Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Consistent Irrationality

Posted by Jerry on March 28, 2008

Most people function on a mix of rational and irrational ideas in their lives. There are only two ways you can survive: either you be consistently rational and act accordingly or you allow for instances of irrationality and hope that you will luckily escape the consequences of it or have someone else (usually, the government or rational neighbors) bail you out from the mess of your own creation.

It is only the human mind that can harbor contradictions, because it has free will—and since external reality does not permit such a mix of contradictions, the extent to which a person functions on irrationalities and contradiction, to that extent he is at war with reality.

Religion is fundamentally irrational. To the extent that you practice your religion consistently, it won’t be long before you either seriously or fatally harm yourself or someone else. It is the inescapable nature of reality. Here are just a couple of examples that highlight this principle manifesting in reality (from John Enright’s blog):

An eleven-year old girl is dead because her parents refused to take her to the doctor for a treatable condition. Instead, they chose to pray to god for a healing to occur. When, miraculously, no healing occured, and the child’s condition worsened over 30 days until she eventually succumbed to her death, her parents said that they did not pray with enough faith. Not to accept defeat in their battle against reality, the girl’s mother has now vowed to pray for her daughter’s resurrection:

An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday in Weston, just outside Wausau.

“She got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl’s parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to “apparently they didn’t have enough faith,” the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing “was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray,” he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.

A very troubling aspect of this story is that the government’s child services division apparently finds nothing alarming about these parents’ behavior and its implications to their three other daughters. The dead child–whose death was directly caused by the faith and irrationality of her parents–has three siblings between the ages of 13 and 16.

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

“They are still in the home,” he said. “There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see.”

In another account of a battle against reality, a father allegedly placed his infant baby in a microwave oven to burn; his wife explains that her husband was under the influence of Satan, who had taken advantage of a “weak moment.” Through some means, the wife acquired the knowledge that Satan was angry at her husband for choosing to become a Christian preacher. Therefore, Satan compelled her husband to put their infant child in the microwave, shut the door, turn it on, and watch as the baby suffered serious burns.

The wife of this demon-haunted man, however, does admit to an interesting fact:

Mauldin said her husband had a mental disability and her efforts to get him help have failed.

Those who claim that religion is not something to be made fun of are correct in one sense. Religion cannot be taken so lightly as to be made fun of; know that the believers are not taking their religion lightly–and to the degree that they are not, we shouldn’t either, because life hangs in the balance. Religion should be criticized, denounded, and condemned as strongly as the practitioners who practice it hold their faith.

The pernicious death-premise of religion is hardly recognized by even most secular folks and atheists. While the secularists and atheists are content with rejecting religious beliefs, many of them often acknowledge that some people need religion and that religion can certainly provide a path to a virtuous and moral lifestyle. Indeed, many atheists share the same moral code that religion prescribes! Religion is seen as a guide to virtuous living that can be secularized, which is the insidious nature of this form of irrationality—it hides under the garb of universal virtue. 

A majority of people in the world (including many atheists) consider only religious people to be some of the most virtuous people on this planet. Think Teresa of Calcutta. How many people believe that Teresa was lacking in any significant moral virtue? I’d venture to say—very few. How many think she was downright evil?

Do you see my point? 

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UPDATE: Yahoo! News and the Associated Press have just posted a more detailed account of the 11-year old girl’s death, including interviews with the parents and some relatives. Here are some of the details missing from the original link I posted in my article above:

An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.

She had probably been ill for about a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, the chief said Wednesday, noting that he expects to complete the investigation by Friday and forward the results to the district attorney.

The girl’s mother, Leilani Neumann, said that she and her family believe in the Bible and that healing comes from God, but that they do not belong to an organized religion or faith, are not fanatics and have nothing against doctors.

She insisted her youngest child, a wiry girl known to wear her straight brown hair in a ponytail, was in good health until recently.

“We just noticed a tiredness within the past two weeks,” she said Wednesday. “And then just the day before and that day (she died), it suddenly just went to a more serious situation. We stayed fast in prayer then. We believed that she would recover. We saw signs that to us, it looked like she was recovering.”

