Is faith a reliable path to knowledge?

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

  1. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Faith isn't a knowledge acquisition method. It's a way to close off your mind to doubt. Doubt is the beginning of knowledge.
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  3. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

    with the intent to not succumb to the level of deepness,[because i do not feel like typing an epic saga]what about the cosmic intelligence ?
    do you acknowledge this, or at least, maybe have a thought of such existence ?
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  5. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Intelligence yes, it's probably all over the place, but it needs a medium like a brain. Intelligence without a mechanism is a myth.
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  7. timojin Valued Senior Member

    1 ) I look on the earth and the beauty there must a wisdom to create this earth. and that creator is called with different name in different cultures.
    2) The earth is the main evidence . Faith comes into the picture , if I want something . If I don't want any thing from God ,I don't need faith . If I am loyal to God . I will be rewarded
    3 ) I apply for a job, my credencial and my interview was positive . O BELIEVE I WILL GET THE JOB, THEN AFTER I WILL BUY A CAR.

    If you would believe that God speaks to human trough the holy spirit, I could tell you things that have materialized in my life which have been prophesied earlier, Since atheist don't believe in God they won't
    believe anyway. So I live it there .
  8. mathman Valued Senior Member

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  9. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Since economic sanctions and new treaties have been deemed necessary to obstruct "non-freedom from religion" Iran from "blowing everybody up" with nuclear weapons [as respectively put by this or that media outlet], I'm suffering cognitive problems in correlating religious faith to obtaining or not obtaining "knowledge about the world". Due to such dissonance in my head, in my case I'll unfortunately have to re-frame the topic or restrict it more narrowly to something like: "Is faith a reliable path to knowledge [of what God wants, of whether or not God exists, and so forth]?"

    A religious organization already has its plan of orthopraxy and orthodoxy hammered out. A resource of knowledge is thus already provided in God-related matters. So allegiance and fidelity to either the system and/or human leader(s) serving as mediator would seem the prime focus in terms of interest / passion expressed as actual behavior. Regardless of whatever is superficially said by particular congregation members about "faith in God" to indicate fellowship and compliance with proper rote.

    Whereas in contrast, acquiring "knowledge of God" slash "revelations, solutions, commands, and prescriptions of conduct from God".... Is probably more of a significant preoccupation for rogue individuals and quasi-isolated family units (that happen to lack a cult-patriarch or mother-figure supplying their thinking for them). Because of their seeking this continuing "live" apprehension of God and the latter's responses, on the contingent terms of a small scale and in the context of their specialized problems, these people depend more on direct faith in God rather than in the regulating orders of an Abrahamic institution. Without the faith element, there would be little incentive for enduring such personal and household quests to interpret the Bible, invoke visions, and distinguish "signs" and "meaning" in everyday events and circumstances. But how reliable their faith-based pursuit is... Could be akin to evaluating how epistemologically successful Frank Herbert's confidence in acquiring knowledge about the characters, plot, and background of his "Dune" series of novels was. (Even a fine line between discovery and invention might not be applicable.)

    To return to the larger, non-rogue establishments: Faith in the system is probably more important to a social body of interacting Christians. In terms of whatever they expect from it (advocacy of moral behavior within the community, a group identity or belonging, the benefits of membership in terms of receiving help and giving help in time of need, etc). With God being a reification of the conceptual scheme as a convenient personhood which bonds / unifies the gathering in the course of their rituals and worship. At least vaguely reminiscent of the ancients turning their categories or generalizations abstracted from the empirical world into a divine pantheon of embodied avatars (the god of war, the god of love, the god of harvest, etc).
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
  10. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Why must there be a wisdom to create this earth?
    How is earth the main evidence?
    How will you be rewarded? After you have shuffled off this mortal coil?
    You think this is an example of using faith? You think the company will hire you because you appealed to God, or because you are the best candidate?
    This sounds like apophenia to me. We humans are pattern-recognition machines, and we often see patterns and connections that simply aren't there. So where is your evidence that these things are not just a simple case of coincidence, or something else as mundane? Is it just that you have faith? And your inherent and innocent bias (that we all have) tends to focus only on those that satisfy the belief we have (it's called confirmation bias, btw).
    And how is that, as per the OP, a reliable path to knowledge?
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    As I said in the opening post, that's not the kind of faith I want to discuss here. A belief based on prior evidence of regularity is an evidence-based belief, not a faith claim.

