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Interesting entry..

January 19, 2008

Here is a post that Adam made on hxc. I thought it was worth sharing on my blog, it is a very interesting read:

I’m of the opinion that religious devotion can be categorised neither as belief nor as knowledge.

Knowledge implies the definite, verifiable, and universally observable interpretation of reality within empirical parameters. I gain knowledge of a physical phenomenon from testing it under laboratory conditions, repeating the results, verifying them in the eyes of others, and gaining some agreeable conclusions which fit the data. It doesn’t even need to be that complex, if I can see along with five other people that a tree stands direction in front of me, then I know that a tree is there. Knowledge is the certain awareness of objective reality as it is observed and agreed upon by humanity.

Belief, conversely, describes the act of subscribing to a possibility and treating it as a probability. “I believe that the States will invade Iran this year,” for example. I could “believe” in the Loch Ness monster, but how does that affect my existence? How does it impact my everyday living? How does it inform the decisions I make? Belief is merely a conclusion based on personal interpretations of data. In this manner, people “believe” in God, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it matters one way or the other to their general existence.

Religious devotion is neither belief nor knowledge. It is faith. Faith can never be knowledge in that it is both objective and subjective, and not exclusively one or the other. The act of having faith is objective, and the source of that faith is perceived through subjective interpretation. Faith, then, is based upon personal experience. This is not knowledge, which describes reality inasmuch as it is directly experienced within our realm of immediate perception (via the five senses), nor is it belief, which is a personal conclusion based on personal views of evidence. This may make it sound as though faith is somewhere between belief and knowledge, when in fact it transcends the two. Knowledge and belief are our ways of making sense of the reality we directly perceive, whereas faith is concerned with the entirety of reality, both seen and unseen. Faith sees the interconnected nature of the subjective and the objective, and how they inform each other. Faith is not a dormant belief, but impacts a person’s existence on every level.

In this regard, agnosticism is the most rational and “scientific” viewpoint. Science and other empirical forms of study do not acknowledge the intervention of a deity, but neither do they discount such a thing. It’s simply not in their function to do either, but rather to examine and investigate the laws of nature as they are.

Atheism, on the other hand, exists in my mind as an affirmative belief. If one considers themselves an atheist, then they are essentially declaring that all we can directly perceive is all that can possibly exist. Everything we behold with our five senses, in some way or other, essentially defines the sum of objective reality. When it comes down to it, our concept of “God” is our own way of subjectively relating to the unseen objective state of all existence. We use anthropomorphic terms to describe Him (such as that, for example), but that is essentially what God is. It is fundamentally useless to describe God as a singular “being” in the traditional sense of the term, and much more fertile to behold Him as the source, the ground of being itself. The Christian doctrine of Trinity is especially vital in this regard, to describe the way in which God (Reality) relates to us as human beings, by serving as an eternal community Himself. We are made in the image of community, for the purpose of community.

So, in my mind:

Faith: The state of being in relationship with God/Reality.
Agnosticism: The unawareness of God, with the acceptance that we do not behold all of objective reality.
Atheism: The unawareness of God, with the fervent belief that humanity beholds all of objective reality.

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