Friday, May 28, 2004

Surrendering Vocabulary: My old friends at Freespace and Froggie's Lilypad have been discussing whether the terms "spirit" and "soul" are usable by atheists. Sandefur says, "Why should we surrender such lovely, expressive words to people who believe in ghosts?"

I think that vocabulary differences largely contribute to much of the argument between religious and non-religious people. Both are willing to couch all vocabulary in terms that make them look good, and the other people look bad.

For example, if I were to pick one word essential to religion that's been "surrendered" to anybody, it would be "Faith." Faith, as the atheist would have you believe, is believing in something that it makes no sense to believe in. In other words, they've built, right into the definition, something that makes it counterintuitive and illogical. It's weaker than belief.

But to the religious, that isn't faith. That's stupidity, just like it is to the non-religious. To the religious, faith is belief on something unknown based on evidence, based on some type of observation of reality or of experimentation. In fact, to Mormons, if what you're believing in isn't true, then what you're practicing isn't faith. This is stronger than belief.

This type of faith is, in fact, the basis of our entire criminal justice system. We get twelve people together with no "certain knowledge" of the facts, and continue pressing them with enough "evidence" until they come to a conclusion. We don't even ask them to be absolutely, completely convinced of what they decided, we just want any doubts to be, by one definition or another, "unreasonable."

The sad part of the non-religious definition of faith is that it's been adopted by so many of the religious. Lots of otherwise rational people subscribe to the idea that belief in God is counterintuitive, and that by believing in him they're doing something irrational, but that this is what God would want.

The even sadder part is, this definition of faith didn't start with the non-religious. It started with religious people as, I'm assuming, an easy way out when people asked hard questions. "Oh, you'll be fine, just rely on your faith," or "Don't question these things, that shows a lack of faith" (As if there were a way to gain faith other than by asking questions).

So as long as we're bandying about who has claim on what words, I want dibbs on this one.

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