Sunday, November 14, 2010

Faith or Certainty?

IT has a very good post over on Friends of Jake about the old Religion versus Atheism fight. Only her take on it is not about one versus the other, but on the absolutist and exclusivist claims made by both sides. It seems to me that both sides in this fight yearn for something that no one can have, certainty.

As far as I'm concerned, certainty is the heroin of history. It takes over and ruins lives and whole cultures. Anyone claiming to offer certainty is a snake oil salesman or a crack dealer, whether they are selling religious certainty or ideological certainty or whatever. What we get in the end are arrogance, ignorance, and fanaticism with all the crime that comes with them. The claim of certainty makes people willfully deaf to the suffering of their neighbors and kills off the very last sparks of empathy and compassion that make us human beings as opposed to robots. The desire for certainty is the origin of the worst kinds of evil.

The decision to believe and the decision to not believe will always have one big thing in common. They are both ultimately arbitrary. There are as many varieties of belief and unbelief as there are people. We must treat our neighbors with forbearance and humility.

"Since analogies are rot
Our senses based belief upon,
We have no means of learning what
Is really going on,

"And must put up with having learned
All proofs or disproofs that we tender
Of His existence are returned
Unopened to the sender."

--WH Auden


Bex said...

Can't remember who said it, but "the opposite of faith isn't doubt, it's certainty."

Unknown said...

So well said!