Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The semantics of "faith"

Lately, I've come across many theological arguments where one side will resort to the following strategy - "Well, you can't prove that G-d exists, and besides, that is why they call it faith!"

I have problems with both parts of this statement. Seems to me that when our theological texts refer to "faith", or being "faithful" (ne'eman), they really mean faith in the sense of steadfastness, fidelity. In other words, not abandoning a belief in the face of persecution or dissuasion, like a good friend who sticks by you through thick and thin. I don't believe it means to acquire a belief without a rational basis for it. So to appeal to the usage of this word seems disingenuous, or at least inappropriate in this context.

Tackling the first part of the statement - it is probably true that you could not prove the existence of G-d, just like you could not prove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. However, this is not what the crux of the argument is usually about. The proof that is sought is usually the veracity of claims of various religions about G-d's interaction with the physical universe and specifically direct communication with various individuals. This is something that should be easy to prove.

6 Comments:

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

But I've SEEN the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

November 29, 2006 1:52 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Have you been touched by His Noodly Appendage?

November 29, 2006 8:33 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

why should G-d's interaction with His world be easily verifiable? according to what rules?

December 03, 2006 1:28 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Miri,

I meant "easier", not "easy" but was frankly too lazy to edit the post.

Why do I think it is easier? Because now you are involving the natural world and not just a supernatural being. Humans have the ability to explain phenomena in the natural universe, so it is possible to identify G-d's interaction with the universe.

December 03, 2006 2:11 PM  
Blogger SMB said...

prove? true, you probably can't prove it. as many people have pointed out, you can't PROVE anything. Furthermore, infinite isn't really something we can comprehend (try to imagine an infinite line - when I try, I just imagine a line stretching out into the distance). You can bring very strong evidence for G-d's existence though - as you said, from his interaction with this world.

December 27, 2006 9:07 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

SMB, what are you trying to say - "you can't prove anything"? Have you taken a highschool geometry class? Please read my post again. I am talking about proof of very specific events.

You're right - infinity is hard to imagine, but not impossible. A circle is infinite in one dimension - it has no beginning or end. Mathemeticians and engineers deal with infinity, bounded or unbounded everyday (how about a convolution transform?)

December 27, 2006 10:08 PM  

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