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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:!/BibleAlsoSays/status/159474512163897344


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.

Questions Theists Can’t Answer: 2 Wise Observations

Belief is, by definition, the consideration of something unsupported by evidence. Because of this, it is inherently unfounded on truth.

Depends on what sort of belief is under consideration. Some beliefs are logical deductions based on other beliefs. These are founded on the truth of the beliefs that come before them. Others are grounding beliefs that have no evidence to support them one way or the other.

The problem with this statement is that it applies to atheists as well. Everyone, whether theist or atheist, starts somewhere in their structure of beliefs. Those presuppositions upon which a worldview is based are really the crux of the debate between atheism and theism. The theist starts with God, while the theist starts with nature.

I’ve also noticed that one atheist commented that one way they can tell that theists are full of “bullshit” is that we can answer every question. The scientist, it is reasoned, admits his limitation and is happy to say, “I don’t know” when he doesn’t know the answer. Theists, on the other hand, answer every question that the atheist proposes. Since we never seem to admit that we don’t know the answer, that means that we’re full of it.

So, basically, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  Let me illustrate why.

The existence of a list such as this indicates that the atheist believes that we can’t answer every question proposed. That might be true. A few months after I started my main blog, I was forced to admit that I didn’t know the answer to the proposed dilemma:

So which is stronger, manfluence or Godfluence? Well, Hasic posits that man put the belief about God in the heads of children, and that the kids are responding to that belief, not to God. But this overlooks the fact that God determined the situation in which these kids were placed, not man. If they grow up Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim, He wanted that to happen for a reason known only to Him and that increases His glory somehow.

I don’t know why and there isn’t any way to find out (Job 37:5). (source, emphasis added)

There really are somethings that humans don’t know the answers to, and I’ve tried to be forthright about that. Now, usually when I do, the atheist in the argument immediately claims victory: “Ha! I found a question you don’t know the answer to! I win!”

Can’t have it both ways, guys. Either you want me to answer everything, or you want me to admit that I occasionally don’t have an answer. But you can’t claim victory when I have all of the answers, and also claim victory if I don’t have all the answers. We call that “stacking the deck.”

Great Quote

Cover of

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“I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.”

– Mortimer J. Adler

Mortimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in Kelly James-Clark (ed.), Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of Eleven Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), p. 207.

H/T to Apologetics 315.