Saturday, 21 August 2010

Thought for the day

I am often puzzled by those that suggest “faith” and “belief” are distinct relational modes of responding to the world; that the former is irrational and the latter rational. I don't want to discuss what makes a belief reasonable (interesting though it is), rather: what is so unreasonable about faith? Some claim faith is that which arises in the absence of evidence, be that evidence of a logical and or experiential nature; and, that, indeed, it is in its very essence - somehow “essential” - to eschews such things. But I wouldn't call that “faith”; I even doubt that I could ascribe an accurate account of what that is; it is psychologically impossible to frame in a reasonable manner, that is, except in that it may serve some other, more narrowly defined, state; perhaps, as part of a wilful act of self-delusion to serve some emotional or intellectual need. For example, to act - by its very nature - as an unquestionable "rationale" and or "justification" for other actions, intents and deeds. That is not to say such a state of affairs is necessarily harmful - when it acts as motivational push towards charitable giving or, more generally, service to others less fortunate; though, of course, there is a downside, which may be characterised as indoctrination - “blind faith”- and then there's a kind of inverse selfishness to their unselfishness.

Faith cannot not rest upon the strength of conviction alone.

Faith is inductive by nature, for it extrapolates from past experience to predict the future. Those “acts of faith” can be said to be based on trends, or tendencies, for which we do not have an underlying, law-like explanation available with which to otherwise bridge or to connect the dots. A tendency is not a guarantee but expresses a pattern that may be embedded in a wider explanatory environment. For example, having faith that your team will win the cup. Now, as a supporter, you may have strong grounds for having faith that they will win the cup (consistent track record, quality back-up players in case of injury, strong team spirit, etc.); so much so, you may even believe it an “inevitability” but that faith-based belief based is not of the same order as, say, belief in the consistency in the results of a well-defined mathematical operation. No, it isn't. Now take another supporter's faith in another team with a distinctly underwhelming track record of inconsistencies, plagued by injuries, fractious relations between players, etc.; but granted all this, this team - on a good day - is capable of taking on stronger teams and winning; and, upon that basis, the supporter has faith in his team. They can do it. Win the cup. And that is not unreasonable, however: is it more reasonable for the latter supporter, rather than the former, to hold his faith and, therefore, conversely less unreasonable for the latter such that the latter should re-evaluate his - or at least the strength thereof - faith in this light? It's tempting to say so when we look at it so narrowly, but what of the “bigger picture”? Is not our respective supporters' faiths part of some wider cultural phenomenon in which it is acceptable and even desirable to enjoy such faiths? The point at which the fan's faith boarders on fanaticism and evolves into something all-consuming, is the point at which it becomes destructive towards the rational process itself and has an erosive - corrosive - effect on the wider community of reason. No matter, belief and faith are intimately related.

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