Saturday, 5 May 2012

Why Did The Believer Cross The Road?

Faith: The sure and certain way to know that every other faith is wrong.


Faith is just not a sensible way to live your life.
If you tried to use 'faith' in anything but a religious context, and as an excuse for believing what you want to be true rather than what you know to be true, you would, if you were lucky and lived in a society which cared, be taken into care and kept under supervision for your own good.

Take a simple thing like crossing a road:

A normal adult with average intelligence will step up to the edge of the curb, look both ways, check that there is nothing coming and not even turning out of a near-by side road, and, if they see no cars, will accept that absence of evidence for a car as evidence of absence of a car. They will then cross the road, not considering for one moment that there may be an invisible car coming. They happily, and perfectly rationally, bet their life on the absence of evidence.

Imagine the reaction you would get if you tried to stop a normal person from crossing the road by telling them absence of evidence was not proof of absence and so the wrong way to go about it; they should have faith in a car being there. After all, if they have faith and accept there is a car coming and don't cross the road, what do they lose even if there isn't one? On the other hand, if there is a car coming, they gain everything. Risk nothing to gain everything.

No contest! Go with faith and save your life!

Before I went shopping today I checked in the larder first to see what we needed. I could have just used faith and assumed we had enough of everything, and anyway what would be the point of checking when absence of something like a tin of beans or a bag of rice isn't proof that we had none? In fact, what was the point of going shopping at all?

Fortunately, I'm a sane, rational adult and don't believe that things are real just because I have faith that they are.

And so do most Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Shintoists and followers of other religions requiring their followers to 'just have faith' and to bet their lives on the absence of evidence not being enough evidence of absence. It's only when it comes to believing the things their priests and preachers tell them to believe that they are told this infantile, irrational and intellectually indolent approach to reality is a virtue.

I'm not sure which is the least rational here: believing by faith or believing what the priests and preachers say. If you really believed their logic you could not live a normal life and would not even cross the road.

Why did the Believer cross the road? Because they don't believe in faith; they believe in evidence, just like normal people do.

Note: Believers who got this far and think my logic is wrong, are free to explain why.


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25 comments :

  1. Seeing a new post from Rosa Rubicondior, I had faith that clicking on the click would provide irrefutable logic provided in a new and entertaining way. My faith was repaid. But it was based on mountains of previous evidence:)

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  2. But it was based on mountains of previous evidence? I din't understood why?

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  3. "Faith is just not a sensible way to live your life. If you tried to use 'faith' in anything but a religious context, and as an excuse for believing what you want to be true rather than what you know to be true, you would, if you were lucky and lived in a society which cared, be taken into care and kept under supervision for your own good."

    Imagine you are going to make a car journey. I'm not sure that you would ever be able to tell me with certainty that you *know* the car isn't going to break down (after all, if you did you would be pretty foolish to spend money on breakdown cover). However, I would presume that when you plan said journey you act as though the car won't break down - in other words, you don't allow an extra couple of hours in case you get stranded on the motorway and need to wait for assistance. That being the case, you are having faith in the fact that your car will be reliable. Of course, as far as modern cars are concerned, this will be reasonable faith, based on previous experience, but it is faith nonetheless.

    Either my presumption about your journey planning is correct (in which case you are not living in accordance with your statement that "faith is just not a sensible way to live your life") or you hold to your statement and always make what would generally be seen as abnormal allowances for your journey.

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    1. I don't know the car won't break down so I take simple precautions:

      1. I have the car serviced regularly
      2. I belong to a rescue organization which gets me to a garage or home if I break down.

      I'm surprised you seem unaware of these simple precautions.

      Do you need assistance to cross roads because you can't be sure there isn't a car coming just because there is no evidence for one?

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    2. It's not that you have 'faith' that your car won't break down, it's that you take precautions so it won't (as Rosa said) and then, still knowing it's a possibility, you weigh up that possibility against the required mitigation and the consequences of not putting that mitigation in place. You then make the judgement that you do not need to allow an extra 2 or 3 hours in case your car breaks down, but knowing that if it does, you'll have consequences that will need to be addressed.

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    3. "Of course, as far as modern cars are concerned, this will be reasonable faith, based on previous experience, but it is faith nonetheless."

      No. It's NOT faith. It's a rational prediction based on previous experience. We've got a hundred years of experience with cars and their level of liability. It's not-faith- to assume the car is going to work normally, it's a rational prediction based on a century of previous evidence.

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    4. Kenny - may I suggest that you read my comment further down re: the dictionary definition of faith.

      Rational predictions based on previous experience and faith are not mutually exclusive concepts.

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  4. "Do you need assistance to cross roads because you can't be sure there isn't a car coming just because there is no evidence for one?"

    No.

    Despite your claim to the contrary, I am well aware of such "simple precautions" as having your car serviced and belonging to a rescue organisation. You should have noted that I mentioned breakdown cover first time around. The fact that you have it confirms my point that you don't know for certain that your car won't break down on a journey, even though you have maintained your car properly.