Her daughter — who hadn’t seen a doctor since she got some shots as a 3-year-old, according to Vergin — had no fever and there was warmth in her body, she said.

The girl’s father, Dale Neumann, a former police officer, said he started CPR “as soon as the breath of life left” his daughter’s body.

Family members elsewhere called authorities to seek help for the girl.

“My sister-in-law, she’s very religious, she believes in faith instead of doctors …,” the girl’s aunt told a sheriff’s dispatcher Sunday afternoon in a call from California. “And she called my mother-in-law today … and she explained to us that she believes her daughter’s in a coma now and she’s relying on faith.”

The dispatcher got more information from the caller and asked whether an ambulance should be sent.

“Please,” the woman replied. “I mean, she’s refusing. She’s going to fight it. … We’ve been trying to get her to take her to the hospital for a week, a few days now.”

The aunt called back with more information on the family’s location, emergency logs show. Family friends also made a 911 call from the home. Police and paramedics arrived within minutes and immediately called for an ambulance that took her to a hospital.

But less than an hour after authorities reached the home, Madeline — a bright student who left public school for home schooling this semester — was declared dead.

She is survived by her parents and three older siblings.

“We are remaining strong for our children,” Leilani Neumann said. “Only our faith in God is giving us strength at this time.”

The Neumanns said they moved from California to a modern, middle-class home in woodsy Weston, just outside Wassau in central Wisconsin, about two years ago to open a coffee shop and be closer to other relatives. A basketball hoop is set up in the driveway.

Leilani Neumann said she and her husband are not worried about the investigation because “our lives are in God’s hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do.”

Posted in Atheism, Culture, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Serving Faith in Reasonable Doses

Posted by Jerry on September 19, 2006

Pope Benedict of the Catholic Church is trying to mask the fundamental dangers of faith in small, innocuous doses of reason. Desperately attempting to revitalize the Scholastic tradition of Aquinas in the Catholic Church, and rid itself of mysticism and enigma, the Pope is defending Christianity–and God–by an appeal to a return to Reason! As Aquinas had argued, so now does the Pope, that Reason and Faith are complementary; that the essential nature of God is rational and logical, and that the man has been endowed with the same apparatus of reason and logic that we share with God.

It is most dangerous when one blurs the very crucial line between reason and faith; because faith is a form of force, and force is utterly incompatible with reason. In any mixture of or compromise between good and evil, as Rand said, the good suffers and the evil wins out; in any compromise between reason and faith, reason suffers and faith (force) wins out.

Therefore, in light of this, I wish to highlight my own unique arguments for atheism against the claims that reason and faith are complementary.

First, the very idea that God has endowed man with reason and logic contradicts Christianity’s very cherished Book of Genesis. Read my “God’s Original Plan for Humanity.” Excerpt:

The Devil liberated human beings from the state of ignorance and animal-like existence. The Devil gave us the glimpse of immense possibilities, of achievements, of the concept of happiness, joy, love, of the higher meanings of morality, choice, freedom, failure, etc.
The Devil made the world we live in, possible. The Devil free-ed humans to build our own heaven, here in Earth.

Next, the Pope says the Christian idea of God is essentially rational in nature–that God’s nature does not subsume the contradictory, for example, even God cannot make a circle with four corners. Fair enough, and I agree wholeheartedly. But, why stop there? Read my “God’s Limitations.” Excerpt:

Since no capacity to ever do wrong exists in God, He is bounded by His nature to always do right — automatically.
Thus, no free-will, thus no choice, then automatic nature, like instinct. Thus, this whole argumentation of God being “perfectly moral” and having “free-will” and being independently “omnipotent” seems to fall flat on its face.

In another related, but seperate posts, I demonstrate how a God that is immortal and infinite must by necessity of His nature have a very monotonously boring life! Excerpt:

God cannot but live. God cannot but be moral. God cannot but be perfect. Thus, all of those things (at least), have absolutely no alternatives. And in the face of no alternatives, one cannot engage in choice. Thus, God has no choice in the matter and therefore cannot value His own actions nor can He value His own existence. This also means that God is limited in the things He can do.

