Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Logical errors related to faith and religion.

I am a believer in faith. I believe one place faith is appropriate is when the truth about a matter is not known (like what happens after you die) and one belief will support a healthy mindset (such as the belief that there is an existence after death in which we have some form of reunification with our loved ones) or an unhealthy mindset (such as a belief that death is an absolute end and nothing more exists).

Now, I would not have thought the latter belief was particularly unhealthy when I was single and childless. I had loved ones, but I guess the bond was not nearly as strong as that with my own children. As soon as I became a father, the notion that my children and I would one day lose each other permanently was depressing to the point of being unthinkable.

Now, I did not embrace faith in an afterlife only after becoming a parent. I had already decided for myself that belief in an immortal soul was more sensible than believing in nothingness after death, and was more optimistic. I view optimism as a healthier mindset than pessimism. However, becoming a parent reinforced my belief and I feel strongly had I been an atheist up to the point that I became a father, I would soon have embraced a belief system that afforded me hope of reunification with my children after death.

The bottom line is that we do not know, no one knows, precisely what existence we have, if any, after death. So, any belief -- including atheism -- is somewhat illogical compared to simpy admitting and embracing a doubtful mindset. However, I feel that the belief I have embraced allows me to love my children with less reservation, to avoid time spent worried about the risk that death is an absolute end, and having an stronger fear of death that might lead me to be more selfish in how I live my life in order to postpone my death or that of my loved ones.

I mean, I'm not happy about the notion of death, but I'm also not particularly worried about it. I have enough confidence in my view that death is only a transition, and that we ultimately will reunite with our loved ones, that I could easily see myself sacrificing my life for a greater good. I could also embrace a societal moral that people will not go to selfish, extreme lengths to prolong their own life at any cost. Death come to everyone eventually. I look around and see alot of fear of death, see people sparing no expense at measures to prolong their life even after they have reached a ripe old age. I feel this is not particularly good for the planet, these people use up resources better spent on other things.

I'm not embracing some view that all people should suicide at age 30 like in the movie Logan's Run. But I do think like the idea of people embracing a mindset that allows them, after reaching a certain age (like 70, 80, whatever) when they will NOT bend over backwards to eke out an extra month, year, whatever. I freely admit it's easy to say that at age 42. Will I feel differently at age 70? Maybe, only time will tell.

However, the point is that, in an overpopulated world where we are straining scarce resources to support our population, I don't particularly like the notion that so many people seem obsessed with extending the lifespan. Is it really so great if we manage to find scientific means to make lifetimes twice as long? Till the after lifespan is 150 years? 300 years? To me, that is not inherently good. It will almost overnight greatly exacerbate the population problem on Earth.

I think this terrible fear of death so many humans have makes us commit resources to extending life or preserving it at all costs, rather than focusing on other society goals like finding a fairer way to share Earth's resources, finding a higher purpose for humanity than merely prolonging our existence, etc.

So, anyway, I think a mindset that lessens fear of death is healthy and useful and positive. So I embrace such a mindset. Am I fooling myself? Have I brainwashed myself? If so, is that wrong if the end result is a healthier mindset? Is truth -- or true doubt -- sacred and inherently better than embracing a lie that objectively improves quality of life on Earth?

Okay, enough about that. The point is, I have faith. I like faith. I think I have more faith than most Christians I know. Most Christians I know, despite their supposed "faith" in immortality and an afterlife and reunification with loved ones, are inconsistently paranoid of death and depressed when loved ones die. To me, this reveals a certain dishonesty. Basically, the best explanation I can come up with for why they are so paranoid and concerned with death is that they do NOT truly believe the Christian view of the afterlife that they claim to embrace. If anyone has another explanation, I'd be glad to hear it.

Moving on, to the point I wanted to make initially, I was debating religion with a smart Christian friend. He made what I found to be a surprising logical error. He said that he was Christian because he had seen miraculous things in his life that proved his faith. So, basically, he was raised Christian and had faith in the Christian tenets. Maybe he woule have lost that faith at some point in time EXCEPT, he had some certain miraculous and inexplicable happenings. Maybe some one was supposed to die, prayers were made, and the person lived. Maybe this person was in danger and was spared by some seeming impossible coincidences. Whatever the case, it was enough to convince this person that there was some force watching out for people responding to prayers, etc.

The logical fallacy is that even assuming those miracles prove there is a divine force that watches out for us, some divine plan, some power to prayer, NONE OF THAT proves Christianity. In fact, I'm nowhere near being Christian, and I myself believe in all those things. I believe in a higher power that has a higher plan, that there is a purpose to everything, and that our own thoughts, wishes, prayers can help steer how the future unfolds.

So, basically, here's the problem in a nutshell: Imagine a man appears one day at the White House and claims he is Jesus Christ coming down for the second coming. I think we will all agree Barak Obama would be mightily skeptical (as would anyone else hearing this). Now, let's assume this man then takes Barak to a hospital and proceeds to cure all sick patients in that hospital with the touch of his hand. Question time: Does that prove the man is Jesus Christ? NOT IN THE LEAST! It proves nothing more than that this man has a power to heal with touch that is beyond what we can understand. That's it. Could be some advanced technology (maybe the man is an alien or working with aliens?) Could be this man has mastered some form of sixth sense or untapped human potential. Could even be some incredibly complex and wide-reaching conspiracy wherein every patient and every doctor in that hospital is part of some conspiracy to fool Barak and fake all the healings.

The point is, a logical thinker must be cognizant of what is actually proven by a miraculous event. Just because you are taught that belief in Jesus Christ can work miracles, and you then pray in Jesus Christ's name, and your prayer is then answers, in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM proves Jesus Christ existed, was the son of God, or that there is any validity to Christian dogma.

My own opinion is that the benevolent higher force that exists, whatever it may be, does not really give a flying fig how you couch your pleas for help. In fact, I tend to think we ourselves are fragments of God, like neurons that help to make up the universal brain of God, and whatever we wish for or pray for or expect to happen, is more likely to happen because our own Godhood helps to steer the future to unfold the way we hope or pray or wish or expect it will unfold. So, in that sense, it does not matter one whit if your prayer is in the name of Jesus Christ or Allah or Mohammed or Zues or Quetzelcoatl. Your wishes and expectations will still have power to steer the course of the future. You will still see the future unfold in ways that sometimes reveal some master plan and defy coincidence. This happens for everyone, even non-Christians (it has certainly happened for me) so it in no way proves there is any legitimacy to Christian dogma.

So you can go ahead and embrace those limited things that ARE proven by such miraculous events, just as I do, but please do not go too far and imagine those events somehow lock, stock and barrel prove totally unrelated, dogmatic religious dogma or myth.

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