Saturday, June 1, 2013

Faith Versus Doubt

The NPR show Radiolab just did a fascinating and very moving piece on an issue that pre-occupies me a lot, the relation between knowledge and doubt.

There are 3 stories in this hour long show.

First is a very moving story about a young man who loses his faith, and just about everything else, a very traumatic experience.  And then he finds it again, sorta.  He finds a way to live with his doubts.

The second is a story about a pair of champion poker players, and how much doubt and uncertainty are integral to playing that game.

The third is a wrenching story about crime, a miscarriage of justice, and another crime.  Mistaken identity, uncertainty, and chance are intertwined in the most terrible way imaginable, demonstrating how imperfect is our justice, even when all involved do their best with the best of intentions.

This is an issue that I've dealt with in many posts before (such as this one).  This isn't the usual sterile religion versus secularism issue, but I think about something much deeper and more fundamental.  We need to trust our knowledge in order to find our way in the world, but when does it go too far?  Where is that point where we are so certain that we are right and that everyone else is not just wrong, but evil? When do we get to that point where, convinced in our own minds that we are absolutely right and on the side of angels, we can countenance (or even commit) any sort of crime and depravity in the name of that higher cause?

The worst depravities and the most horrific crimes of our era are driven not by lust or greed, but by the arrogance of the fanatic.  The ability to see humanity in those who differ or oppose us, and merit in their arguments, is not weakness, but humility.  We do the best we can despite our fallibility and our limitations.

4 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

The ability to see humanity in those who differ or oppose us, and merit in their arguments, is not weakness, but humility.

Difficult, for sure, but it is also the message in the Gospels. I'm afraid I don't always do the best I can. I will continue to try.

IT said...

Doug, we seem to be writing in complement to each other lately. Excellent post.

JCF said...

[Yes, IT, I thought he *was* writing in compliment to you!]

"Where is that point where we are so certain that we are right and that everyone else is not just wrong, but evil?"

It is for this reason that, above such relatively TRIVIAL differences like theism vs atheism, I *above all else* believe in nonviolence. The point at which one will physically harm another "in the Name of the Faith" shows that one's faith is in Power-Over By Any Means Necessary.

That said, it isn't always an easy decision, to know what is the Good, the Just, the Loving, the Nonviolent. "What-Ifs" can cloud the mind. But (per Gandhi) the "experiments with truth" go on. The struggle continues!

Counterlight said...

I'm also a believer in non-violence, and I become more so as I get older.
I'm afraid that I am preaching to myself as much as to anyone here. I have opponents and enemies, and it is an almost irresistible temptation sometimes to dish out to them what they dish out to me.