Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Showing more faith in a belief system

EVERYBODY believes. Even the most ferocious atheist has to make assumptions about the world in order to deal

EVERYBODY believes. Even the most ferocious atheist has to make assumptions about the world in order to deal with it on a daily basis; that the milk is safe to drink; that the car will start; that gravity is not reversed outside the house; that Monday follows Sunday.

Believing things is what humans do. But in recent years we are being conditioned to look down upon belief as a lesser form of knowledge and to regard “believers” as somehow inferior men and women, as weak, foolish and ignorant.

From the fruitcakes of ISIS on the one hand to the harmless vicars of TV drama on the other, we are carefully spoon-fed examples of believers as a lesser kind of human being.

It is a short step from this to regarding all believers as “nutters”, demonising them and their (admittedly sometimes scary) way of looking at the world.

It all comes down to how we know things.

In our society, knowledge has been bound to the scientific method for several hundred years. We have become conditioned to accept as true only the quantifiable. Unless something can be fixed, measured and repeated then it may not be fully known.

Unfortunately this in itself is not true. There are other ways of knowing, other ways of approaching the truth. The scientific method is simply one dimension, if you like, in the human experience of the reality that is existence.

Philosophers are returning to a larger, more diverse, universe of different ways of knowing things and are recognising that belief is one among these ways of knowing in just as real a way as scientific verification.

For example, there is the gut knowledge of the musician with perfect pitch, or the heart knowledge of the lover of the beloved. Neither form of knowledge in these instances can be described as logical, it simply is, but I hope you can agree that both these examples do reflect the world as it really is.

Contemporary culture has been telling us this for years - that believing is what humans do and that it is a truthful way of engagement with the world.

If you are struggling with this idea, I humbly suggest you look up the Sky media strapline, and then the Sony motto, and then perhaps you can rush out and get Britney’s perfume, or that Bieber album.

So, please, don’t “believe” the lie that believers are lesser men or women. We write off the knowledge that comes with belief to our own loss, to our own diminishment.

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