Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Faith is unreasonable:

Don't have a lot of time for a big post, but wanted to touch on the recent faith debate that's been going on (see Digby and Atrios).

Here's the problem for this blogger:
Faith in America (essentially Judeo-Christian) is a random collection of notions.
What do I mean when I say "random"?
  • There is no adherence to a hierarchy. You would expect that the words of God to be supreme, followed (for Christians) by those of Jesus, and below that, words of the prophets (and apostles). But that's not how people of faith operate. They will take remarks from preachers (as found in the Bible) or cite events, to justify a particular policy - even if it contradicts the 'higher' authority of God (or Jesus).

  • There is a lack of consistency. The Torah (first 5 books) is clearly about a power religion - for a favored few. A power religion has a strong vengeance component and advocates collective punishment. This is all clearly enunciated (and acted upon).

    I have no problem with a power religion (in terms of internal consistency). But later in the Bible, there is a shift away from the tenets of a power religion (see Jonah). But where is the explicit executive statement that rescinds the earlier policy of a power religion? It can't be found.

  • To the point immediately above. Some Christians say that all the old laws were replaced by Jesus with two: Love God and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" Mk 12:31

    Speaking of the second commandment, what kind of ridiculous statement is that? It says you should not follow a clear standard of behavior that applies to everyone, but to use your own standard of how you'd like to be treated. So, a libertarian who doesn't want help from others can be totally consistent with Jesus' teaching as he walks past and ignores the starving homeless person. That's what the logic of the second commandment allows. You might point to other teachings say you should be generous, but that's the point. There is no rigor here.
Those are just a few examples of why it's bizarre when discussing religion in America. Where are the axioms? What can be clearly deduced from them? Religion, since it claims to deal with big issues, should have a secure foundation and clear rules of inference - like those found in law and mathematics. But it doesn't. So how can you possibly get anywhere in an argument? It's all so arbitrary. Random, you might say.

ADDENDUM: I know, and meet with regularly, several Christians that are generous and liberal in spirit. They are wonderful people. And they find support for their actions in scripture, but not all scripture (esp. Leviticus). How did they select those passages they say inspire them? It's a personal choice, not a deterministic result of a rules-based system.


I'm glad you're thinking about this stuff, but you should acknowledge that your own thoughts are just as jumbled as many of those you are commenting on.

You recognize that "faith is unreasonable." I'm with you so far.

Then, when commenting on the faith of your friends, you say "How did they select those passages they say inspire them? It's a personal choice..." Well, there you go talking about "choosing" one's beliefs as though those beliefs follow reasonable rules.

It ain't like that. One doesn't "choose" to be inspired by something. One simply _is_ inspired by it.

Most people of faith don't perceive themselves to be choosing to believe. They just believe. Some days more, some days less.

You may find that weird and exasperating, but there it is. I think almost everybody else's religious beliefs or nonbeliefs are hard for other people to make sense of. Deal with it, especially if they really are your friends. That whole tolerance for ambiguity thing...

I would probably find some of your beliefs weird and exasperating, but that doesn't mean I don't agree with your political views or like your blog.

By Anonymous Inigo Montoya, at 2/22/2007 10:55 PM  

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