My blog hits have spiked, and I think I know why, so with apologies I feel a need to venture far afield from the stated purpose of this blog. A few years ago, the San Jose Mercury News was running a “one-liners” section as part their editorial letters. I had been saying since 9/11 that what had brought down the towers was faith (given the motivation of the perpetrators), and it occurred to me to juxtapose that notion with the idea of faith moving mountains. I’m surprised that no one seems to have beaten me to it. The quotation has made its way around the web for some time. Apparently, someone posted it this week to something called “reddit” and my blog hits and Facebook invitations have gone through the roof. It seems that this would be a very opportune moment to comment further.

First and foremost, I do not discuss my personal faith. You may glean what you will from whatever I write, but I make no public pronouncements with respect to what faith there may or may not be between my ears. And that’s the important thing that I wish people would grok: faith is all between your ears. It is a subjective experience. You can try to put it in to words, you can try to make those words as persuasive as you wish, but it is wrong to try to force your faith on anyone else. Unfortunately, two of the world’s great religions got that way by, to quote the Christian version, “go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations” (emphasis mine), whether they want to be or not, being arrogant enough to believe that what’s right for you is right for everyone. It has been said that one of the hallmarks of child development is the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy, that is, objective from subjective. Taking your faith too literally is violating this distinction. Faith, that is, believing, is not another way of knowing. To know something is to base it on evidence gathered from reality. I know things fall down and not up or sideways, I know how many rooms are in my house even when I’m not looking a them, and so forth. To believe something is to accept it without evidence, or in the face of contrary evidence. This is not at all the same as knowing. To look for evidence in support of your faith is to admit a weakness or inadequacy of that faith. The phrase “supernatural explanation” is an oxymoron, since miracles are by definition something that can’t be explained. If your religion requires you to believe that doubt is a sin, then may we all be sinners in that respect. To quote the famous wagerer Pascal, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious convictions.” In this case, doubt would clearly be the lesser of two evils (if it is evil at all), since doubt usually carries a little compassion in its back pocket (and, no, that last is not original, so don’t attribute it to me).

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