Sunday, June 27, 2010

Please understand these few things

Most religious I have to deal with misunderstand why I become silent when they tell me about God, supernatural activities, and esoteric meaningfulness. Some religious people with some experience with the non-believing simply misunderstand their own terms, or the atheistic point of view. In order for me to to explain this, I am going to define some terms for future reference.

1. Faith: I recently read an article by Philosopher David S. Brown called Reasoning Down the Rabbit-Hole. In it he presents one of his pet peeves with New Atheists. He claims that atheists define Faith arbitrarily as "a beilief without evidence". Now I have generally eard that definition from atheists (not to mention my handy-dandy Webster's dictionary), but Dr. Brown seems to believe that the defintion of Faith should be that of Medieval philosophers. I am no expert on Medieval philosophy/theology, but I am aware of the arguments that were crafted to prove a deity which had to be Christian.

However, without even delving into the Medieval period, I have found a problem with Dr. Brown's argument. He first claims that one should not make artbitrary definitons to words. He secondly claims that New Atheists redefine Faith in order to defeat theologians. Finally, He asserts that Medieval philosophers did not use Faith in that fashion. There is a twist of hand that he uses in his argument so obvious, it sickens my philosophical heart. He is the one using redefintion of terms to win an argument instead of searching for the truth of the situation. He arbitrarily chose the Medieval meaning of Faith, and that is exactly what he warned in his essay not to do. This is what the enemy of philosophers, the Sophists, did.

Now to be more sympathetic, I will evaluate all his claims instead of just looking at that error he made.First, he claims New Atheists, especially Richard Dawkins, are redefining the word Faith to mean "a belief without evidence". Now, I understand why the faithful may feel they have evidence in all the feelings and God-sightings, but I am skeptical of these claims and take them as delusional thinking. I could give many examples of how believers I have work with have conditioned themselves to act and think as if they had seen God, but that is not necessary to prove my first point. As a rising philosopher, I have reviewed the common evidence used by common believers (as opposed to sophicated theologians) for their deity, and I have concluded that these believers do not have evidence that is conclusive to their beliefs. Now I may be wrong, but I even have plenty of belivers who share the sentiment that their is "lack of evidence" component to Faith.

Also, I have Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary which states that Faith is loyalty to a person or duty, a trust or belief in one's God, or a firm belief in which there is no proof. Now, Faith is a word that believers wave around a lot, using it with very complex nuances. They always want more of it and continually humble themselves as if one could never have enough of it. They use the three defintion interchangably.

In order for a claim aboiut the universe to be justified, there must be evidence that logically supports the claim. In order for a belief in a claim to be justfied, the claim must be considered in a logical and systematic way. These two claims I just made are understood to be true and absolutely essential to good science and philosophy. From the point of view that religious claims are unjustified because of the lack of evidence, the last two defintions logically infer religious Faith in those claims to be unjustified. To prove that there is no evidence for all religious claims would be impossible, but I will generalize for the sake of time and space.

Because the dictionary supports the definition Richard Dawkins uses as lexicon definition and the fact that religions calim things which they have no proof, the definition Richard Dawkins uses is not arbitrary but accurate. Because Dr. Brown asserts that Medieval philosophers used a different defintion has no bearing on the modern lexiconial usage of the word, it would be arbitrary and, by his own reasoning, wrong to use a defintion from a specific time period.

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