A Word On Faith

I engage with Christians, Muslims, Mormons and other sundry religionists online often. You might say I have a few years experience of these conversations under my belt, and if there's one thing this experience has taught me, it's that, ultimately, the final fallback of a religionist, when challenged, is "faith".

Demanding evidence, rebutting claims and generally pushing for justification ultimately comes back, one way or another, to faith. It is, you might say, foundational. I'm pretty sure most religious folks would agree with me on this.

So I figured I should post something about faith.

Mark Crislip, the narrator of the excellent Quackcast and Puscast, relates a story of his younger days. He tells how, when he was young, he thought that the Broadway in Portland, OR, was the same road as the more famous Broadway in New York, NY. This was his belief at the time, and it's easy to empathise with this, in a way.

Mark, of course, figured his way out of this conjecture in time. However it occurs to me; What if this was an article of faith?

Well, a man who believed this conjecture, this guess, as an article of faith would, based on my interaction with theists over the years, find a way to maintain this belief despite evidence to the contrary. He would still be believing this right now, even after his more skeptical contemporaries have moved on.

Here are just a couple of ways that a theist could reply to evidence countering this belief

  • "All the roads in the US are joined, one way or another. Clearly, then, the two Broadways are connected, and in a sense they are one and the same"
  • "The map you just showed me is not real. The cartographers who made it deny the reality of the oneness of Broadway, so they manufactured evidence to try and disprove it"
  • "I've spoken to someone that's driven the entire Broadway, and I'm assured that it really is all one road"
  • "You may have travelled that entire road, but you're not of the faith, therefore you cannot understand the connectedness of the roads"
  • It's Quantum (hat-tip: Deepak Chopra)

I often say to theists that "Faith is a guess". Ultimately, it is, but it's a guess held tightly and shored up with misunderstaning and fallacy, and a difficult thing to let go of. Theists, though, seem unwilling to actually drive the road and test their faith. You can offer them evidence, or lack of evidence, or demand evidence from them until you're blue in the face, but they'll always find a way around.

Ultimately, though, Broadway in Portland and Broadway in NY are two unconnected locations, linked only by a property assigned to them by people.

There is no "supreme road".

This, for me, speaks volumes.

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