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01-30-2011 - Faitheist

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I guess that could be another "alternative spellings and definitions" candidate. This imaginary word is actually an oxymoron. Even an atheist has faith in what they disbelieve. Disbelief is a belief. Faith, or a belief system, is an inherent result of living. These systems can be divided into three types: 1) an organized or shared belief, 2) a personal belief resulting from a mix of existing ideas or 3) one that is wholly personal.

Is there a difference? Surprisingly, that is debatable. There are a few filters that may be used to vet various belief systems.

  • Is it universally applicable? Does it make sense from the point of view of, let's say, the inhabitants of another planet that have nothing in common with humans?
  • Is it simple enough to be true? Scientists search for the most elegant solutions to their equations. These tend to be short, simple equations that are beautiful in themselves. Any belief system consisting of myriad hoops to jump through and rituals to perform seems to fly in the face of this train of thought.
  • Does it, after appropriate study, stand up to scrutiny and common sense, or the type of common sense associated with the potential for circular reasoning (meaning that it requires faith at some point)?
  • Is it flexible enough to adapt to new knowledge? In general, do new discoveries and modes of thought corroborate or contradict?
  • Does it feel right? This one is tough to get around due to conditioning, but it's not impossible. You can either attempt to empathize with a believer or simply meditate on the idea.

Many existing shared beliefs can be seen in a new light by simply pruning away everything man has tacked on and searching for the essence of the belief. Alternatively, it may be wise to take what we currently know and find the belief that fits the evidence. This implies a flexible or fluid belief system. This phrase, too, may seem like an oxymoron, but it is not. Although a person's beliefs may be fluid due to increasing knowledge and awareness, these fluid beliefs may remain within the envelope of a framework of belief. This framework can serve as a context in which to construct, test and contain various systems of belief, as well as provide a basis for rigorous empathetic understanding. An analogy could be an implication concerning the topology of a closed universe; it is a finite volume in which you can travel an infinite distance. The alternative is to have a myopic perspective incapable of self-examination.

This conceptual construct, this framework of belief, can appear paradoxical in nature. "If God is everything, then everything you believe has to be a subset of God." In other words, how can a belief in God exist within a fabrication? If God is an absolute how do you objectify it? How do you get outside of God? With an eye towards finding the truth most closely aligned with objective reality, this apparent paradox reduces to a matter of scope. If your perspective is large enough, or imaginative enough, the problem is seen as an artifact of restricting reality to a purely human view.

Personally, I have seen enough that the leap is pretty small for my version of faith. It has been shown that our brains contain a region known as the "God spot" that appears to be specifically tuned to process spiritual phenomenon. Is it there due to our spiritual nature or does it represent an evolutionary advantage? Most discoveries generate more questions than they answer, but without the mystery we wouldn't need to believe.

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