He [Jesus] challenged the hard and fast religious rules of the Pharisees, the leaders of the predominant religion (Judaism) of the time. He showed that the interpretation of God’s words could indeed be subjective.
Let’s skip over the irony of having a subjective book (the bible) preaching the subjective messages of an invisible dictator (‘God’), for an audience whose subjective views espoused off the subjective book are so incredibly diverse, it makes the book seem almost useless as a guide to one’s life.
Nay…that was a cheap shot; the operative term of the above quote is “challenged”. Yes…a tasty word, ‘challenged’. Other great words are ‘test’, ‘counter-intuitive’ and ‘doubt’ – and what does this all add up to?
The erosion of faith.
“But no!” shriek religious people, “I constantly test my faith” and “Faith unquestioned, is dogma, it is not real.” Good. I’m glad that believers challenge their faith. But how do they do this? In the face of tangible evidence – or no evidence – ‘faith’ is immediately dissolved. Theologians never tire of pointing out that the whole point of ‘faith’ is to ignore rationality and evidence for a bit whilst we get out our biblical texts and start praying. But then how do they question this faith if not through evidence or rationality?
Enter argumentum ad ignorantiam, guns blazing. If you repeat an idea (e.g. resurrection is possible) long enough to an audience (particularly a susceptible one, like children), they will – in all possibly – believe it. Unfortunately, argumentum ad ignorantiam is a logic fallacy and so, in the eyes of religion, to be shunned. Fortunately, most people re-energise their logic and rationality outside religious settings – possibly why the argumentum ad ignorantiam is employed so readily by the Department of Transport (the DOT). The DOT claim that our rail lines are at capacity, yet when one manages – somehow – to unearth the 1960’s engineering reports regarding the City Loop that show that they’re only a bit more than 50% at capacity with the current timetable, you know the government’s claims are fallacious to the extreme (extreme in the sense that the government – both federal and state – are ready to spend big on a project based on a so-called analysis that excludes the said reports). Shout, inculcate and bombard someone with an idea for long enough and eventually people just accept it. Fortunately in the last example I gave, we have people like Paul Mees reminding us of erroneous government claims; that’s to be expected in politics. The same can’t be said of religion.
So, now that I’ve gotten that idea out of the way, I pose this question to religious people: What epistemological reasoning do you employ to justify your faith?