So Strong; yet so calm: Mary's Choice.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Skeptophilia: Faith, belief, and agnosticism: a guest post by author Cly Boehs



article you are talking specifically about superstitious group beliefs—beliefs 
way, way out there like believing that elves not only exist but have rights. But 
I ask you, how far off is this from the now institutionalized belief that our 
supreme court recently translated into the law of the land, that corporations 
are individuals with rights? And how far away from beliefs such as 
transmigration of souls and transubstantiation is the belief in elves? Or that 
Buddha’s mother, before his birth, was struck on her right side by a white bull 
elephant that held a lotus in its trunk, an elephant that then vanished into 
her— or as another story goes—the elephant entered her womb and shortly after 
disappeared? This is after the elephant walked around her three times—well, of 
course it was three times. Three is the 
magic number of fairy tales and religious triads, right?

We all know stories from sacred texts that defy objective evidence—water into wine, an ass speaking on the road to Damascus, parted water to expose dry land (Buddha performed this one before Moses), a Hindu holy man changing jackals into horses and back again at will and the list goes on and on. Miracles or superstitions as a foundational belief arises out of “faith,” as a belief not based on facts. In fact, such beliefs as miracles and superstition are a demonstration of faith. Actually, it’s why they are there. Faith of this kind produces massive power in individuals especially when socialized and politicized, which makes faith-based belief(s) concrete in ritual and activism. Superstition works in this way because when individuals, strengthened by groups, believe against “the odds,” e.g., the Anabaptists against the Catholics and Protestants; the American Revolutionaries against English and French militaries—such polarities only strengthens each in what they believe is right. [A study demonstrating this clearly showed up recently on the site in which two psychologists demonstrated that the more extreme a person’s views are the more they think they are right.] The most important component in any cultural or polarized situation is belief, not reasonableness, facts. And this is because facts change by necessity; while belief can remain consistent and constant if founded in faith, the will-to-believe. The validity of a belief is often expressed in this constancy down through time, e.g. the Vedas are 3500 years old and Christian time is counted since Christ and so forth. There is comfort in not only being right but being so with such consistency and constancy.

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