January 28, 2008

Fallacy of Faith

My parents are leaving their church. They feel the United Methodists have been too accepting of homosexuality. They have not attended in weeks. I wonder what they must do with their Sunday mornings now. I have no doubt my father sleeps in. My mother probably reads the morning paper and works in her craft room until Dad gets up and rumbles something about going out for breakfast. I wonder when they will find another church.

I have never seen any problem with homosexuality. It has always been just one more personal choice, like what kind of car one drives, one’s occupation, or favorite ice cream flavor. When the gay community asserts it is not a choice, but an inborn trait, I accept that easily. In that way sexual preference seems little different than introversion or extroversion, right brained or left brained, math or music.

When I was younger and homosexuality was just coming into the light, my mother tried to explain it. So? I wondered. “Well, you wouldn’t want them teaching your children would you?” I was baffled. Why wouldn’t I want them teaching my children? If they want to be teachers, that’s find by me. It is a respectable profession which we desperately need more good people to fulfill. If they want to get married, that’s fine by me, too. This argument some have even carried to absurdum. “If we let them marry, next thing you know people will be able to marry trees or goats.” So? If people want to marry goats, I don’t mind. I like goats. And trees. They’ll be welcome at my dinner parties any time.

My mother has faith. She has faith in God and Jesus and the Bible. Sometimes I envy her. It must be nice to know the answers. She told me once that the Bible explicitly states “man shall not lie down with man.”

“So lesbianism is okay then?” I promptly asked her. (I also recall a time several years earlier when she told me that just because I was a smart mouth didn’t mean I was smart, to which I promptly replied “Well, you don’t hear stupid people saying this stuff, do you?” I seem to recall she was not amused then, either.)

It strikes me that there are a lot of rules in the Bible which very few people follow. I have never seen my Dad with a beard. No one I know wears nothing but white. We eat ham. If anyone suggested stoning an adulteress, I think they would be jailed for terroristic threats. One guy even wrote a book about his experiment to “live biblically” for a year. It seems he was often mistaken as crazy as a result. The Ten Commandments seem pretty straight forward, and I’m sure a lot of the rules (like pork prohibition) made a great deal of sense in the B.C., but why this rule, of all rules, are we choosing to enforce now?

Maybe it even made sense when infant and maternal mortality were so high. In order to a family, a village, a people to survive every effort had to be given to bearing children. Gay pairings were likely to reduce the number of kids. Even so, many ancient cultures still accepted them with no undue harm. Now with six billion plus people on the planet and steadily increasing natal and maternal health (as well as life span), I don't think the same logic could apply.

While my mother has always been more vocal in her conviction, I have no doubt that my father shares its depth, and so they are church shopping. It seems odd to me, that we have this ability to pick and choose. As if there is no absolute right and we are all just making it up as we go along. I, for one, am very thankful for it.

My faith (if it can be called that) is a very different thing from my mother’s faith. It is vague and amorphous and open ended. When I was younger I went through a period of get devotion, of absolute faith, but it was not real. It turned out I was only testing the waters, so to speak. I was told to have faith and so I did, or tried to anyway. I was told to love God and invite Jesus into my heart and I would feel the warmth of their love. I did but I did not. For a long time I felt the fault was mine. There must be some flaw in my faith, some weakness, some crack, so I redoubled my efforts. Every time someone told me to have faith, doubt grew instead. After a time I decided that if God truly existed, this was not the faith He required. So instead I decided to trade in my faith for something both deeper and easier – acceptance. I accepted that I did not have faith.

I have been listening lately to the evolutionism/creationism debate. I’m sure most are already familiar with that territory, so I will not elaborate much, except to say that I have come across a new approach. Someone recently described the scientific fallacies with the theory of evolution. They did so eloquently and logically, but then they said something I found quite at odds with the entire argument. They stated, given the evidence (or lack), they could not have faith in evolution. This seems to highlight what an anthropologist would call and ethnocentric bias.

First of all, doesn’t creationism require at least as much faith as evolutionism? By the good arguments this person has laid down, there certainly seems to be ample evidence for creationism and similar evidence against evolution. Yet, creationism seems just as impossible to prove. One can only rationalize its possibility, but not prove it. Therefore, doesn’t rejecting evolution on the grounds that it requires faith provide equal grounds for rejecting creationism?

Second, and more pertinent to my mind, is the fact that belief in evolution does not require faith. As the speaker so soundly pointed out, evolution is a theory. In order to believe or disbelieve in it one has only to think it more likely than any other competing theories. The idea that belief implies and absolute and unquestioning leap of faith is the product of a theistic mind. It is misplaced in this argument.

I believe in reincarnation. This is not because I have any scientific evidence whatsoever. What I know if it amounts to so much hearsay, no matter how trusted or respected the source. I certainly have no first hand experience of this evidence. Yet, I still believe, mostly because I want to believe. Reincarnation seems to be the most plausible explanation I have yet heard for what occurs after death, and before birth for that matter. It is reasonable to me, but more important, it is hopeful.

And I do have faith. It is not an absolute faith. It is not a leap in the dark faith. It is certainly not an unquestioning faith, never that. It is a contradictory faith, a fallacy. But it is a steady faith, calm and deep. It is a faith I can accept.

I have faith that, in the end, I will figure it out – and so will we all.


TK said...

In the buddhist "theology", reincarnation is for uninstructed beings bound to samsara. Liberated arahants attain the final nivana. The final nivana is what you want to strive for, not reincarnation.

Monica said...

I know. It's just that reincarnation means I've got more than one shot at nirvana. It's not an all or nothing game.