25 Dec 2017         home | more philosophy

Faith better than Doubt?

On this Christmas Day the New York Times has an opinion piece by Paul Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in three previous Republican administrations. In his last paragraphs he embraces both faith and doubt:

To emphasize faith is not to cast out doubt. In fact, it is precisely to take doubt seriously, but also to understand the doubter more completely — not just as a reasoning mind but as a full person, possessed of a divine spark that lets us see, now and then, right through the walls we have built between faith and reason.

Someone from Maui writes:

We live in an age in which truth and accuracy are paramount and we have numerous legal and social mechanisms to ensure that we all understand what the truth is. It is impossible to have a well functioning faith-based society, well, unless you want to return to the middle ages.

Someone from San Francisco:

Faith is the devil's bargain of all religions. By offering substitute knowledge, alternative facts, the believer gets comfort. In return, the religion gets power... Facing the world with empirical knowledge, is empirically stronger, until the knowledge runs out. Then we are left with a choice: faith or uncertainty. Facing an uncertain world takes courage ...

Here is one for people who don't think like me. Enjoy and ignore that the first begs the question and the second, with its devotion to metaphors, is ancient but philosophically not sound.

(1) Kierkegaard said that Jesus as God is a reality to be experienced and not a problem to be solved. (2) The ancient view of truth included the view that symbols and metaphors reveal something that is actually true about the world.

I'm with Mike from Santa Clara, California:

A person who doubts, seeks reason, logic and thinking to understand the world. This takes an active will and requires work. It's much easier and simpler to just say "I have faith" then to actively try and understand the world.

It's my opinion that to make such a discussion meaningful we need to get specific. Faith in what? or who? And what do you mean by your use of that word?

Here is comment from someone who has more confidence in empiricism than in assumption. She writes:

Faith and science are not compatible, unless one changes the definition of faith. Faith means accepting something as true without asking for proof. That breaks a fundamental scientific principle.

I would add that some who have confidence in their faith are aiming their faith at something more in the realm of their own subjectivity than in a reality outside that subjectivity. Accepting Kierkegaard's reality as "something to be experienced not a problem to be solved" seems to me overly isolated on the subjective side in that it ignores that in living we are confronted daily by problems that need to be solved, problems outside ourselves that we bump into and apply our minds to — a mix of the objective and subjective and not one or the other.

A conversation about Jesus of Nazareth — the historical Jesus — is different from a conversation about a subjective Jesus, a Jesus that someone says is within them, a Jesus that people claim to know emotionally and with faith. And those with such faith have an understanding of knowledge that differs from those of us who don't try to meld science and Christianity.

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