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View Diary: New Paper Gives Insight Into How Religion Developed (165 comments)

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  •  And it doesn't always work for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trinityfly, jlb1972

    the authorities.  Lately I've been toying with the idea that one of the things that kicked off the Enlightenment and Protestant Reformation was the continuous plagues.  The inability of the Church to respond to the plague generated severe doubt in their authority.  When it comes to the pre-enlightenment period it's important to keep in mind just how differently they viewed the world.  God and the supernatural wasn't a matter of "belief" or "faith" like we have it today, but was a fact of every event in the world much like we see bacteria or viruses as a cause of sickness without directly observing them ourselves.  The inability of the church to respond to the plague would have spoken volumes in such a context, opening the possibility of thinking differently about religious matters.  Taylor's Secular Age does an excellent, albeit longwinded, job describing the difference between pre- and post-enlightenment ways of experiencing the world.

    •  Faith and Fact (0+ / 0-)

      I agree with what you said. Except the subtle difference in where you say:

      God and the supernatural wasn't a matter of "belief" or "faith" like we have it today, but was a fact of every event in the world much like we see bacteria or viruses as a cause of sickness without directly observing them ourselves.

      Actually, what was different was that fact was not valued as much as faith. Facts are knowledge that has been proven to someone directly, typically by exhaustive physical demonstration. Many modern people also accept as fact the product of some physical demonstration combined with rigorous logic, as we're practiced in logical proof. People thinking with pre-Enlightenment mentalities value faith or belief more than they value fact. They're more interested in fidelity to authority, especially because that authority extends to infinity, in the afterlife, as much as to all temporal matters. Those people were raised to accept that some hierarchical authority had infallible expertise, and their own judgment was fit only to accept that authority, or to err at the greatest cost, whether worldly or beyond.

      Faith still wasn't fact, but it held the privilege then that fact widely holds today.

      In between is "belief": knowledge that could be proved (or disproved) directly to the believer, but isn't, and is accepted (or rejected) anyway. Faith is knowledge accepted despite the impossibility of it being proved (or disproved), because it's metaphysical: not subject to physical behavior. Most people everywhere go on belief, because it's too costly (in time, effort, resources, attention, etc) to require every fact to be proved, and we have fairly cheap and reliable methods for knowing whether to believe most facts.

      Indeed, belief is widely abused in post-Enlightenment society. All kinds of knowledge that could be proved wrong is accepted as true by people just because they trust the authority. Often even when those people already know something that contradicts what they're accepting, often against what they know from direct experience. These people are often told to accept on "faith" what is subject to actual proof, and so is not faith.

      I think that if more people learned early the distinctions between fact, faith and belief, it would be harder to fool more of us. As it is, "fool all the people some of the time" and "fool some of the people all the time" has been maximized in this country. And with people increasingly specialized, enclosed in built and even purely media environments, the basis for that confusion will only increase.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:24:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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