Victus Spiritus


On Belief

26 Dec 2010

The fascination I have for faith is entirely unrelated to beliefs. Ricky Gervais' compelling WSJ post captured much of my feeling on belief. I smirked while reading Ricky's burden of proof comment:

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.

Mr. Gervais followed it up with a strong question and answer session. Here's the first question he fielded.

So how can you be so sure that science supports your belief that God does not exist?
The fact that science can say “we don’t know” is exactly my point. Science doesn’t start with a set of convenient conclusions and try to justify them. It follows evidence. In fact, it tries to prove itself wrong. When it can’t, it’s right. Superstition, religion and blind faith cherry pick the evidence and justify the results by changing the goal posts. There are no cover-ups in science. For better or worse it finds stuff out. It has no moral code as such. It leaves those decisions to society. It discovers life saving drugs but leaves it up to you whether to use them or not. It discovers that splitting the atom can release a massive amount of energy very quickly and leaves it up to governments to try it out or not. It finds out what and how and why. It asks can we? Not should we? This is why it baffles me that some god fearers believe that without a god there is no reason to be good. Really?

I have several friends who are deeply religious. I struggle to see the world through their eyes, to better understand what brought them to hold sacred what they do. Have they ever considered questioning the assumptions of their religions? I don't have to share people's beliefs to respect their decisions. But I'm not blind to the fact that they accept a deity driven reality.

If I had to classify my faith, I'd say it falls squarely in the agnostic category. I see no reason to explore the concept of intelligent creators of the universe until I encounter one. Folks waste far too much time and effort worrying about what other people believe. When I hear or read about creation myths I can't help but suppress a smile. I appreciate a wild story, but what most religions hold as doctrine is unquestionable fantasy. Don't get me wrong, I love a good fantasy novel, film or game, but I recognize their separation from reality.

Whether we hold belief in a creator, or are devout atheists, we live in a world with many who don't share our beliefs. Independent of beliefs, how we treat others defines us. I hit upon an interesting issue with an atheist friend who believes the universe is governed by a consistent and knowable set of rules. I found myself debating our ability to ever fully comprehend the nature of any complex system (nature) from completely within its boundaries. An atheist and an agnostic hit a crossroads of belief.

I'll leave off with a quote from Ricky's post:

But living an honest life -– for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

Is truth absolute?