Friday, March 30, 2007
Acceptability of Faith, Demands for Proof
Many a chronic skeptic will back down from attacking/debating/arguing with a religious person. The accommodation is one they’d never make for a UFO or Bigfoot witness, or anyone who’s encountered the paranormal. But they’re not as quick to practice their irrational rationalism with a person of faith because, they’ll tell us, it’s a matter of faith. (Also, many a skeptic is a person of faith.) If the religious person admits that they belief because they “have faith,” and acknowledge that there isn’t any way to prove such a thing (which is why it’s called faith) everyone’s pleased with such civilized behavior and there is no need for debate.
The degree of acceptably of one’s faith decreases with the type of religion or spiritual system in question. Mainstream religions are usually fine, unless they verge on the cultish. When one strays from the “norm” by claiming to be pagan, or a non-Western religion or system, the marginlization begins.
Faith is what it is, and there’s nothing wrong with having faith. This isn’t about a judgment on the merits of faith. But one can not prove God exists, or Jesus, or the Virgin Mary, or the Holy Spirit, etc. Someone says they believe in these things, they believe because of their experience, and their faith. But what have they offered us? Nothing tangible. Yet we leave them alone.
But in cases of UFOs and anomalous events, as we know, the expectations -- the demands -- for proof are shrill. They’re relentless, and those who make the demands are consumed with the self-righteousness of any zealot who believes -- who knows -- they are right and on a higher moral road.
Meanwhile, people see Bigfoot or other entities, and immediately have their sanity and character questioned if they share their stories. One could argue that in the case of a single witness, all we have is her word. And yet, why would someone want to lie about a thing like that? (True, people have and do -- in all areas. The point isn’t so much about believing another wholeheartedly without any thinking on your part. It’s more of an approach, a mindset, a way of looking at the world that is the issue here.)
In cases of multiple witnesses, we have a lot more than the lone person relating her story of encountering a God. Yet we demand much more from the Bigfoot witness.
The same for UFOs. Hell, we’re still stuck on the inaccurate semantics surrounding UFOs: the inane question “Do you believe in UFOs?,” the “We don’t know what a UFO is, so how will we know one when we see one?” (also used for Bigfoot) and “UFOs really means extraterrestrials” comments.
Even with photographs, video, film, thousands upon thousands of witnesses, anecdotal evidence, the chronic skeptic still swims around the silly language games while demanding proof, proof, and more proof.
It’s not a surprising reality to know, though it is frustrating, that the anomalous -- where something has been encountered, smelled, seen, touched, heard and felt -- is not only dismissed, but violently discarded. Juxtaposed this with the serene acceptance of staid religious “faith” where nothing has been seen, heard or felt, except by the individual. There are no photos , no radar, no plaster casts or interesting DNA results from hair samples, just a person’s “faith” to get them through. And we nod and gladly accept the latter as rational, and the former as irrational.
By accepting some forms of religious belief as valid and rational, those who reject the anomalous in general have set up a buffer for themselves. A little blankie that comforts; yes, faith is a mystery but there you are. No we can move on. The scientist can go to church and go back into the lab, utterly rejecting ghosts, esp, UFOs, Bigfoot and weird creatures that pop into our reality.
And then there's this; the idea that religious experiences and apparitions are paranormal/Fortean, not "religious" though obviously they're framed in that way.