The point is that a God who follows the principles of logic must–ironically enough–by the necessity of His own logical nature, NOT exist! Thus, to claim that God is rational and logical is to claim that God does not exist! Thus, it is clear that at the most fundamental level, reason does not permit the existence of God, but only faith does, and hence, reason and faith are diametrically opposed at all levels.

However, in my “First Principles of Atheism” I argued that the best way to prove the non-existence of God is to have the believer admit–like the Pope did–that any concept of God must be intelligible and open to rational and logical scrutiny. If this condition is not met, then I will have equal legitimacy in claiming Batman (or Superman) as my deity as you have in claiming Jesus or the Spaghetti Monster as your deity. If God is not required to be intelligent or rational or logical, then anything and everything can be considered “God”; one does not even have to worry about consistency, let alone truth!

Anyway, I used this opportunity not only to argue against the modern trend of mixing faith with reason but also to highlight the uniqueness of my own approach to atheism based on reason not on faith.

Posted in Atheism, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

The Holy Order

Posted by Jerry on July 6, 2005

I have noticed this in me, a change; a very slow and deliberate journey that has changed the core of my identity.

In previous years, I was a very devout, religious Christian believer. My highest value was the knowledge of God and His intimate relation with me in my life. I will admit that there were many things I accepted on christian doctrinal faith, but there were also many more beliefs for which I pursued a rational and secular foundation. Nonetheless, my relationship with God had the quality of innocent acceptance and honest conversation. I called Him my father, my friend, my own. I walked with Him, I talked with Him, I joked with Him. God was like my own happy secret.

And yet, through all those years, I carried in me a very distinct feeling of worthlessness. In fact, I enjoyed my status as “unworthy” and “insignificant” — I thought I was practicing humility. In some strange way, I thought that the more I degraded my human spirit, the more I exalted the spirit of God — like He could only gain the affirmation of His highest spiritual ascension through my personal acknowledgment of self-descent. Before God, I thought, I am not even worthy of His pity, let alone His magnanimous love, which He offers me nonetheless.

God, I thought, loved me only because His nature was love, not because I was worthy of being loved by Him. I did not believe there was any inherent quality of goodness in me that made me lovable to God. It was He, in all His benevolence and mercy, that loved me, a poor, miserable, mortal sinner.

Ofcourse, the nature of this relationship with God can be seen as potentially very destructive to the human psyche; but that is the point.
The idea is in fact to invalidate the ego, reduce the identity of the self to the degree of such insignificance that there remains no shred of self-worth, self-esteem, or any definite concept of the self in one’s being.

Some might argue that this is not the goal of religious belief: to degrade the human spirit. However, I believe that recognizing the essence of the magnanimity of God invariably leads one to feel like how I felt: so utterly insignificant in this grand scheme of God’s awesome creation and His benevolence! Religion invariably makes you feel insignificant. Religious emphasis on the after-life and the soul invariably leads one to ignore or supress the experience of this material, real life, the personal concerns of this current world, the identity of the physical body, and the protection of one’s ego. This is what Kira Argounova in We The Living means when she says that anyone who believes in God does not value himself or life; he spits upon his own face.

The religious virtue of humility is best achieved not by making a pretense at being insignificant, but by truly and fully believing that one is not worthy and achieving complete emotional, psychological, social, and physical insignificance! Religious virtue is in honestly being able to say: I am nothing. I can do nothing. I am merely an instrument for God to do His works through me. I have no desires but to fulfill the desires of God. I am empty vessel; I am a blind and obedient servant. I do not deserve anything except that which God deems me worthy of having in His great mercy and pity. I do not even have the right to my life or my body, because I am only a channel for His will on earth and in my life.

It is a religious virtue to find your tongue licking the dirt of the ground… reducing yourself to dust, for that is what religion wants you to believe: You are nothing but dirt, and to dirt you shall return.

Posted in Atheism, General Work/Life, Personal, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

About Faith and Reason

Posted by Jerry on June 11, 2005

“An error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.” — Atlas Shrugged, Rand.

