Monday, November 19, 2007

Does Faith Require Evidence

As promised, I'll now start to address this very important assertion. If there is really no evidence, how do people get the idea that there is a god. As children many of us, including myself, were taught about god. We accepted this as fact because our parents, our friends, and most of the adults we knew all seemed to agree on this. We didn't yet wonder how it was that they knew. If later, as adults, we found out that no one had any real reason to believe in god beyond the fact that everyone else believed it, then I think that many people could not hold on to faith of this sort. Those who do could indeed be said to have faith without any evidence. But this is a weak sort of faith, and I am pretty sure that when someone says that faith does not require evidence, they have in mind a stronger sort of faith.

People with a fully committed religious faith usually will trace it to some personal experience. At the very least, this would be an experience reported by someone they trust. But more commonly it is their own personal experience that confers a certainty about the existence of god. So how is this not evidence? I think the claim is that because the experience is usually mental and not necessarily perceived by others, that it is supernatural and therefore not accessible as scientific evidence as we commonly understand it.

This is a false dichotomy, however. Even if you think that the experience involved god touching your soul, and that the soul is not part of your physical body, there is evidently some connection with your body, because you are able to move your physical mouth and talk about the experience. Even though perhaps "words cannot express" the wonder of the experience, none the less, anything you do say can be used as evidence. Since many people have this sort of experience science can, and in fact does, investigate them. It could turn out that they really are evidence for god, but either way, they do deserve an explanation.

In later posts I'll have more to say about what these experiences probably are. But for now the bottom line is that faith actually does require evidence. It doesn't require actual miracles, or the physical appearance of god, but it is based on experience, and that experience constitutes evidence.

No comments: