaginary friend influences your behavior it is called schizophrenia.
Thus as long as a faith in a god offers personal comfort, fine. But if the self created god commands you to act against persons who do not believe in your god, then faith becomes a clinical condition and a potentially very dangerous belief.  Religion creates an atmosphere of exclusivity and certainty that ones actions are not only “justified”, but “commanded” in order to gain the approval of your illusionary friend.  The words “only through me shall ye find salvation” is an example and Asanta’s biblical excerpts of commandments in another thread are clear examples of the dangerous thoughts instilled by religion and we know the history of religious zeal all too well.

[ Edited: 11 January 2012 05:42 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 11 January 2012 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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P.S. On a Theist forum I posted the suggestion, that if Christians live by the NT, why not scrap the OT altogether?  I doubt if they will allow it. But if they do, I’ll post any response here.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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How about a biblical quote here? 1st Corinthians ch13/11, “When I was a child… And then I became a man and put away childish thoughts. Faith was created when early man used childlike beliefs to explain himself and his environment. These beliefs evolved into reason which slowly replaced faith. In short, using the scientific method, we grew up and now are no longer afraid of Thor, Zeus, etc. because we know that lightning is just a phenomenal electrical discharge. Faith is a vestigial organ, it’s still there but no longer needed. It’s like a worn out comfortable pillow we still have around the house, difficult to replace with the new pillow of reason because it’s not as soft.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 06:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I recall when I was in my early twenties we were visiting a newly married friend and his wife made some religious comments from the N.T..  I responded with something from the O.T. in rebuttal.  She then quoted her minister who explained that “The New Testament is truth while the Old Testament is history.”  I’ve always loved that “dichotomy”.  LOL

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Posted: 11 January 2012 07:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I have never seen anybody to base their argument of God’s existence on poop, but hey, what do I know about theology?

I alwasy did have trouble separating eschatology from scatology. grin

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