Friday, July 07, 2017

The Fraud of Faith

Recently, a leading, pro-Brexit, and articulate critic of the European Union confessed that he has “faith”: Faith in what? In the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful Deity. To judge by the encounters I’ve had with Christians (I do not have many discussions with Jews or  Muslims on the subject of God), faith for people is a form of unquestionable certitude – almost synonymous with certainty – as an emotional means of knowing the truth about God etc. thanks to their unexamined feelings. Too likely their faith in the existence or condition of something not in the real world undercuts their profession of being reality-oriented. “I know that capitalism works and sets men free and that Britain can only become stronger if it leaves the EU.”  How does he know that? Is his epistemology and metaphysics poisoned by faith?  The mental compartmentalization of his faith and the real, of the provable or demonstratable of the real versus the unprovable, makes his fealty to reality untenable.

The position of most people is: “What else is there but faith in the Almighty, in miracles, in God’s goodness, and the sublime imperative handed down by God to treat all men as brothers? God created the universe, and everything. Sure, reason has its place in man’s existence but it must keep to its place – we’re not saying that doing the Hokey Pokey will start a car’s engine, in lieu of simply turning the ignition key – however , that is the limit of reason, logic, and of what we call cause and effect. Reason and reality are not substitutes for faith,” they aver with fervor. “The evidence of the senses and reason should not be the paramount measures of authentic knowledge.” So, they say; if the emotion is real and strong enough, so must be the object of that emotion.

An unexamined, spontaneous emotional appraisal is a dangerous thing. If one feels that something is true or right, then it must be true or right. What often stuns me is to meet someone who is otherwise completely rational and reality-oriented and then to hear him admit, in passing or unintentionally, that he believes in a Deity, or in a lucky rabbit’s foot. Faith in the reality of the non-existent and unprovable, to say nothing of the acceptance as “divine” handwork of the contradictory a (such as the destructive handiwork of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions), becomes a substitute for knowledge.

Emotions are not causeless, rootless, or inexplicable. Love is not blind. Nor is hate. Even indifference to an artwork, a person, or thing, as a pre-conceptual appraisal, has an emotional base. An emotion is partly a physiological response to one’s values, or to non-values, to likes or dislikes, to attractions or fear. It is closely linked to the excitation of the nervous system, in various states and strengths, depending on the appraisal of the value seen and responded to; but it is a value one is responding to. It just does not well up within one, causelessly; the cause must be discovered and examined because it always has one. Rational introspection is a key to “knowing” whether or not one’s appraisal of a person or thing is correct or anchored in reality.
Hoping such earnest wishing will make something so
The response can be positive, such as at the sight of Michelangelo’s “David,” which would be a value because it depicts man as he can and ought to be; or to its opposite, such as the sight of a Muslim bowing to Mecca and banging his forehead on the ground until it’s black and blue in obsequious, abject submission to an ethereal entity he has never seen and never will and could never prove exists; to question the existence of Allah or the morality of Sharia is to commit the Islamic equivalent of “thoughtcrime”; one’s response to such a sight can be contempt for the person or pity or some other negative emotion, and not complimentary. Yet an emotion is governed by one’s responses to values affirmed or newly created, or to values denied, attacked, or destroyed. One must exert mental effort to discover why.
Emotions are not a sure-fire “touchstone” means to knowledge, nor should they be regarded as reliable tools to knowledge. Emotions can indicate or signal a previously unconscious appraisal of a person or a thing, but they are not by themselves knowledge. Just because one may “feel” good or bad about a person or a thing does not tell one if it is good or bad; it can only alert one to a thing’s potential, or unexamined goodness or badness. Whether or not it is one or the other will require one’s volition; it requires the initiation of thought.

Wishing in earnest for something to come true.