[My discussion with Sasco D’Agostino]

Me: Well, you have made two different statements concerning our efforts at understanding God. First you said, “one can rightly NEVER say ANYTHING of God…”
Then you say, “we can never FULLY get at the essence of Him, we can merely come to a continually greater awareness of Him.”
THe two statements have very different implications. Initially, I used your first statement as a premise and logically built my argument. By the first statment, one can NEVER say ANYTHING rightly of God. In other words, one ALWAYS does say WRONG things about God…(OR, whenever one makes an effort to say ANYTHING about God one is ALWAYS WRONG). This is the implication of your first statement.
The second statement now allows more room for discussion. It says that one can say SOME things rightly about God, but NOT everything TOTALLY. I fully and clearly understand this view and subscribe to this perception assuming the existence of a real God. Thus, as a scientist would try to understand physical experiences in increments, I try to understand (as much as is possible to my weak and finite brain) the concept of God in little increments of logic and rationality.
THe reason I use logic and rationality as my method of investigation rather than acceptance based on faith is because I believe (similar to what Aquinas believed) that any concept of God SHOULD BY DEFINITION include the attributes of a perfectly Intelligent, perfectly Rational, and perfectly Logical Being. THus, a potential Being possessing such infinitely beautiful logic, infinitely profound intelligence, should atleast in some tiny and small way be perceivable to us by our serious attempts at being rational and logical to understand that Being (or come closer to an understanding of It).

Contrary to popular neo-didactic thinking that Rationality and Faith do not necessarily contradict but are complementary, I believe that right from the most basic premise, rationality and faith enter into major conflicts. The essential core of the concept “Reason” and the concept “Faith” enter into a contradiction. According to the Principal of Non-Contradiction, A is A. A and non-A cannot remain without conflict. In other words, Reason (A), which is a faculty of knowledge based on evidence, demonstration, axioms, and logic cannot in any way complement Faith (Non-A), which rests on an acceptance of ideas without any need for demonstration, logic, proofs, or axioms. Reason (A) and Faith (non-A) MUST by necessary logic exist in a contradiction with each other.
Another way to explain this is to look at how we gain knowledge through science. The basic and fundamental first principal of the Rational (or scientific) method is to assume a hypothesis and work towards disproving or falsifying that. One can never begin a hypothesis of negation and then prove its veracity, i.e. prove something is not true by showing that it has no evidence of being true. As a concrete example, I cannot assume that God does not exist and say there is no proof of God’s existence and therefore He does not exist. This is wrong.
I have to begin with a positive hypothesis and then disprove or falsify it. Thus, I begin by saying, Assume God exists. Therefore, going by what the definition of such an entity is that does exists… He should be this.. He should be that… He should whatever…
Based on the first principal of positive hypothesis, you build a coherent, logical, rational argument derived from self-evident truths, axioms, or verifiable evidence. If all of your arguments lead you to a hypothesis contrary to the one you started out with, then you must discard the initial hypothesis and revert to the null hypothesis. Thus, a logical analysis of the concept of God leads me to major contradictions and therefore I must reject the hypothesis that God exists and accept the null hypothesis, or I must reject my essential definition of God. In other words, the burden of proof then rests upon the believer to resolve contradictions and prove the non-contradictory existence of God.

Now, faith. Faith is the exact opposite of the rational method I just described. The method of faith begins as such: Believe that God exists. Then express wonder at the assumed fact that God exists. Then admire the assumed fact that God exists. And wonder why non-believers can’t grasp this assumed fact.
Faith starts out with the hypothesis that needs to be proven and assumes it is already true! The first principle according to a faith-based attempt at rationality is this: assume the conclusion and then provide rationalizations for assuming the conclusion.
Aquinas, among other doctors, in their effort to reconcile faith with reason and put on a facade of intelligibility upon mysticism, propagated this false epistemological method. The method works as such: Faith — God exists and He has created this Universe (That is the assumption of the faithful). Then “rational proof”: This Universe appears to be so well designed and orderly, surely there is an intelligent God that made all of this. Therefore, God must exist because the universe that we just assumed is so orderly and that we just assumed was made by God is the proof that God made the Universe and therefore must exist!

Posted in Atheism, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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