Presuppositions, Faith, and Reason: Which One is Out of Place Here?

Posted on January 30, 2008. Filed under: Atheism |

Atheists and others who buck the established religious systems have suffered from a bit of a PR problem since the beginning of recorded history. There are countless stories of the heretics, the blasphemers, and the impious being imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Atheism wasn’t even a prerequisite; Socrates was sentenced to death for only believing in one of the gods in the Greek Pantheon. The official charge: impiety. Why is it that this stigma has taken root so firmly within the minds of human beings? Why has this trend persisted for millennia?

The answer is faith. Faith is the cause of this discrimination against the religiously atypical. The situation is as true today as it ever was, although in most civilized lands the punishment is much less severe. Perhaps one will only be ostracized by their family, classmates, or colleagues after revealing their lack of religious affiliation. The Islamic countries appear to be the main protagonists of violence in the name of religion these days, but the particular brand of faith which one uses as justification is not at all important. Faith is an effective tool to not only insulate oneself from reality, but also to vilify those who appeal to reason in its stead.

One of the ways in which this “faith” meme is propagated and perpetuated is by deception. Whether intentional or not, the general consensus is to paint faith as a virtue, or at the very least harmless. This misinformation has gone on for so long now that it is impossible to ascertain from whence, or whom, it came, but there is no shortage of people incapable of seeing through the propaganda who then become replicators of it.

A good example of this is Peter Sellick, who wrote “The Rationality of Faith“. He contends that rationality does not exist purely as a method by which one can properly comprehend their surroundings, but rather that it is context specific-no one “rationality” being any more valid than another. All belief systems, or lack of belief systems, rely upon presuppositions, thus they are all the same. It is only after the presupposition is in place that rationale can be applied. How terribly ironic that the arguments in support of faith so frequently are more erudite versions of, “I know you are, but what am I?”…(read more)

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