Is faith a reliable path to knowledge?

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by James R, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. Goldtop Registered Senior Member

    This is interesting because even "evidence based" faith can be shown to be false knowledge, in a way. For example, the sun will come up tomorrow, but eventually the sun will burn out, engulf the earth and there will be no more sunrises. Your mom may eventually get Dementia or Alzheimers and completely forget who you are. This would show that only evidence based reasoning is valid, that even evidence-based faith is not.
    Write4U likes this.
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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I agree.
    This would show that only evidence itself is reliable information. Everything else is probabilistic at best.
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  5. Marathon-man Registered Member

    Of all the major faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and even Confucianism) I found that Buddhism is the most logical approach to the world and Man. It is highly organized. For instance, the Kalama Sutra is a treaty on how to think in order to avoid the pitfalls of dogma. Quoting a section of it:
    "Do not blindly believe religious teachings, he tells the Kalamas, just because they are claimed to be true, or even through the application of various methods or techniques. Direct knowledge grounded in one's own experience can be called upon"
    The Kalama Sutta states (Pali expression in parentheses):
    Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing (anussava),
    nor upon tradition (paramparā),
    nor upon rumor (itikirā),
    nor upon what is in a scripture (piṭaka-sampadāna)
    nor upon surmise (takka-hetu),
    nor upon an axiom (naya-hetu),
    nor upon specious reasoning (ākāra-parivitakka),
    nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over (diṭṭhi-nijjhān-akkh-antiyā),
    nor upon another's seeming ability (bhabba-rūpatāya),
    nor upon the consideration, The monk is our teacher (samaṇo no garū)
    Kalamas, when you yourselves know: "These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness," enter on and abide in them.'

    Secondly, Buddhism does not acknowledge or deny the existence of an external God but attempts to realize the "God" within Man. It is the Eastern version of Greek Humanism but at a much deeper level. It seeks to "awaken" the unconscious mind and the dormant spirit into a mind of a "Superman'. To understand man's state of mind the Lotus is used.
    -The roots embedded in mud - is the world we live. Our "reality is constrained.
    -The stem of the Lotus. rising through the water- is the mind under meditation striving to awaken the subconscious.
    -The blossom that opens up and faces the sun - Is Nirvana when the mind awakens to the reality.
    the difference of the roots in mud to that of the blossom facing the sun is the difference of our reality to that of Nirvana.
    PS: I am Catholic.
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  7. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Most believers, like most people in general, are not rigorous thinkers who rationally analyze their own views. That is not unique to nor universal among believers, so it doesn't mean much.
    That seems like a false distinction. If pressed, many believers would likely say they have plenty of "lived experience" as evidence. Just as one might attribute selfless deeds to love, a believer can attribute many occurrences to the divine. Since we cannot prove that someone feels genuine love, rather than displaying a sense of maternal duty or ulterior motives, nor the ultimate cause of many occurrences, there seems to be little distinction at all, aside from your own bias.

    So you seem to want a scientific criteria of evidence, even though your example of "lived experience" does not qualify. Seems muddled.
    This seems to be conflating the above two points. Yes, if you presume that a person has not rigorously evaluated their own belief AND somehow doesn't attribute any experience to the divine, their belief is in the absence of good evidence. But both found together would seem relatively rare, if they coincide at all. What's much more common is a lack of rigorous evaluation AND attributing many experiences to the divine. And if you really what to make a point, you should be arguing the steel man, someone who is rigorous in their beliefs and has "lived experience".
    While the obvious answer is "no", it's also a straw man of real people's beliefs. No one genuinely feels like they believe something "in the absence of evidence", even if that evidence is just their experience growing up in a religious family and seeing its strength therein.
    Not really. I largely came to my adult belief in a God through logic and experience. But yes, insofar as faith is just trust, there is an equal degree of trust that my family loves me as there is that God exists.
    What percentage of your belief that your family loves you would you put down to evidence, and how much to faith? There's your answer.
    By your definition, no, neither God nor anything else. By the fact that people don't just believe things without reasons to do so, yes, everything that cannot be demonstrated to scientific certainty.
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    A big ask, I know, but have you read through this thread? Because you are covering ground that I addressed in various posts earlier in the thread. For instance, here is one I prepared earlier on the approximate topic of "lived experience":

    I can understand that a person might be complete convinced that ghosts exist because he truly believes he has seen ghosts. However, his report that he saw ghosts does very little to convince me that ghosts actually exist. To me, his eyewitness testimony on this extraordinary occurrence is a very weak form of evidence for his claim. For all I know, he could be deluded, mistaken, or simply making the whole thing up.

