Tag Archives: faith

Pearls Before Swine

Pearls Before Swine

Faith is a barrier to understanding. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many times again, but until the average person realizes that faith is not a virtue but rather a hurdle to learning, I’ll keep saying it.

Let’s say that you’re training me how to do your job. You spend several hours, probably 40 a week, doing your job. You have manuals that explain how your job is done, and you’ve been trained. There are good reasons for you to believe that you do your job correctly. And your only desire is to pass on that knowledge and experience to me so that I will also be capable of doing your job. Do you think it’s worth your time to train me if I respond to you with “I know for a fact that you’re training me wrong”???

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’ve spotted a way to do your job more efficiently, or perhaps I already have relevant experience that doesn’t line up with your instructions. But you’d expect me to demonstrate the difference between my methods and yours and prove that my method is better. If I’m simply acting close-minded and unwilling to accept the information that you’re providing, then I’m wasting your time. To say with conviction and certainty “I know you’re wrong” doesn’t prove anything or resolve the difference of opinion. You’d be presenting me with useful information, but I’ve rendered it useless because I refuse to use it – or as the bible puts it, your wisdom is like “pearls before swine”.

I’m trying to put you in my shoes. I want you to know what it’s like to spend the time on a lesson, but to have it rejected offhand just because the person you’re instructing doesn’t accept that you could possibly know what you’re talking about. I want you to feel the frustration of trying to train someone, only to be told “people that I trust told me that you’re wrong.” Or “you’d be happier and more fulfilled doing it my way”. Or “you think you know everything”.

Can you picture this? Do you understand how it feels to be ridiculed, slandered, or dismissed when you try to pass on your wisdom to someone who doesn’t want it? It’s like trying to explain to a child why they have to eat their peas. You wish that the child would trust you, but the child is immune to reason. You can only keep feeding that child peas and hoping for the best.

Now I’m not saying for certain that you know how to do your job (or in the obvious parallel, that my blogs are always correct). But the proper response is to explain why it’s wrong, and that explanation involves evidence. Personal certainty isn’t convincing to anyone. To say “I know it’s true because I believe it’s true” is the ultimate circular argument, and even kids know “because I said so” is a stupid explanation. This is the absurd logic behind faith. Faith is nothing more than admitting that your belief is based on nothing more than belief and being satisfied with that. It may satisfy you, but to everyone else it just sounds stubborn. “You can’t train me. I know everything I’ll ever need to know.”

I don’t care as much about what you believe as why you believe it. People believe they’ve been abducted by aliens, or that they’ve seen Bigfoot, or that they remember past lives. There are people who have been to seances and they have faith that they’ve spoken to the dead. It doesn’t mean they’ve talked to dead people, it just means they’ve been deceived. People are, by nature, easily deceived. The only protection against this is reason based on evidence.

Imagine a world where religious belief wasn’t based on faith. Wouldn’t it be satisfying if religion worked as easily as your toaster? You put bread in, push down the handle, and in a few minutes you get toast. There’s little room for argument about whether or not toasters make toast – the answer comes in a reliable fashion and with reliable timing. Imagine if you could pray “God, give that atheist Supernova proof of your existence” and I suddenly received a stone tablet with God’s phone number and email address on it. Wouldn’t that be satisfying? And yet it doesn’t happen.

There are Muslims praying to Allah right now. They have faith in their religion’s truth. They believe that their prayers are answered, and not because they see actual results, but because they have faith that their prayers are answered. It should be obvious that their prayers are ineffective – after all, they aren’t really praying to anyone – and yet they don’t see the lack of results. Faith is a barrier to understanding, and a hurdle to learning. Do you get “toaster” answers to your prayers, or do you interpret the answers through faith? Does faith keep you from seeing the answer right in front of your eyes? The Muslims are blinded by faith. Are you? Yes, you. Don’t excuse it, don’t deny it, and don’t put your faith in me. You can think for yourself. Test it for real and trust the results.


Science and Dogma

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

“Faith is the license believers give each other to go on believing absurdities”  Sam Harris, in Letter to a Christian Nation

Astrology is bad science. This is obvious to rational people. The evidence supporting it is weak while the evidence against it is strong. I’ve mentioned the point in an earlier blog, and brought up the example of identical twins leading less than identical lives. This one fact alone is proof that Astrology is not scientific.

And yet, millions of Americans still believe in the fact of Astrology. Many make a living writing horoscopes and/or star charts. It is so popular that very few newspapers are without a daily horoscope – although plenty of them are savvy enough to realize this isn’t actual news, so they lump it with comics and add the disclaimer “For entertainment purposes only.”

Despite this disclaimer, the irrationality behind the very idea, and the evidence against it, Astrology still finds many subscribers. How is this possible? It’s because of faith. Those with faith in this bad science think that when a horoscope appears false that they must have misinterpreted it. Or they rationalize it by stretching its meaning to fit their experiences (horoscopes are well-known to be “vanilla” for this very purpose). Or they call it an “imperfect science” that has too many variables to be entirely accurate, like meteorology. They use faith in the first sense defined above, in being certain of the unseen.

The rest of us see such faith in the light of the second definition, a license to believe when facts fail. We don’t see their faith as noble or virtuous but rather as a poor excuse. This unwavering and stubborn faith is known as dogma.

We must all have faith, but we need not have dogma. I have personally never been in space and seen the round Earth with my own eyes, but I believe that it is round. There is a preponderance of evidence attesting to a round Earth, so much so that you would be irrational in this modern age to believe in a flat Earth. The difference between this scientific faith and dogma is that faith alone is nor required, nor is it unalterable. I could believe in a flat Earth if the evidence in its favor was greater. I have, after all, never seen a round Earth with my own eyes.

While it’s unlikely that scientists will revert to teaching a flat Earth, it’s possible because science is reasonable. Scientists would rather discover new data through trial and error rather than to admit that science is incapable of error. It’s wiser to a scientist to be as accurate and correct as possible rather than be seen as infallible. This is scientific faith.

The Holocaust actually happened. While this isn’t proven in experiments by men in white lab coats, it is scientific fact. The historical data, the eye-witnesses, and the standing architecture all give strong evidence to a Holocaust that actually occurred. The dogmatic view that the Holocaust never happened (which is actually held by many people) is based on weak evidence, and more importantly on a platform that no amount of evidence will ever change the minds of those who hold this view. The scientific view is based on a rational examination of the evidence at hand.

Religion is based on dogma. Believers have not left an out, a way to disprove their religion, and if you attempted you’d soon run into the excuse of needed faith. There is no way to change their minds, and no amount of evidence will ever amount to an iota of difference. This is why religious believers are hostile towards science, and always will be.