Saturday, April 23, 2011

And another-nother thing.

Today's thoughts:

I wish to propose something to you, dear reader. It's a little thought puzzle, and you can play it right where you're sitting. Imagine:
- A china teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars, too small to be picked up by even our most powerful telescopes and thus utterly unprovable.
- A magical unicorn that is both invisible and pink, its contradictory nature chalked up to divine mystery and invisibility rendering it utterly unprovable.
- A giant bee which lives inside the sun, using its infinite invisible arms to manipulate all matter in the universe. Oh, and it's completely and utterly unprovable.
- For bonus points, why not make up your own! It's fun, and the only rule is that they have to be entirely without evidence. Go wild!

Now for the fun part: I want you to believe that each of those exists. You can believe in them one at a time, or all at once - it's up to you. They're all unfalsifiable, so their non-existence cannot be any more proven than their existence; it's all up to you to decide whether they exist or not. So can you bring yourself to truly believe in them - simply acknowledging that their existence is a possibility doesn't count - after honest and rational scrutiny? Or are they too obviously made up to prove a point?

I bring up this odd and mildly patronising exercise because I realised I didn't cover everyone in my last post - the one about how you're either a theist or an atheist. I still believe that, but I left one possible group out: those who are in the middle, undecided, but still think faith deserves a chance. If you think faith is valid evidence, then I would suggest you still count as a theist even if you're still unsure about the existence of a specific divinity. All the examples I listed earlier rely on faith, yet they're so ridiculous that no remotely rational person would consider them to actually exist.

So why do we consider faith an acceptable form of evidence in some cases but not in others? Or rather, why do we consider faith anything other than a delusion in some cases but not in others. I'm not trying to argue now that faith is bad or anything like that. I'm just trying to get a consensus that faith is an unacceptable source of "evidence" and is simply people convincing themselves of something which is completely without proof (and thus they have no reason to believe). Which it is. Don't back out on me now - we've already shown that. Once we're on the same page about that, then we can discuss whether theism is a force for good or evil in this world. Otherwise we're going to be talking past each other and no productive debate can occur.

TL;DR - A short tack-on to my last article, in which I acknowledge that I wasn't completely thorough and set out to rectify this lack of insight. Essentially, if you still consider faith to be remotely valid, I classed you as a theist. Apologies.

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