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The Daily Paradox

The Cat and The Dogma

If you want to ‘believe’ that a cat is sitting on the doorstep outside your home you must have no grounds for ‘knowing’ that it is.

Knowledge involves having credible proof or evidence that something is true or exists. If something is ‘known’ you cannot ‘believe’ it because faith involves convictions or trust in something or someone without concrete evidence or rational justification. That doesn’t mean that faith is irrational or unjustified. It operates on a different level from evidential knowledge. It does mean that the reasonable doubt on which faith depends to justify ‘belief’ means it is also reasonable for people not to believe.

The above definitions may not be acceptable to everyone. Many good people of faith have told me they ‘know’ they are right. If you accept the definitions I have given in my first paragraph, they can’t. The extent of ‘known beliefs’ is not confined to extremists or believers of a few specific faiths. As a child I was taught that I HAD to believe in Roman Catholicism. Not to do so would condemn me to hell for eternity. It took me some years to realise the contradiction of the compulsion. And when I lost my faith – or it lost me, who knows – it was not for this reason. It was probably for lack of reason.

The extremist faiths now being promoted and fought for across the world need to agree to the definitions I have suggested or offer alternative ones for adoption. Much of the conflict we see is because there are several definitions of both faith and knowledge. For the purist philosopher that may be inevitable. For practical politics it is a disaster – one that we are watching daily. With the resource of nuclear weapons increasingly available to some of those of such dogma it may become the end of humanity.

It is the world’s greatest tragedy so far that religious hostility in parts of the planet is as bad today as it ever has been. Dr James Dorsey has written an excellent review of this:

Whether a faith is extremist or not, those who proselytise it should consider carefully how they do so for two reasons. First, the overselling of anything is counterproductive. Humans are increasingly sceptical of exaggerated and misleading promotion, especially when what is being sold is spiritual or medical. The snake oil salesman is not out of business but is being exposed as a charlatan. Unprovable religious claims are now equally the subject of close scrutiny.

The second reason is that while attempted regulation may sometimes work – and may sometimes be necessary – every closure of a free speech door restricts our room for personal growth a little bit more. This is a time in humanity’s development when we want people to think more deeply about their purpose in life, a time to question assumptions and the dogma that accompanies them.

One of the purposes of learning is to right wrongs.

We should learn to define knowledge and faith rationally and calmly and reach a liveable compromise. If we don’t there will be conflict which in today’s fast draw response will inevitably become war.

Wars about beliefs can be the deadliest of all wars.

We want peace. But not dogmatically.

Good morning

John Bittleston

If you too want peace please say so on every possible occasion, Doing so is the only powerful weapon we each have.  [email protected]

Jaushieh Joseph Wu, who is stepping down as Taiwan’s foreign minister to become secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council, argues that that’s the wrong way to look at the world. Instead, he asserts, we are living in “a single, indivisible theater in which the security of every country is intimately linked to the security of every other.”

27 May 2024