Daily Archives: January 17, 2012

Twittering Away at Philosophical Naivety

I’ve addressed philosophically naive statements before.  They always seem to come from Twitter, which is why I had to absolutely laugh at the recent issue of Writer’s Digest when it suggests writing dialogue in Twitterspeak (140 characters or less) as an exercise in creativity.

Sure.  That might work for a good writer, but not for Average Joe Twitterhead.

Enter BibleAlsoSays, a frequent contributor to mass ignorance. He has struck again with two statements.  First:




Well, let’s break this down a little bit.

First, BAS is operating from a faulty definition of the word “faith.”  Faith is not “belief without evidence,” but loyalty based on prior performance.  That loyalty is manifested in the actions of the believer; which means both belief and practice are required for a truly biblical faith.

We see now that BAS’s statement misses the mark entirely.  I take ownership of my faith by my actions, regardless of who passed the knowledge to me.  My wife brought me to faith through seeds planted years earlier by my grandpa, and the church, the Bible, and influences too numerous to name have taught me what it means to own the faith I was given.

My actions — primarily through my writing, but also through a local youth ministry co-op and by assisting in the presentation of church services — have made my faith my own.

Second, even if we allow for BAS’s faulty definition of “faith,” he’s still off-base.  Taking ownership of abstract ideals is the same as taking ownership of concrete objects.

The computer I’m typing this on is a perfect example, as it came from my church.  I didn’t build this computer, I didn’t load the original software on it, and I didn’t use it for the first few years of its existence.  The Dell factory built it, loaded the software, and shipped it to my church, where it sat on the secretary’s desk for a few years.  They sold it to my father-in-law, who then gave it to my wife and I after he realized that he didn’t need it.

I didn’t build it.  I didn’t use it at first.  But it is my computer now.  It served many before me, now it serves me.

Same with a belief.  It becomes my belief when someone shares it with me, and I accept it as true.  So it is now mine in a sense, yet it still resides with the original person — the advantage abstract ideals have over physical objects.

A belief is never really “owned” by anyone.  Rather, it is shared by a group of like-minded people.

A belief will pass from one to another, from generation to generation.  Each generation is free to question and discard it.  Religion is not immune to this — in fact, the growing number of nonreligious is testament to the fact that many do question religious belief and eventually discard it.

But to say that no one can take ownership of a religious belief because it was passed from parent to child is philosophically naive.  No belief is really one’s own, since all or most of our most fervently held beliefs were taught to us by someone at some point.

Yet, despite this, people take ownership of beliefs all the time.  And we let them, never questioning the source of the belief.  If I say, for example, that I believe Mercury is the first planet from the sun, no one scolds me by saying, “You discover that yourself, there, Copernicus?”

Whoever discovered it, it was taught to me by a science teacher and is my belief now.

Religious belief is not in a special category by itself.  What applies to it applies to every belief under the sun — though I much doubt BAS wants that to be true.  His hatred of religion blinds him to a lot of philosophical truth.  In sum, if faith is solely equal to belief, we can still claim it as our own in the same semantic sense we claim any belief our own despite it being part of a collective body knowledge that we did not personally discover.