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There is an episode of "The West Wing" about faith titled, "Belief in Things not Seen."  One definition of faith from Merriam-Webster is, "firm belief in something for which there is no proof."  I like thinking about faith in this way.  I believe in God (I wouldn't have capitalized the G otherwise).  That being said, my concept of God is probably not the same as yours, and much to my Rabbi's chagrin, not the same as his.  It is mine.  I own it.  I chose it.  There is no empirical proof, so I would not try to convince you of the rightness of my position.  You are welcome to choose to agree with me, and I won't try to sell you on my idea.

One thing that is very important to understand about faith, though, is that things believed do not require evidence that they are real.  There is about as much evidence to support the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus as there is God.  I am okay with that.  The problem is that people use belief in other areas.

In high school, I was very good at math.  At one point we studied proofs.  There were ideas put forth and we had to either prove or disprove them.  The truth of many of these ideas is now settled.  This is what science does.  Let's look at the facts that we have and prove or disprove an idea.  When you are acting on faith alone, you give yourself permission to dismiss evidence.

For me, the clearest example of this was the Iraq War.  Days before the invasion, Vice President Cheney was on Meet The Press.  He repeated the oft mentioned assertion that we would be greeted as liberators.  When he was asked what would happen if we weren't, his response was simply, "We believe we will be."  No evidence was necessary because it was a belief.

The Republican Party talks about faith a lot.  Often, it is in terms of religious faith, but it spills out to other areas.  They say they don't believe global warming is real.  They don't believe in evolution (It's only a theory, after all).  This allows them to ignore the fact that much of what Darwin wrote about has actually been proven in laboratories around the world.

This is the true problem with faith.  Instead of cognitive dissonance allowing the mind to expand, contradictory facts are ignored, treated as if they simply do not exist.  Faith allows people to untether statements from facts and actions (I.e, from reality).  For example, it allows Republicans to say that President Obama doesn’t love America, they believe, in the same manner as Governor Romney.  Saying, I believe, eliminates the need to back up the statement.   Let me give you another example.

There used to be a place near where I worked called Fuddrucker’s.  It was essentially an upscale burger franchise.  They had the regular hamburgers, and bison burgers, and ostrich burgers.  The big draw for me was the fixings counter; thick sliced beefsteak tomatoes, pico de gallo,  pickles, onions, jalapeno cheese to name a few items.  Anyway, a right-wing friend of mine used to make fun of me for going to Fuddrucker’s.  He dismissedly would ask why I liked the place.

I took him there.  He loved it.  He would rave about the taco salad he ordered.  A week later it was like his visit never happened.  The next time I mentioned going to Fuddrucker’s he was just as dismissive as he had been before.  He believed the place was not good.  Since his actual experience (on more than one occasion), conflicted with his belief, the experience got expunged from his brain.

Paul Krugman does an excellent job of pointing out why this is dangerous in his column “Grand Old Planet”.  However, it goes farther than that, because, as Stephen Colbert observed, “Reality has a liberal bias.”  Bobby Jindal is being praised for calling Governor Romney on the carpet for his “Gifts” comments in the wake of his electoral loss.  The problem is that he said, “We need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream,” as if their policies actually do that.  As Krugman points out, the Congressional Research Service dispels that notion.  If only the Right could believe in the fact.

Originally posted to Woody25 on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 03:12 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank You .... (5+ / 0-)

    Scheduled to be re-published on Street Prophets.


    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 04:40:14 PM PST

  •  Good diary on faith and such. (7+ / 0-)

    I'm perpetually dismayed that people who expound on the virtues of faith have consistently more political power than those who don't consider it a topic worth speaking about.  The most we faithless can get is usually someone who doesn't act as if we're less than human, which is inevitably a democratic candidate.

    I support science in all its forms, and think our social policy should be richly informed by the science, and hate it when faith makes false statements (usually about gays, single-mothers, transgendered, etc..) about people that hurts them.  The economic knowledge we have fits into this pain, that hurts impoverished people, and the republican party has a faith-based economic platform.

    That is what is dangerous, when faith can override scientific observation, evidence and theory.  It can hurt people.

    Beyond that, I have no issue with people who have a personal faith that doesn't attempt to override reason with its dictatorial power.  That's my sole qualm, so lacking that, I have nothing (politically) important to critique.

    I may not agree with you about god, but at least this diary shows we don't have to be enemies.

  •  Faith should be personal (4+ / 0-)

    I'm not quite sure how to convey my sense of this.

    To me, faith (usually understood as involving the "spiritual") has to be personal. I can believe in God, or karma, the ethic of reciprocity, or the planet Kolob or thetans of some sort. Those beliefs can direct my personal behavior and personal choices about the best way for me to be and do.

    Back a few decades ago (well, a few and then some) nobody of any faith seemed compelled to require that I be taught that creationism was a scientific truth any more than they required I study "turtles all the way down" as a scientific explanation. Cheney clearly stumbled off the "reality based" path when he said "we believe" they will welcome us. He could reasonably say "we think they will" or "we hope they will". I would still have disagreed with him. Had he said "we have evidence they will - and here it is" I'd have taken that under advisement.

