Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Godfather Clause

While it is said that religion succeeds to the degree that is not subject to tests of proof, there is an interesting phenomenon that I have noted in religious people, most notably Christians, do expect that their faith would survive scientific tests of proof - even though most of the things they offer up as proof wouldn't pass muster under any other circumstances. For example, for many, if not all, non-believers, the relationship between God and the Bible is a classic case of circular logic. The Bible tells us what we need to know about God, and it is God who vouches for the accuracy of the Bible. Nothing controversial there. But what's interesting is that Christians who are otherwise perfectly capable of calling out circular logic when they see it will argue the point that the Bible-God relationship is circular. (This is, I suspect, an artifact of the idea that we tend to understand circular arguments to be false - therefore we also tend to feel that an argument that is true cannot be circular.)

Related to this idea is the concept that faith is validated by the length of time that it has endured and the breadth of its adoption - the idea that the fact that billions of people believe and that belief goes back so far into history acts as sort of proof. Which again, is something that otherwise isn't considered scientifically valid (although it's popular in advertising). And many believers are quick to dismiss a consensus that contradicts their worldview. In this respect, religion has a sort of literal "Grandfather Clause," which is interesting mainly for its invisibility to the faithful themselves, despite the fact that the differing burden of proof that faith often claims is a integral part of the definition of faith.

For many, I suspect that there is something lacking in the idea of faith, perhaps because of the relative uniqueness of the concept. Therefore they seek to obviate their faith, which has the ironic effect of bringing it into even higher relief.

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