Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All Ideas are Religions?

The article given in class, I thought, was based a strange assumption. That is that all ideas anyone can have are religions, and unprovable. I think the author assumes this mainly because of his definition of religion

"It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing"

What the author leaves out is that religions are based on faith, and not reason. The context in which he gives this definition, (in order to refute secularists), seems to imply that he left that part of religion out on purpose, in order to make a point. If religion were what he defined it as, religion would include all ideas. There are, though, incredibly important differences between religion, and philosophy and science.

Religions are interpretations of the world based on the religion's unchanging premise, that is believed because of faith. The bible, for example can be interpreted in different ways for different denominations, but a religious christian would not question the basic premise: that the bible is true.

Philosophy does not have these basic assumptions. This is mostly true of science too. Ideas in philosophy are proven to the very end. Ideas that are refuted rationally are rejected (or modified), and not interpreted into a fixed premise. The entire idea of philosophy is to actually know things, and not blindly believe anything.

It seems, for the author, abstract ideas are unknowable, and therefore can only be thought about through faith. This, of course, is an abstract concept that he seems to "know" to be true.

Secularists and athietsts do have dogmatic beliefs, as do all people, but dogmatic beliefs are not the only kind of ideas. The author gives the example of a secularist who was questioned about why she thinks human rights exist, until she admitted she couldn't think of why she believed this. The author concludes that because she cannot think of a rational reason why she believes in human rights, there is no objective reason to believe human rights exist. He fails to see the terrible logical leap he made. Human rights can't be proven by rationality, because this one woman failed to prove her beliefs? She simply didn't know the reason behind human rights. She instead believed in human rights blindly.

This is the difference between belief and knowledge. This woman in the example believed human rights existed, but did not know it. It might as well have been a religious belief. This in no way means there isn't a rational objective reason for this idea this woman happens to believe in. She may be wrong objectivly, or right objectivly, but that's not what was being argued. Her dogmatic beliefs were.

1 comment:

ejmcneeley said...

I think you bring up a very good point Sophia. At some point it seems that the term 'religion' must meet its capacity. I do not think that it can include any and all ideas and thoughts about "the set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human begins should spend their time doing". The author has in a way rewritten the definition of the word 'religion', which Merriam-Webster defines as "the service and worship of God or the supernatural, commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance, a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices, a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." I think I will trust that definition over the one in the article. I think also you make a good point talking about faith entering the picture. We all are faithful creatures and I am not sure if there are different forms of faith; such as religious faith and common faith, such as faith that a doctor knows what she is doing when she is cutting into you) or faith that a pilot is not drunk when he lifts the plane off the runway. I might be a bit naive in thinking this way but I do not know if there are different levels of faith. Philosophical beliefs are not religious nor are atheistic beliefs. They are different modes in which to explain life. Religion is one of those modes. Thanks for posting this Sophia as it has made me think about this for that past couple of days.