    When you say "I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow", this might be interpreted as a statement of a kind of trust in the regularity of nature, but at its foundation it is evidence-based. The sun rises every day - it's an observed regularity of nature. Such regularities in data form the evidential basis of all science.

    On the other hand, what do people mean when they say "I have faith that God exists"? I think they mean that they believe that God exists despite the fact that the evidence is inconclusive. Thus, religious faith is belief in the absence of evidence. Faith is what fills the evidence gap for religious believers.

    In case it's not clear, I absolutely support a person's right to believe whatever they want to believe - even if I consider their beliefs a waste of time, or mistaken, or misguided.

    What I am interested here is how religious people get to the point of being convinced that God exists. I'd guess that for most religious people, if you were to ask them "How confident are you that (your) God exists?" they would reply "100%" without thinking about it. But how can they be this confident? How can there be so little room for doubt? It seems to come down to this mysterious "faith" thing.

    It's a big leap, in my opinion, from saying "science will never be able to explain everything" to "God exists, no doubt about it". I'd like to understand better how people make that leap.

    My suspicion is that the vast majority of people don't get to God that way, anyway. Science's explanatory power or lack thereof is not a major reason why they believe in God. It's a post facto rationalisation.
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Here's another thing that "faith" might mean.

    When a believer says "I have faith in God", I think what he or she usually means is something like "I trust that God will act in my best interests" or "I trust that God has a plan for me/the world".

    That kind of faith necessarily comes after the belief that God exists is already well established in the believer's mind.

    Again, I am more interested here in how believers get to first base - that is how they conclude that God is real in the first place, and stay convinced that this is true. Though, I am also open to discussing this issue of trusting in a being that may not exist. In that case, it seems that faith is doing double duty - as a buttress to belief in the deity and as a buttress to the type of relationship that one feels one has with the deity.

    To me, the Buddhist concept you mention sounds like a kind of hopefulness that the Buddhist path will lead to enlightenment. That is, the believer can't be sure that following the path will "work", but he or she hopes (in the absence of proof) that it will.

    If it is faith that takes somebody from a position of "there's some evidence that suggest that God exists" to a position of "there is no doubt in my mind that God exists", then I have trouble seeing it as something other than a source of information. If it isn't that, where does the increase in certainty and confidence come from?

    This is similar to something I wrote above. People say things like "I have faith that God will guide me", by which they mean they trust God's plan for them. A Muslim would say that they submit to the will of Allah. But, this necessarily comes after the confidence that Allah exists in the first place, and the certainty that Allah has a plan, is in control of things etc.

    That's interesting. Thanks.

    This sounds a bit like faith in the context of trust again. Believers are already at the point where they have no doubt that God exists, but they may have residual doubts about God's degree of control over their lives, or whether God's plans are good. So they are told they need to trust that God knows best.

    I have heard believers quote Hebrews 11:1 many times.

    I am hoping that believers here can shed some light on how faith can assure us of anything - particularly where evidence is lacking. This is the kind of thing that puzzles me. And again, my main question here might be: how can one come to a conviction when one has not seen (i.e. has insufficient evidence)? And is this a good way to live your life? Does it "work"?
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Maybe so. But how does positive thinking help us to decide whether something is true or false (such as the existence of God)? Can you explain?

    Since people talk about a "leap of faith", my hunch is that it's not a rational process.

    What do you think?
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Try thinking before you respond to this thread again. Thanks.
  15. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Common sense, and experience, are also reasons why people believe in God.

    We can only have faith, when faith is required. When someone talks about their faith, they can mean belief.
    For example the only reason someone would require faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, is because in their mind there is a chance it won't, but they hope it does. Faith is important in that scenario, as it strengthens you, allowing you to overcome fear.

    There are some things that we can't know, regardless of evidence or data, and faith doesn't operate any differently then fear, or, happiness. It kicks in, just like fear or happiness, at a point where you have no choice but to hope.

    Also when you really look at it, to believe anything without some kind of evidence, is an empty gesture. To believe in God because your gran does, is not really belief in God, but belief in your dear old gran. Usually at some point you would ask questions, and start thinking for yourself. That seems to be the way.