    The important question is actually how you plan your journey in light of this. If you have to be somewhere for a certain time, do you allow a considerable amount of extra time so that if you break down you won't be late? Or do you have faith that your car won't break down and only allow a small amount of time for delays?

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    1. And this has what exactly to do with the fact that normal people live quite normal lives by assuming that absence of evidence is sufficient evidence of absence to bet their lives on it?

      Can you think of any reason that normal logic should not apply to religion and gods or will you just avoid it by going for a diversion again?

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    2. "And this has what exactly to do with the fact that normal people live quite normal lives by assuming that absence of evidence is sufficient evidence of absence to bet their lives on it?"

      It doesn't have much to do with this per se, granted. I was taking issue with the point you extrapolated from this, namely that "faith is just not a sensible way to live your life." There are some cases when it is safe to say that you *know* something. Having a clear view of an empty road and deducing that there is no car is one. In other cases, however, we rely on faith - for example when a car journey is made without sufficient time to call out the break-down rescue people. It cannot be known that the car won't break down, but actions are still taken on the assumption that it won't.

      Such faith is typically (or at least should be) reasonable faith, but it is still faith.

      "Can you think of any reason that normal logic should not apply to religion and gods"

      No.

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    3. In other words, you rely on faith when the normal, everyday standard of evidence doesn't give you the answer you wanted.

      This is how we know that religious belief is a delusion. You decide the answer you want and then make up reasons to believe it, ignoring the evidence or lack of it in the process.

      In anything other than religion this would be regarded as a mental health issue or at best an extreme form of arrogance amounting to psychosis.

      Thank you for demonstrating that so clearly.

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    4. "In other words, you rely on faith when the normal, everyday standard of evidence doesn't give you the answer you wanted."

      I think that you're right to say that I rely on faith, although it's got nothing to do with "the answers I want." But, I think you will find that you also rely on faith in every day life. To take the example we have been running with so far, do you - or do you not - always allow time to be rescued by the break-down service every time you make a journey?


      "You decide the answer you want and then make up reasons to believe it, ignoring the evidence or lack of it in the process."

      Life would be fun if we could all live our lives like that. But clearly it is futile, and if you geniuinely think that's how I operate then you may be the deluded one.

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    5. In the absence of evidence, 'faith' can never be better than a random guess, so why not, with equal validity, decide by 'faith' to believe Allah, Ganesh, Ururu Mazda or one of the ancient gods people used to worship are real and worship one or more of those by faith?

      In fact, it would be true to say that 'faith' is merely the abdication of reason and the decision to go along with the majority in your culture or to do what your parents did, wouldn't it? Just stop reasoning and learning and pretend you know things, then present this as some sort of deeper insight which gives you the right to tell others what to think and do, to justify hate and still claim the moral high-ground.

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  5. "In fact, it would be true to say that 'faith' is merely the abdication of reason."

    I'd have to disagree with you there. Let's dig out the dictionary - in this case, I've gone for http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith.

    The first definition of faith is "confidence or trust in a person or thing." It is perfectly possible to have good reason for such confidence or trust, and it could be said that confidence or trust without good reason is foolish. To continue using the example of making a car journey, if you set out without presuming that you will need to call out the break-down rescue service, you have confidence in your car. Given that you have your car regularly maintained, and on the basis that it does not have a poor reliability record, you have good reason for this confidence.


    The second definition of faith is "belief that is not based on proof." Note that it says "proof" not "reason" and that these are not the same thing. When you set out on a car journey, you have no proof that your car won't break down. However, you reason that it won't.

    In light of this, I would continue to challenge your opening gambit that "faith is just not a sensible way to live your life."

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    1. >"belief that is not based on proof." <

      That's the one. As I said, it's an abdication of reason. I notice you chose not to say WHY you disagree with that definition.

      Did you choose not to quote the rest of the sentence, viz: "...and the decision to go along with the majority in your culture or to do what your parents did, wouldn't it?", because you knew that that was exactly what you did?

      >In light of this, I would continue to challenge your opening gambit that "faith is just not a sensible way to live your life."<

      Will you also continue to avoid saying why belief in a random guess with no evidence merely because your parents did and a majority of your friends do is a sensible way to live your life when you don't apply that logic to normal everyday things like crossing roads, catching buses, earning your living, choosing a partner or cooking food, or do you base all those things on random evidence-free guesses too?

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    2. "That's the one. As I said, it's an abdication of reason. I notice you chose not to say WHY you disagree with that definition."

      I clearly stated that proof and reason are not the same thing. I also suggested that far from dispensing with reason, faith (as defined by http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith) can be - and usually is, based on reason. After all, you wouldn't have confidence in someone or something without good reason, would you?

      "Will you also continue to avoid saying why belief in a random guess with no evidence merely because your parents did and a majority of your friends do is a sensible way to live your life..."

