SIN AND DAMNATION
Falsity, Credulity, Faith,
Superstition and Dogma
My first-time using faith
I weaponized faith for the first time yesterday. Well, maybe that is too strong a word. But that is how it felt, like weaponizing. This happened when a friend decided to challenge my ridiculous proposition that human beings have no free will; saying to me "we're doing this" as he stepped to a convenient whiteboard to lay out his case. And as he began to draw a graph-chart I remember telling myself to use faith if things do not go well, which set the stage for an easy parachute away from his argument should it prove sound. Yet, that is not what I really want... I do not want to hold on to any weak belief. I do want to be convinced otherwise if I can be shown to be wrong. I sincerely wish to see the error of my ways. And yet, something inside me was preparing a defense. I even said to him as he began to draw on the board "you know this free will thing is a matter of faith to me?" to which he countered with a wry glance.
"Here you are, the atheist, using faith to your own ends to unsettle the footing of your opponents."
The chart my friend produced included columns describing characteristics such as the qualities of our birth and the influence of our environment and our times - all of which he agreed are largely outside our personal control and thus beyond free will. The columns he laid out thus constituted about 80% of who we are, so he was largely conceding that free will is not real–up to about 80%. The remaining 20% he described as our true choices, and as the seat of our free will. It was here–in the 20% of freedom–where our liberty to choose was found. Free will, he argued, is therefore real, if only to the tune of roughly 20% of our constitution. It was a simple and clear case—seemingly sound—though I did see a hole where I might begin a counterargument. However, instead of mustering a fight, I chose instead to play my trump-card–quite prematurely.
I declared "But I take it that we have no free will as a principle of faith!"
My friend's wry look took a twist, the same twist my own expression might make whenever someone uses faith on me. "Oh, so that's what you're going to do" he said. Adding, "I know what you're up to... Here you are, the atheist, using faith to your own ends to unsettle the footing of your opponents."
That was not right. That is not what I am up to. Or is it? I countered that this is not my game, that I really BELIEVE we have no free will, and that no one can choose what they believe. Adding that I hate this belief of mine and that I wish it were not true. But yet, I believe, I honestly believe we have no free will - though I cannot demonstrate this is so. And thus, I hold this truth on faith.
The discussion ended there. Wholly unsatisfactory. Utterly incomplete. I felt like a cheater and a fraud. I wanted to sneak away and avoid my friend for the rest of the day, as I respect him and appreciate his time and the effort he made to share his rationale and reason in favor of free will. And though I saw fertile ground for a real and interesting discussion on the matter, I chose instead to avoid that high-road and jump immediately into the dark retreat of faith. I ran away instead of fighting. I hid somewhere false to console myself that my belief is true. I was–and remain–ashamed of myself. And I will seek some penance now for my sin, the sin of exercising faith.
I need to confess.
Going Alone is something our species rarely does. No wonder perhaps we then take ourselves so seriously... No wonder we sometimes sense warmth radiating from the cold.
There are campfires
All across this plain
Cold lights, warm with life
Friendship and love
Away from the darkness beyond
I understand, the darkness beyond is indeed a terrible thing. There is nothing very welcoming in deep night. There are few happy stories to bring back from very pure solitude; only close calls with danger and death and fearful tales of strange sights and noises and ideas. So, why then would anyone ever step even once away from the ring of fire that is the centerpiece of their living? Why leave the others behind for any reason other than to briefly move away in order to relieve oneself behind a bush, wondering while so doing if there are eyes in the dark looking back, and considering briefly our vulnerability out there away from the crowd. So, we then dart back quickly when our work is done and take our place again huddled close to the others with our hands held near the flame. Shouldn't this fire be warmer? Why does the flame somehow produce more light than heat? Where is the warmth? Where is the REAL warmth?
But there is talk around the fire, a seemingly incessant warm chatter. There is the heat, perhaps...it's the energy of noisy show and attention and the draw of distraction and trust and deceit and success and failure and the whole lot and production of our living that burns hot. All of this is the source of a sort of warmth we mistake for the fire, which still burns less warm than natural heat should. For should not nature offer us more? Shouldn't the natural world speak plainly of all the dear things we maintain as true: friendship, community, love, peace and forever? How can the flame which we, and our predecessors, kindled and maintain be as cold as the nighttime darkness beyond? This cannot be. I will not have it. I simply will not. I maintain otherwise and sustain my claim with the posture and attitude of certainty. And I back up my position with the substance of faith.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
I do not understand those other things... Those things you keep bringing up about the seeming cold within the flame. Won’t you stop talking of that, please. Let us get on with the community discussion. Let's hear the day's news? And what about those Dodgers! Never mind about the flame... What of it? I told you already, I have faith. I do not need any better answer than that. Huddle close to me won't you. I'm cold.
Notes from my muse
Always trust living conscience over deceased dogma.