    You wouldn't simply just conclude that God exists, it doesn't work like that. If a person did do that, then that person would at some point abandon that conclusion, and move on to the next thing.

    What is the line?

    Do you think this applies to every single theist, or just some?

    That kind of faith? Believing in any old thing someone tells you, and follow it, of your own free choice, knowing that you have no basis for what you believe, even after you realise that there is no connection, because you have no idea what it is you're supposed to connect with. But mindlessly follow it anyway. That kind of religious faith (I only call it that for the purpose of this thread). Is not a good way to go about obtain reliable knowledge.

    1. No. One does not require faith to believe in something. One only requires faith, when all that is left is hope.

    2. We don't believe in percentages, or reserve belief until something better comes along. That is not how believing in something works.

    3. Yes. When I hope for a particular turn out, but in reality have no idea of how it's going to turn out.

  16. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Notice Jan is continuing to fail to describe what evidence or experience led to a belief in God. I don't think we can get to the bottom of things with theists being so reluctant to share their experiences.
  17. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Why should I describe anything?
    The thread is entitled ''Is faith a reliable path to knowledge''?

  18. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Of course, why describe anything. Why post about religion all the time and never get to the heart of the matter? Oh, right, it's just "in your heart", end of discussion.
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Jan Ardena:


    The problem with "common sense" is that each person can have a different idea about what is and what isn't common sense. What is common sense to one person may be a bad misjudgment to another.

    As for "experience", are you talking about a kind of personal religious revelation? The kind of experience where you feel that God has revealed himself to you directly and personally? That kind of experience? Or are you referring to m0re mundane experiences - that as you go about your daily life you feel like there is a God watching over you? Something like that?

    You're using "faith" here in the sense of "hope". You hope that things will work out well; you have faith that they will work out well. Are those the same thing? I have a feeling that most believers would say there's a difference, and they'd start to talk about their trust in God. That is, they'd say their hope that the sun will rise tomorrow is not a baseless hope, but rather a hope that is more likely to be true because God is good and will make sure that things turn out for the best (or at least according to whatever plan God has, which is generally assumed to be a good long-term plan).

    This trust in God seems to straddle the divide between the different types of faith I talked about in the opening post. On the one hand, you may simply expect the sun to rise tomorrow - which I would argue is actually an evidence-based belief. On the other hand, you may feel that God will make sure the sun rises tomorrow, which I would say is the kind of religious faith (belief in the absence of evidence) that is my focus here. I think we need to carefully distinguish between these two uses of the word "faith".

    So faith is a substitute for despair, perhaps? Is it just a kind of hope, or wish, then?

    I think that few religious people would say that they have no evidence that God exists. I think that virtually all believers think there is good evidence for God's existence. Though, if pressed I think that the honest ones would admit that the available objective evidence for God's existence is inconclusive. Hence the need for the "leap of faith".

    I'm not actually arguing that it works like that. In fact, I don't think that anybody believes in God solely on the basis of evidence.

    The line between believing wholeheartedly that God exists and merely suspecting that God might exist.

    I think that the vast majority of theists seldom examine their core beliefs critically and rationally. Most theists believe in their particular God and their particular religion because they were brought up that way. Their parents believed. They were taught about their parents' religion (usually to the exclusion of detailed teachings about any possible alternatives). They were expected to believe. They were coached to believe. And they usually weren't taught much (if anything) about critical thinking in the context of religion.

    I am not saying this applies to every theist. I know that there are some out there who have thought long and hard about their beliefs and their religion, studied their religion extensively and in some cases even studied other religious traditions. In those cases, I think that adherence to a particular belief system ultimately rests on a faith commitment, in the particular religious sense that I am talking about here.

    That description would apply to somebody who said something like "I am 100% confident that Zeus exists and is the Supreme God of the universe, but I base this confidence not on anything I've read or heard but only on my gut feeling that it is true."

    I don't think this is how things go for most theists.