    It comes back to the oft-cited maxim that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

    If ghosts actually existed, then the world would be radically different to the world as I currently conceive of it. I would be fundamentally wrong about the nature of existence itself. Therefore, I set the evidential bar very high when it comes to proof that ghosts exist. The same would be the case if somebody claimed that magical flying unicorns have been discovered in Madagascar, for example.

    It seems to me that your threshold for acceptance of the existence of flying unicorns is somewhat lower than mine. How many eyewitness reports would convince you that the unicorns exist? Just one? A few? Hundreds? Or would you want more evidence of a different kind (e.g. photographs or other objective evidence, perhaps)?
    And this:

    What worries me is that you're potentially spending a lot of time and effort on something that might have no factual basis. Suppose that God doesn't exist after all, contrary to what you believe. Then all that time you spend trying to develop God consciousness would be a wasted effort, wouldn't it? I'm very willing to concede that practices such as meditation may have side benefits that do not depend on the existence of God. There are plenty of atheists who meditate, for example. And things like studying scriptures may help develop life skills such as textual analysis and certain types of thinking, which are useful even when separated from a religious context. But the specific parts of your practice and study and devotion that are concerned with God would be wasted effort.

    For more conventional religious believers, the costs of their devotion to their God and their religion may be higher than it is for you, and the benefits smaller, if God turns out not to exist. A Muslim, for example, is expected to pray to Allah five times a day, to fast, to give money, to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and so on. What if Allah doesn't exist. Was all that time spent praying justifiable on the basis of side benefits, do you think? My own inclination is that, in large measure, it's wasted time.

    The second point of difference between us that I see is a difference in commitment to the idea of objective truth. I like to think that I place a high value on believing in and valuing things that are true - not just true for me subjectively, but that are objectively true. I would say that I value knowing what is true above believing in things that might make me feel good about myself, other people, the world, or whatever. I also believe that it is mostly for the best if other people know the truth about things, even if the truth may be harder to handle than a comforting fantasy.

    From what you've said, it seems to me that you don't really mind what people believe. If it's true for them, then that's ok. Let them believe what they want to believe, even if you don't believe it yourself and think you know better.

    Now you might argue that I'm an interfering busy body who ought to keep his nose out of other people's beliefs, because they are none of my business. But, in fact, other people's beliefs do affect me in various ways. Laws that apply to me are made on the basis of what other people believe. People start wars and hurt other people based on what they believe. And differing religious beliefs are an obvious source of conflict in the world. This is why I think a commitment to a joint effort to discover the Truth is a valuable goal to aim for. And the Truth I'm talking about is an objective truth that people can agree on based on rational analysis. If the best you can do to assert the supremacy of Allah over Vishnu is to argue from personal experience and opinion, then I don't see how there can be any hope of getting to a useful consensus between competing ideas.
    And this:

    Introspection can be valuable, but it only gets you so far in understanding yourself. Often, it turns out that you have blind spots regarding yourself that somebody else has to point out to you before you become aware of them. As for God, I'm very wary of the idea that looking inside yourself can give you reliable access to anything external. Whatever you feel or think or imagine about God, that may be just the product of your own mind rather than any connection to a divine being.
    And this:

    I'd just like to add at this point that history has seen science slowly push up against religious claims. The progress of science has also tended to be a gradual process of taking over by science of domains of knowledge previously thought to be the province of religious revelation. There was a time when the Catholic Church proclaimed that the Earth was the centre of the universe, and anything anybody said to the contrary was false and a heresy. Science won that argument, though it took almost 400 years for the Church to admit that it got things wrong. The bible suggests that the mathematical number pi is equal to 3. That is incorrect. At one time it was thought that heaven was a place that existed beyond the orbit of Saturn, and that God lived there. Science has made that claim untenable.

    More recently, science has shown that you can induce certain religious-like experiences by stimulating the brain in certain ways. This is just one more reason why I think that personal religious experience is weak evidence for God.
    This is all from the first three pages of the thread, out of the 39 pages that current appear on my list.
  9. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    No, like you don't have the time to support your own opinions elsewhere:
    I don't have the time to catch up on the entirety of every thread I deign to post in.

    That said, I've already covered all this ground in direct responses to you:
    Compelling? Check!
    Extraordinary claims? Check!
    And as I just pointed out to you elsewhere, ~80% of the world is a far cry from whatever percent believe in pink/flying unicorns.
    And my last post:
    Lived experience? Check!
    You've yet to detail how those two differ.

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