Saturday, May 21, 2011
What is faith? Don't worry, this is not going to be a screed against religion, nor am I going to dwell on this rapture nonesense, but the goings on of late have me wondering about faith. Believers tout it as the ultimate virtue, as if it were something you can acquire, but I don't have it, and I doubt, at this point, that I ever will. I have beliefs, to be sure. I believe in the physical laws of the universe. I believe in the properties of matter and energy that allowed life to form on this little ball of rock and gasses. I believe in the established behaviors of my friends and family, and I believe in my ability to predict, with a modicum of accuracy, most of my reactions to a given situation. But after nearly half a century of looking for evidence of the 'supernatural', and coming up empty, I find I don't have faith. I am a devotee of science, of fact, of provable, or at least plausible outcomes. I used to believe in the possibility of many things. I used to believe in the possibility of a large creature, hitherto unknown to modern science, that lived in a lake in Scotland. I cannot say it isn't there, but as the evidence has consistently remained absent, and as my understanding of the eco-system of Loch Ness has increased, I believe that the existence of a large, air-breathing creature of unknown taxonomy in the lake is highly unlikely. I cannot say that there is no Sasquatch, but again as the hard evidence has remained unattained, and the Bigfoot supporters put forth more and more impossible reasons for said lack of evidence, my belief in an undiscovered North American primate has dwindled. Likewise with ghosts, UFOs, ESP, and with anything religious. I have known many religious people who are filled with faith. I have known many 'religious' charlatans who claim to have faith, but use that claim as a tool for control, and not as a guide for righteousness. Sadly the latter have far outweighed the former in my experience. So, to me, faith seems more about blind obedience to authority rather than a virtuous belief in a benevolent deity. And while I can be as blinded by a charismatic leader as the next person, I like to think that eventually as the balance of evidence leans one way or the other, my opinion of said leader and his or her ideas will either wax or wane.
So where am I going with this? I'd like to say to those of you out there that have faith, good for you, but please understand that just because it comes naturally to you, it is not a universal constant. I have as much difficulty believing in an invisible entity that has provided no actual proof of its existence beyond the word of a few hundred zealots thousands of years ago as I do believing that aliens would travel billions of light years to this little backwater planet way out on the galactic rim just to buzz some rurals and steal some cow anuses. But, and here is the important bit, I won't ever say that your God does not exist, nor will I hold your faith against you so long as you understand my need for evidence and don't hold that against me.
Hope you're having a groovy rapture.