    Take one particular hypothetical Christian. They might say something like "My mum and dad brought me up as a Christian. When I was old enough, I read the bible. The bible helps convince me that God and Jesus are real. Also, I feel in my heart that Jesus loves me and died for my sins. Also, I pray to God and it seems to me that God helps me in my life. So, I'd say that I'm 100% convinced that God exists. I have no doubt at all about that. I know that some people think there are flaws in the bible, and I know it's theoretically possible that my feelings about God are not really externally motivated, so overall I'd say that 90% of my belief in God is based on evidence, and the last 10% is based on my faith that God is real and is in my life."

    Would you say that this hypothetical Christian is a mindless follower with no real basis for his or her beliefs?

    What is required for you to believe in God, Jan? What gets you across the line? Not faith. Evidence alone, then? Or something else?

    Who is "we"?

    Please tell me how believing in something works, Jan. I'm trying to find out. I think faith has something to do with it when it comes to God. Clearly you think faith has nothing to do with it. So how does believing in God work, then?

    So you're saying you make some decisions based on hope in the absence of evidence. Correct?
  20. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    I'm talking about the individual.
    Not having to prove anything to anyone.

    Any kind of experience that takes one to that point.

    I'm not using it like that. We can hope that we win the lottery, but as we do not need to win the lottery, faith is not necessary. If your child is starving, and on the brink of death, and you cannot do anything to bring her back. Obviously you hope she doesn't die, but now when all avenues have been ticked off, there is nothing but faith that something, anything can happen to reverse the situation. It is a natural thing.

    I don't know anybody who actually believes the sun will rise tomorrow.
    There are people who hope the sun will shine tomorrow because they want to wash the car.

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    Again, this seems alien to me. I think this is an atheist idea of God, religion, and faith.
    It's not conducive with the reality of belief in God, and what faith is. It's a caricature.
    Compare that kind of thinking to what Jesus taught? It's so different.

    I think the biblical explanation of faith is perfect. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the assurance of things unseen. Ponder on that for a bit.

    There are loads of different religions, and different types of people.
    If you're going to bring religion into it, then that's a whole different bag.

    Theism is purely about belief in God, whereas religion is about the religion. In religion there is more scope for leaps of faith because the institute encourages that.

    Kids who are recruited by gangs may seriously harm or kill someone because they have been encouraged, but without that encouragement would not have acted in that way.

    That's what I mean about religion.
    A person who regards himself as a theist, not a Christian, or Muslim is more likely to have a more rational approach to the subject matter of God, than a person like you described, because they have made the choice, and is more likely to have given it a
    lot of thought.

    Not every theist is religious. I don't have any friends who are religious, but most believe in God. The current religions are kind of foolish to a lot of theists, because they're not interested in God-consciousness, or self realisation.

    They don't tend to a have a philosophical basis.
    They're like clubs where people congregate. That's how they come across to a lot of theists.
    In some case they come across as atheistic, because the minute you seriously question the adherents, or the teachers about God, they avoid all the points contradict their teaching, and just call you a heathen or something (the equivalent to moron).

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    I wouldn't know what to say to that. There's not enough information.

    Common sense.


    It's like believing in anything else. You may believe thatyour son can be a great footballer one day, because he has mad skills. So you put effort into him based on that belief, which is based on subjective evidence.

    It's no big deal, no bell, no whistles. Just live your life.

    I'm saying we can't help but make decisions in which the outcome is out of our control.
    Anytime we make plans for the future, we cannot know how it's going to turn out.
    Some things are more probable than others, depending on what the plan is. But ultimately we don't know what our future holds.

    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  21. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    So it's an emotion?
    So what evidence is there that is not, perhaps, merely seeing patterns that aren't necessarily there?
    So it's just a strong desire for things to be different, clinging on to the last shred of possibility, the ultimate fall-back position to avoid having to face reality, coupled with a feeling of assurance of a successful outcome?
    Must be a kick in the teeth when it doesn't pan out quite how you were so sure it would.

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    And the difference between that and just "hope"?
    The sense of assurance you have along side the hope?

    To me this just sounds like a coping mechanism in the face of an undesirable reality.
    Sometimes it pans out as hoped, and many might seize on that, through confirmation bias, as "evidence" of something else at work.

