Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Belief You Me

I often find wonderment from trips to the library. I typically head off down the hill with a specific book or topic in mind, yet I often arrive back home with something altogether different or, at least, with what I sought after PLUS something completely different. This was the case yesterday as I picked up my order for the book, "The Lilies of the Field" and also brought home, "The Religious Case Against Belief".

I'm not sure WHY I picked up the second book since religion is not a topic that generally appeals to me. I suppose it was something about the title that happened to pique my interest at the time.

I finished Lilies in one day. It's an extremely short book, but it still represents a feat for me because I'm a very slow, plodding reader. I've only read about 10 pages of book #2 and it's already got me thinking about the concept of belief.

For as long as I can remember, I've been taught that fact and belief are two different animals. The former is based upon empirical, deduced or observable reality, while the latter cannot stand on any of these three edifices. Fact belongs to the world of science and belief to the world of theology.

As I've aged, I've come to see that this is a false dichotomy because facts are beliefs too! It's just that they are beliefs that can be replicated, deduced or observed by others. Facts are no more real than non-facts.

For example, there is no way to prove that 1 + 1 = 2 is real. One really is nothing more than an adjective, a way to describe something else. I can hold a peach in my hand, but I can't hold a one in my hand. I can hold one peach in my left hand and one peach in my right hand, then tell you I have two peaches, but I can't hold two ones.

A "one" or "six" or "fifty" doesn't exist. Each is an abstract concept. Just like religion. Just like Tao.


  1. No, facts are not beliefs. Facts are propositions that are repeatable and verifiable through independent confirmation. Facts depend on evidence. Belief denies evidence.

    1+1=2 is not a fact. This is simply a statement of mathematical equation. In fact, at the quantum level, it may or may not be true!

    Mathematics and numbers are creations of the human mind as tools to explain observations of the universe. They are used to describe the factual world, but are not facts of themselves.

    Just as the concept of Tao is not a fact but a description, an explanation of observation. Taoism and the scientific method are two ways of describing the all that is.

  2. I beg to differ with your assertion that "belief denies evidence". Talk to any devout Christian (or substitute any other religion) and they will tell you their belief in God is based on evidence. What evidence, you say. They'll respond, "Look around you."

    How we each view "facts" is colored by our beliefs and perspective.


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