Ostensibly many otherwise rational individuals are guilty of compartmentalizing their rational response to values and divorcing them from their paramount values, such as “faith” in a supreme being.  They resort to compartmentalizing because they cannot let go of the mystical element of faith. Belief in a supreme being is to them an unaccountable means of adopting a moral code from somewhere. Because it has no demonstrable origin, eluding the evidence of the senses, they do not feel obligated to attempt to prove it.
In her Hoover paper, The Challenge of Dawa, Ayaan Hirsi Ali goes into detail about the differences between the Medina and Mecca Muslims, and why only the Mecca Muslims could salvage and reform Islam as a “great” faith. The “Mecca” Muslims are basically peaceful. The “Medina” Muslims are warlike and bent on conquest.  Hirsi Ali’s introduction of this analogy begins on  page 11.

The main question here should be: Given Islam’s 14 00 year, rapacious, murderous rampage among Muslims themselves (the Sunnis vs. the Shi’ites and various Islamic sub-groups)  and against the West, why would anyone want to save it as a “great” faith? Given Islam’s sociopathic and nihilist nature, how can it be called “great”?

Islam is a more fundamental, more primitive religion. Period. Not so ironically, Christianity, although older than Islam, but with its own centuries of horrors, is less consistent in its dogma and practice; Islam is the more consistent religion, given its anti-life, anti-man, anti-individual premise.

Per Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islam teaches you to put yourself last, and only by putting yourself last will Allah reward you at the end. Selfishness is a great sin in Christianity, but in Islam it is the greatest, unforgiveable sin, because selfishness in oneself explicitly denies Allah. One is expected to consciously efface oneself in deference to Allah’s pleasure. One’s sole “selfish” value must be Allah and obeying him.

Praying to Jesus or to Allah? Does it
make a difference? God is not
even a ghost.
As a “faith,” Islam is nihilist in nature. It is programmed or designed to erase all affirmative, pro-living-on-earth values. But, on an individual basis, is not the “reward” a promise of an eternity in “Paradise for having obeyed Allah’s every command? Isn’t that, for an individual Muslim, a selfish value or motivation? As a “faith,” Christianity at least stresses the importance of individual salvation, even if one is not a conscientious practitioner of the faith. However, when Christians pray, the praying is a form of focused wishful thinking; it is centered on the values of an individual, whether or not they are real of fanciful. When a Muslim prays, it is a form of utter abnegation of the self in obsequious deference to the non-existent.

Faith in a supreme being is a belief that the shapes of tall cumulonimbiform clouds actually mean something more than being collections of water vapor or frozen crystals. To read meaning into a cotton candy cloud, if it happens to resemble a face or a thing, is to engage in a hallucination or wishful thinking. Faith is a fraud.


Edward Cline said...

In a future column, I will add some thoughts about atheists who have “faith” in the non-existence of a supreme being.

revereridesagain said...

God does not exist. Jesus Christ never existed. Believing in them may bring some people the unexamined solace so well dissected here, but nothing will turn those myths into reality and deliver a happy afterlife. When Ed posted his early version of this essay I went back and looked at my masters thesis on the Eleusinian Mysteries of the ancient Graeco-Roman world. They represented a sort of 'transactional' belief in which a goddess, Demeter, in return for the yearly celebration of specific rites, promised a happy immortality exclusively to initiates. The only other requirement was to maintain the secrecy of the ritual to prevent its emotional effect from being compromised and short-circuiting the initiates' "certainty" in the truth of their unexamined emotions.

This was the premier religious festival in that part of the world for well over 1,000 years. It was considered essential for the survival of that culture. It may have brought "comfort" but it never prevented a crisis, won a battle, defeated a conquest. It could not save Greece from falling to Rome, nor Rome from falling to barbarians. The goddess, like the imaginary Father and his virgin Son and the Son's virgin Mother, never existed, and, therefore, could accomplish nothing.

Rational introspection, discovering the cause of one's emotions, is a deeply rewarding activity that builds confidence in ones ability to make rational choices, to understand the specifically individual expressions of ones values to which one responds most intensely. Yet it is this very activity that religionists caution us to avoid. "Don't question faith!" Well no, because if you ask those questions of "faith", faith will, indeed, prove itself to be a fraud.

Edward Cline said...

Thank you, mysterious and well-read lady, for your input here and the relevant Greek connections.

Edward Cline said...

I meant to say that in a future column I will offer some thoughts about atheists and agnostics who hold a different kind of "faith," one that is just as fallacious.