    But whatever faith is, how does one get from faith to knowledge, other than the feeling of assurance of the truth of whatever it is one has faith about?
    If using the "justified true belief", there are many Philosophers (I would imagine the likes of Gettier etc) who would argue that faith is not a rational justification, and thus no knowledge can result from it.
  22. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    I don't think it is an emotion, but I think it kicks in the same way emotions kick in.
    Emotions are real, and unavoidable in that they react to situations. I think faith is necessary in certain situations.

    I've no idea what you're talking about.

    Yes, that makes sense.
    It is also the desire, and/or need for that thing to occur.

    That's one way of looking at it.

    That's possible.

    One can learn to see pain and suffering as natural aspects of life, as is happiness and well being. And no matter what you're position, you accept it.

  23. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Jan Ardena:

    In your last post you wrote:

    This is how you justify having absolute confidence that God exists. You give two grounds: personal "common sense" (which you apply to yourself later in the post) and "any kind of experience that takes one to that point".

    Both of these things sound incredibly subjective to me. But you explicitly say that you're not trying to "prove anything to anyone". That is, it seems you wouldn't appeal to your own "common sense" to try to convince somebody else that God exists, and you wouldn't point to your own subjective experiences that led you to believe in God as providing any kind of proof of God' existence.

    My question at this point is: how you can be sure that your own "common sense" and subjective experiences (whatever they were) have led you to a reliable and robust conclusion about the existence of God? Is they any room left for doubt in your own mind after you've applied your own common sense and had your subjective experiences, or do the common sense and experiences eliminate all doubt?

    And I still wonder whether you feel that subjective experience and personal common sense are reliable paths to knowledge.

    For example, my common sense and subjective experiences may lead me to believe that the Earth is flat. And yet, ultimately I do not believe that the Earth is flat. That's because my belief that the Earth is not flat is not based on my "common sense" - unless I were to perhaps argue that my idea of "common sense" has been modified over time by education and training. Moreover, my naive interpretation of my personal experience as being indicative of a flat Earth has turned out to be untrustworthy, in light of certain objective evidence that I have become aware of.

    Is it true that you think that common sense and personal experiences alone can lead somebody to 100% reliable knowledge of something - particularly something which lacks 100% objective proof?

    Sorry for being a bit scattergun, but I'm trying to get my head around this. Here's another example that just occurred to me. Suppose I believe that ghosts exist, on the grounds that it seems like "common sense" that a person's personality doesn't just vanish or end when they die, and also because I'm confident that I have personally seen one or two ghosts. Do you think that I would be justified in believing in ghosts on these grounds? Do you think I have gained reliable knowledge of ghosts from my personal experiences and my common sense? Could I reasonably tell you that I am 100% convinced that ghosts exist, or would you argue that I shouldn't be so confident about that conclusion?

    Let's move on...

    You make it sound like faith is just an extreme version of hope. Hoping against the odds - that kind of thing.

    Would it be fair to define faith as an "unrealistic hope", do you think? Or how about "hope in something that is very unlikely"?

    I'm actually not sure what you mean by that - i.e. whether you're being serious or not.

    How so? Please explain.

    The philosopher (and atheist) Daniel Dennett cites that verse from Hebrews as an example of what he calls a "deepity".
    A deepity is a statement that on one level is true but trivial, and on another level sounds profound but is essentially false or meaningless and would be "earth-shattering" if it were true.

    An example Dennett gives is the statement "love is just a word". One one level, this true and trivial ("love" is indeed a word). But on a deeper level, the statement is false, because love is many other things, including a feeling, an emotion, a condition, etc.

    So let's look at "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the assurance of things unseen". On one level, this is trivially true. In my opening post I defined faith as belief even in the absence of evidence, and this statement from Hebrews confirms that with "the assurance of things unseen". But on a deeper level, it's not clear that the statement tells us anything meaningful about faith. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for". Does that actually mean anything, or is it profound-sounding nonsense?

    It's possible that it's just saying "Faith is equivalent to hope", in which case the entire statement means something along the lines of "faith means hoping for something that isn't guaranteed". That doesn't sound particularly profound. On the other hand, perhaps it's saying that having faith somehow guarantees that what you hope for will happen, like the Law of Attraction or something new-agey like that. And if that were true it would be truly earth-shattering. However, it seems fairly well established that the world doesn't actually work that way.

    So, those are my ponderings. Tell me, Jan: what conclusions do you reach when you ponder on that bit of scripture?

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