Fear of the Light


Faith, of the sort involved in religion, is said to be free from doubt, as many fathers of the early Christian church have asserted.

Faith is certain.

Faith is without questioning, perhaps beyond it altogether. Indeed, many major religions, particularly the Abrahamic ones, forbid any questioning, any doubt, of their core tenets and punish those who do accordingly, often harshly in fundamentalist or conservative sects.

Doubt is seen in a mostly negative light. Certainty of conviction is often thought virtuous. Faith is often thought superior to knowledge for its lack of doubt.

As a former religious believer, I once thought this way myself. I was frightened by doubt, fearing eternal punishment for it. Terrified by it. Doubt was a thought-crime. Or so I thought.

Now, I disagree. Now I embrace doubt.

Doubt is seen in some sects as something that should be applied only to alien religions or to religious nonbelievers and dissenters from one’s own group. This sometimes includes vilification of ‘the wrong religions’ in disputes over even minor points of doctrine.

Science, however, uses doubt and questioning as tools, as ways essential to its process of inquiry. Philosophy does likewise, though in a different manner. But disagreement and dissent are important to both.

Science asks questions about testable reality, those things that at least in principle can be known, and be shown to be when they are in fact known. It then uses a set of tested, reliable methods to answer the questions it asks of nature…methods of querying the universe and noting the answers we get by careful observation and measurement of what the Cosmos tells us.

Throughout this process, both creativity and reason are at various points involved: Creativity to spin new and original explanatory hypotheses, a creativity limited only in that the explanations proposed must conform to as well as explain the data uncovered, and the use of the best reasoning at the time to infer what it is we have found and what it means, in finding the best answers to our queries.

All human beings can fall victim to confirmation bias, but convincing yourself that it is a good idea, even worthy of praise, much less respect, to reject facts in favor of what seems good is never an effective way to succeed in life, however reliable it is at comforting you, and those who believe likewise.

Sooner or later, we must all accommodate facts that confute our intuitions, our gut feelings, our faith, our wishes, or be held accountable by an implacable universe that neither knows of nor cares anything for us or what we believe.

There’s that whole thing about stopping, looking, and listening at railroad crossings even when we intellectually and vocally dismiss reality as a humbug…

Science, however, while useful, and being very effective at what it does — to paraphrase Richard Dawkins, “It works, bitches.” — isn’t a font of endless blessings either.

Science is morally neutral, a double-edged sword, and while both powerful and essential to the upkeep of a global civilization like ours with billions of people, it is dangerous when misused, or used with harmful intent — especially for use in warfare or the dangers of industrial pollution and waste disposal.

But that does not mean we are free to dismiss or reject it altogether — we have let the efreeti free from its lamp, and it will not be put back, not without serious consequences. — any problems caused by science’s use will not be solved by promoting ignorance of it in the people of those nations so dependent on science and technology for their economic future and well-being.

Each and every faith-claim made, on the basis of authority, of revelation, of intuitive ‘gut feelings,’ or of mystical experience, has its rivals, and there exists to the best of my knowledge no reliable way within such faith itself to distinguish true faith-claims from false ones.

Unfortunately, outside the confines of a given belief system, faith claims subjected to testing by something other than faith, (and they must be…) have a distressing tendency to be shown wrong. Those that cannot be tested at all do not even merit the honor of being wrong.

There is the expression “the gods will not be tested,” but what’s really being tested here is not gods, but the claims we make, including our claims about gods, all special pleading aside.

I’ve learned since my deconversion that there is no non-ideological reason that any claim should get a free pass, no free ‘get out of jail’ card.

Faith and science. As ways of thinking, and of gaining knowledge; no two things could be more opposed. The former brooks no questioning, and admits no error. It’s claim to certainty absolute.

The latter thrives on questioning and depends on its ability to seek out and find out error so that it may correct itself with newer, better information and sharper reasoning than before. It depends on probabilistic matters of contingent fact rather than deductively certain truths.

Both can be and often are riddled with error. But at least science has ways of letting us know this so that we may pick up the pieces and put them together somewhat more soundly than before, to build a stronger foundation of knowledge that needs no absolute self-justification by logical necessity.

With faith alone, we are left with no worthwhile way of telling truth from falsehood, save by whim, or prejudice, or the commands of an authority, guided only by a subjective feeling of certainty and never really knowing our way outside the sometimes rigid confines of our own beliefs.

I know, because I’ve been there, and I know personally, as Plato noted, what a tragedy it is to be afraid of the light.

About Troythulu

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Wednesday, 1:40, May 1, 2013, in Ponderings, Secularism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

Commenting below. No spam or trolling, or my cats will be angry.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

GYA today

Give Yourself Away

vulticulus

Just another WordPress.com site

Ethereal Heights

its a beautiful world

"Tell me a story" ebook in amazon

new home for ethereal heights

Earth in black and white

A slice of real world

Petals of Fire Lotus

books of poetry and painting

daintypetals

a bouquet of wild flowers

"Black Mist and other stories"

I dreamt for stars, gathered stardust in my soul, sprinkling some to earth now, waiting for them to grow up in dream wood.

HotDog on ACID

Comics and Doodles

Rare Horror

We provide reviews and recommendations for all things horror. We are particularly fond of 80s, foreign, independent, cult and B horror movies. Please use the menu on the top left of the screen to view our archives or to learn more about us.

Michelle M. Welch

author of speculative fiction

Poetgeneral

In the world of Literature, Anything Is possible. Poetry/ literature is the express expression of the heart and soul.

Write With Warnimont

Write for fun. Write to inspire. Write to change the world.

Echo LaVeaux

...mystical musings from a magical mind...

dpapa

Living a flip flop life!

randommusings

"Everything you can imagine is real." - Pablo Picasso.

DARK MATTER SPACE

Seeing Future in Space

BOOKS (UN)LIMITED

(im)personal book store for you

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

jhgoodglass

80's Revivalists UNITE!

Storiform.com

Writing Popular Fiction

Sharmishtha Basu

paintings, poems and thoughts

Realm of Empress Musie

Sharmishtha Basu's poetries

"songbird sings to sun" ebook in amazon

Colours and words two muses dancing together

Thoughts

Realm of Musie (my muse)

Marianne Talbot Philosophy

Marianne is Director Of Studies in Philosophy at the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education

La Audacia de Aquiles

El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto

Optimal Human Modulation

Your Space to Defrag

Words on a blackboard

In a world of poems, words steal love and put it on a blackboard

Math Outlet

Math Resources For Elementary Teachers

Kurt Brindley

RELATING TO HUMANS

Author -Carole Parkes

Psychological, thriller, mystery, secrets, betrayal, adoption, romance, poetry, art

Some Bad Plankton

creative outlet plugged in

kvm88

I don't want believe I want to know. - Carl Sagan

Physics and Art

The strange case of Dr. August and Mr. von Orth.

Charlotte Cuevas, Author

Current writing projects: 52 Flashes of Fiction & The 365 Poetry Project: Year 2

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Deidra Alexander's Blog

I have people to kill, lives to ruin, plagues to bring, and worlds to destroy. I am not the Angel of Death. I'm a fiction writer.

lalocabrujita

Zingendewoorden

Riley Amos Westbook

A fantasy Author with too much free time on his hands.

Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf

My ramblings about books and other random things.

Radhika Mukherjee

Writer. Editor. Dreamer. Eco-Feminist.

The Nerd Nebula

The Nucleus of the Universe for all Nerd Hacks!

The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Sucheta the Scribbler

Random. Purely Random. And then some more...

Eric Ian Huffman

I've come to Write.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,175 other followers

%d bloggers like this: