Thursday, December 19, 2002

So the other night I was talking to an atheist friend of mine regarding whether or not it’s stupid to have faith in God. My position is that it’s not stupid at all to have faith in God, provided that your reasoning behind it is of a decent sort. That's not to say that it's never stupid to have faith in God; or that it's always stupid to not.

I’m of the belief that all people have faith in something, and if they didn’t they’d cease to exist. Even the most empirically minded person has to have some faith. As Kurt Goedel wrote it, on a subject entirely different: “In any non-trivial axiomatic system, there are true theorems which cannot be proven.” At our most empirical, we must still take base perceptions on faith. Why does two equal two? Well, ultimately, because we have faith that it does, and for no better reason.

People have to have faith in the most basic things. We believe that our perceptions are accurate. We believe that we have five fingers because it looks that way, and feels that way, and well it certainly seems that way. Is their proof for the idea that we have five fingers? Hardly! We can’t even prove that, as individuals, we exist. Descartes put forth a mighty effort. But he never really succeeded when he said: “I think, therefore I am.” What he really proved was that there was thinking going on, not that the thought actually belonged to him. It should’ve been stated: “Thinking, therefore thinking is.”

In any case, individuals have to have faith. Even the most hardened skeptic has to believe that getting out of bed each morning is worth something, or that eating is, or that, when he turns the key his car will start up. He may say he doesn’t believe in any of that, but at the base level he must, or he wouldn’t bother with them. You either choose to accept a little blanket faith, or you simply cease to be. If nothing else, it’s practical to have faith. And if you exist, quite frankly, you’ve got faith, so you shouldn't complain about the fact that others have it too.

So, we must have faith to exist. And insofar as it’s reasonable to exist, it’s reasonable to have some blind faith. That doesn’t establish that it’s necessarily reasonable to have faith in God. Faith in God, for instance, just to start, is not integral to one’s daily existence. One can function as easily without a belief in God, as with one. And God’s existence or nonexistence is by no means as readily apparent as, if you turn a key, the car engine starts. So how do we make the enormous jump from stating that it's reasonable to have faith and that it's reasonable to have faith in God?

There are millions of ways, of course, put forth by better armchair philosphers than me. You've got Pascal's wager, and Thomas Aquinas' many proofs for God, and I think Descartes did some and so on and so forth.

But quite generally, as for me, I don’t find it unreasonable, that even if someone only feels there’s a God, that they might believe that there is one. After all, people feel sure that there is such a thing as love, and that’s the best evidence we have for the fact. Joy is felt, not empirically measured. So, if you feel there’s a God, and there’s no evidence smacking you in the face to suggest there isn’t one, I’d say it’s reasonable to have faith in it. Now, I quite realize, that just because, for instance, someone may feel there’s a Santa Claus, that it doesn’t prove that he exists. But insofar as we can have perfectly present-less Christmas’, if we rely on no one but Santa to bring us gifts, it becomes unreasonable to maintain a belief in Santa. No such contradictions prove problematic for God; or in any case, not the one I'm prone to believing in.

Anyway, this could go on a bit. But I’m lazy, and this isn’t being graded. So there you have it, my opinion on whether or not it’s silly to maintain a belief in God. Take it, leave it, expand or detract from it, and debate it as you like. I'm going to go reread the Lord of the Rings mayhaps.