      I have never stated that belief in a random guess is a sensible way to live life. I have also never stated that I have the beliefs I do merely because my parents and friends do. You are asking me to justify false assumptions you yourself have made about me, which, ironically, is demonstrating an abdication of reason.

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    3. J.P.

      I think you may be missing an understanding of an everyday word. When normal people 'believe' things based on solid evidence, the normal word used by normal people is 'knowledge' not 'faith'.

      Perhaps an understanding of the difference between knowledge (i.e. evidence-based belief) and faith (i.e. evidence-free belief) will help you understand how normal people conduct their lives and do things like crossing roads safely by using evidence like the lack of evidence for cars as evidence of the absence of cars.

      Of course, Atheists apply this normal, everyday, rational logic to gods as well, so we don't need to construct idiotic rationalizations for using a form of logic which is normally taken as a sign of mental illness or retarded intellectual development.

      I hope that helps.

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    4. Hi again Rosa,

      Please can you reference the dictionary you have been using for your definitions? I have never seen a definition of faith which states that it is "evidence free." In fact, as I mentioned above, if we take the definition of faith as "confidence or trust in a person or thing," evidence free, or irrational, faith would generally be seen as pretty foolish. In case you missed my response to Kenny (also above), I note that rational predictions based on previous experience and faith are not mutually exclusive concepts.

      Using the same dictionary I referenced earlier (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/knowledge) I note that knowledge is defined as "acquaintance with facts, truth or principles."

      If you have breakdown cover, it would suggest that you are not certain enough about the reliability of your car to say for a fact that it will not break down. You could say for a fact that it has never broken down thus far, but I'm not sure you can pass comment on the future in the same way.

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    5. Great! So if your faith isn't evidence free you will have no difficulty at all in producing the evidence upon which yours is based, explaining exactly how it proves only your favourite god, and telling us how it was validated, and where we may see it for ourselves.

      Then you can claim the fame and fortune which should rightfully be yours as the first person in history to prove any god exists.

      In your own time....

      Or maybe not.

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    6. "explaining exactly how it proves..."

      Once again you seem to be quite selective in your definitions. Evidence and proof are not the same thing.

      Whereas I cannot claim to prove the existence of God, there is nonetheless evidence to support my faith.

      A good place to start is to note that there is a lot of historical evidence to support the Bible (including the life of Jesus Christ, for example). See, for example http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/advanced/archaeology-and-the-historical-reliability-of-the-new-testament.htm or http://www.answering-islam.org/Case/case1.html.

      The God portrayed in the Bible fits in with my own experience of the world.

      It is also important not to rule out anecdotal "evidence." For example, there are countless people who would testify to answered prayer.

      Please note that I am not asserting that every answered prayer can *only* be explained by God. I am merely affirming that life's experiences and the existence of God fit together.

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    7. I think that it would also be helpful to take a step back from thinking about God and return to the more general definition of faith. After all, this discussion started with your assertion that "faith is just not a sensible way to live your life" and my assertion that you are wrong.

      Faith is - like it or not - a part of everyday life. Recalling the dictionary definition of faith ("confidence or trust in a person or thing") I'm sure that everyone can think of times when they demonstrate such confidence or trust. For example, the fact that people make a journey under the assumption that the car won't break down is a case in point.

      There is nothing to suggest that faith on its own is evidence free - and in fact, it would be ludicrous if it was. It is, however, perfectly possible to have unreasonable ("evidence free", perhaps) faith in something should one choose to. Of course, the wisdom of such a decision may well be questionable and I wouldn't have taken issue with your statement if it read "unreasonable faith is just not a sensible way to live your life..."

      Equally, it is perfectly possible to have reasonable ("evidence based", perhaps) faith. For example, the evidence so far may suggest your car is reliable. You might have knowledge that it has never broken down. So it is perfectly reasonable to assume that it won't break down on the journey, even though you do not (in fact, cannot) have knowledge that it won't.

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    8. If I am climbing a mountain, I guess i could have Faith that the ropes won't break and dump me splattered on the rocks below, but Faith being based on a lack of evidence, i guess i would do what all sensible mountaineers do, and check my ropes thoroughly, every time. I dont think I would want to have faith in that frayed bit thats down to a few strands
      Nor do I allow time for breakdowns when I drive, not because of faith, but there is a distinct amount of evidence that the vehicle is reliable: It was well tested at the factory, and it is regularly serviced, and every time a warning light comes up or a funny noise is heard, i get it checked. Thats Evidence. No faith needed
      Just wish JP would quit splitting hairs and answer the damned questions. Is he/she/it a politician?

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  6. Rosa. You forgot that the religious person would cross the road with or without evidence because their wizard in the sky would protect them. Actually, that's the way I thought the story was going when I saw the feed. Your way is better.

    I'm loving the the discussion between you and JP. Using soccer terms, the score appears to be RR-7, JP-nil.

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