Monday, March 21, 2011

Cherish Your Doubts

Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the attendant of truth.

Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge; it is the servant of discovery.

A belief which may not be questioned binds us to error, for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief.

Doubt is the touchstone of truth; it is an acid which eats away the false.

Let no one fear for the truth, that doubt may consume it; for doubt is a testing of belief.

The truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by the testing:

For truth, if it be truth, arises from each testing stronger, more secure.

Those that would silence doubt are filled with fear; their houses are built on shifting sands.

But those who fear not doubt, and know its use, are founded on rock.

They shall walk in the light of knowledge; the work of their hands shall endure.

Therefore let us not fear doubt, but let us rejoice in its help:

It is to the wise as a staff to the blind; doubt is the attendant of truth.

- Robert T. Weston

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Problem of Faith

In a recent email exchange with a few close friends, I lamented on my fence-sitting position about the idea that religion, in and of itself, is harmful to our society. I received a great response from my friend Janet Factor. Our short exchange is pasted below. Janet's response is included with her permission.


I continue to have this internal debate over the idea of the direct "harmfulness" of religion.

Many atheists claim that religion, in and of itself, is harmful, not only because of what some religious adherents do in the name of a particular religious deity or figurehead, but because of the negative influences it can have on their day-to-day decision making (for example: praying for healing instead of visiting a hospital).

I always wonder, however, with humans being the way they are, if there was no religion, wouldn't there most likely be some other harmful political or social ideal that various groups would follow with just as much fervor?


You have a point, Mike, in that of course there are other destructive ideologies that people can adopt. However, it is not as though the presence of religion prevents them from arising, Nazism got along just fine with the German churches.

I would put it this way: the problem is not belief in gods per se, nor is it even the broader system of religions in general. The problem is FAITH. Faith is a great evil that underlies Nazism and Stalinism just as much as it underlies religion.

For this reason, I believe that if religion, which explicitly names faith as virtue, encourages and glorifies it, were somehow eliminated (not that I think it will be) the other irrational and destructive systems of thought would also decline. Faith teaches people to be credulous, and the evil among us will always exploit credulity.

But I will say, this is a battle that will have to be fought anew in every generation. It will never be won for good and all.

I think Janet is correct. As long as faith is upheld by humankind as a virtue, it will remain an anathema to our wellbeing in modern society.