    There is a Fuddruckers very close to me. Has been there for years. I've never gone there. From what I've been told it does what it does quite well. I don't, and can't, fault you for enjoying it. I might too, if I went there. I hope it's OK with you that I haven't had the urge (so far)?

    " can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem." Mitt Romney

    by Catte Nappe on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 05:25:48 PM PST

  •  Evolution is only a theory which is why people (3+ / 0-)

    refuse to believe in it; I have discovered that gravity is also only a theory and that scientists cannot fully explain everything about it.  We all know anything scientists cannot explain in full means they know nothing about it, so gravity is just something cooked up to deceive people and to advance the religion of secular humanism.

    Instead science should be based on a 3000 year old book of mythology.  Yep, science should adhere to the Odyssey. After all, we have actual fossils of Cyclops and chimera and other such animals detailed in the book.

    In the meantime, it seems Denialists should take a stand against this silly theory of gravity and immediately find the tallest point available and step off to show it is only a theory and not a fact.

    (snark alert)

  •  How do you draw the line? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Rogers

    You acknowledge that faith is bad, but then carve out an exception for your religious belief.

    Which is great and all, but how do you go about telling other people where they can and can't carve out an exception? If you can believe something without evidence, then why can't they believe something without evidence?

    Maybe you'll say, your belief causes no harm. But that can't be true. For belief to mean anything, it must in some way affect behavior, and to modulate your behavior based on a non-truth seems to beg for harm.

    Perhaps your behavior changes in ways that are acceptable; after all, we are allowed to inflict minor harms on each other in the name of social lubrication (you don't have to smile at me every time you pass me in the street, and you don't have to explain why; you can take every Tuesday off instead of Sunday, as long as you work your 40 hours, etc.).

    But then you've gone and said that your escape from strict rationality is, itself, bounded by rationality. Which starts to beg the question. And when someone comes along and tells you that they have faith that their irrationality is not doing harm, how are you going to argue?

    You cannot carve out an exception to rationality for yourself, and then deny other people the right to do the same, without engaging in hypocrisy. But if you let them make their own exceptions, you get the very zealots you are complaining about.

    Once you allow faith, you get either fascism or fanaticism, and in both cases eventually theocracy. This is because faith itself - the entire concept that your opinion can be elevated to knowledge without evidence - is a poisonous concept.

    •  Just to be clear (0+ / 0-)

      if you said you hoped in God, I wouldn't argue. You can hope for whatever you want. Hoping is a statement about your personality. But belief is a statement about reality.

      •  I hope this clarifies what I was trying to say (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        T C Gibian

        I talked about the difference between my choosing to believe in God- whose existence can neither be proven nor disproven- and the right's choosing to believe in things for which their exists contradictory evidence, evidence that they have even sometimes personally experienced and choose to deny.

        •  Your statement was clear (0+ / 0-)

          The Right tries to use faith, a legitimate method in spiritual matters, to apply to physical reality.  When the evidence proves them wrong, they must discount the evidence.  You are pointing out a clear distinction which needs to be more widely understood.  The first course leads to a strong, personal set of beliefs; the second to an ever increasing circle of delusion.

          Bear in mind that the above comment comes from a person who has no faith, but who tries to understand the sincere convictions of others.

          Bene Scriptum, Bene Intellectum.

          by T C Gibian on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 01:44:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

            I really appreciate both this reply and your original comment on my post.  As the writer, I believe that I was clear in the first place, however, I also recognize that I might be wrong in that contention.

  •  I believe in God, not because of faith... (0+ / 0-)

    I believe that there is "God" because, I remembered IT.

    I have experienced astral projection.

    At the beginning of my last astral trip some 35 years ago, I suddenly remembered IT.

    I was part of it and so was everyone, everything else.

    The spark of life that animates me is the same spark that animates everyone else.

    We are one. I guess that's how Karma works...

    Do unto others as you would have done to you (because IT IS YOU)

    The hardest part for me was suddenly knowing that the Catholic beliefs I'd been taught were not true. That is quite a shock to the psyche.

    Funny thing is, it all started at my Catholic high school. They brought in a variety of unusual "classes" we could attend one day. I chose Transcendental Meditation.

    The speaker began by explaining the planes of existence. The Physical, the Astral, and the Causal.

    After a few months of meditation, I had my first out-of-body experience during sleep. Very scary stuff, feels like you will die - your ego can't go with you.

    I think the memory I had was of my birth. I think that the look of peace that comes over a person's face when they die is the same memory. That, "WOW, I am one with the universe and there's nothing to worry about".


    "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." ~ Thomas Paine

    by third Party please on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 05:15:11 AM PST

  •  A magnificent diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You have hit on an critical point in that faith is valid on a personal level.  Writers who made critical comments should contemplate the implications of this statement.  Much mischief has been made by fanatics who insist that their personal beliefs are universal, and your diary clearly shows a separation from that.

    I hope you will continue writing along these lines because you are describing a perspective which needs to be understood more widely.

    Bene Scriptum, Bene Intellectum.

    by T C Gibian on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 09:07:47 AM PST

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