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 Is Deism a Faith?

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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Is Deism a Faith?   Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:46 pm

TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE, THAT IS THE CONUNDRUM.

Quote :
Thanks for your reply. I still don't understand why NONBELIEF is not the defacto stance on any issue that lacks empirical reasons to believe.
I came across this sincere question on John Armstrong's God Versus The Bible forum*. Why isn't Atheism the default belief-stance regarding the existence of invisible, improbable deities? This is a perennial challenge from unbelievers to the faithful---and to the quasi-faithful. Yet the answer hinges upon your personal definition of “evidence” and “reasons”.

Atheists tend to believe that their belief systems are founded upon solid empirical facts, with no allowance for squishy un-provable faith. But even no-nonsense nonbelievers are forced to accept some fundamental axioms** as both true and non-empirical. For Theists and Deists the existence of G*d is an axiom, not a proven fact. I won’t go into the details of axiom formation here; but I think we all need some guidelines for when and why to believe. The essay linked below offers some thoughts along those lines***.

The "argument from non-belief"**** sounds reasonable until you realize how many things you take for granted without empirical evidence. Do you believe that the sun will rise tomorrow? Based on your past experience, would you agree that is a true belief? Most of us do. But we are also aware that past experience is an imperfect guide to future experience. We routinely draw inferences, and then believe them, until we experience evidence to the contrary. The likelihood or probability of sunrise is almost a statistical certainty, but the evidence for that assumption is merely past experience projected into the speculative future. Atheists tend to trivialize the practical significance of imaginary deities. But others seem to think that the origin, operation, and destiny of the world is at least as important as daily sunrise and sunset.

For moot-but-non-trivial questions, Agnosticism---suspension of belief, pending evidence---may be more appropriate than active unbelief in the absence of evidence. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But in some extreme cases, where either/or choices must be made, we may be justified in treating a hypothesis as-if it is a fact. In the absence of direct revelation, a Deist's provisional belief in G*d is necessarily a hypothesis, not a proven fact. But they accept that the preponderance of the evidence---empirical and circumstantial, rational and intuitive---supports the inference of a greater whole of which the physical universe is a part. But is that abstract, rational reason enough to found a Faith on?

* http://godvsthebible.com/node/71

** Wiki : In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proved or demonstrated but considered to be either self-evident, or subject to necessary decision. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other (theory dependent) truths.

** The Belief Rule
http://home.mindspring.com/~johne84570/TheBeliefRule_062004.pdf

*** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_nonbelief
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Aaron
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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:10 pm

Deism is based on reasoned faith.

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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Sun Jan 25, 2009 12:40 pm

Yeah another way to put it, is that the "faith" of a deist cannot contravene reason.

So take the Catholic Church, no disrespect. But their whole sainthood thing with the required proven miracles, for instance, most deists would not accept, simply because miracles, in the strict sense of the world (defined as an abrogation of the laws of nature) do not appear to take place. Deists than, for instance, do not have to go searching and scrounging for a miracle that Mother Theresa may have accomplished to award her sainthood. For many deists, her non-miraculous work with the poor would be quite enough to elevate her to sainthood.
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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:11 pm

Of course it is a faith, faith is integral to being human.

Getting on an airplane and expecting to land safely at your destination is an act of faith.

We are faithful animals.
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Paul Anthony

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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Sun Jan 25, 2009 4:43 pm

Gnomon wrote:

The "argument from non-belief"**** sounds reasonable until you realize how many things you take for granted without empirical evidence. Do you believe that the sun will rise tomorrow? Based on your past experience, would you agree that is a true belief? Most of us do. But we are also aware that past experience is an imperfect guide to future experience. We routinely draw inferences, and then believe them, until we experience evidence to the contrary. The likelihood or probability of sunrise is almost a statistical certainty, but the evidence for that assumption is merely past experience projected into the speculative future.

I agree with your premise, but I find this particular argument (above) to be weak. The expectation of sunrise is not entirely based on past history. We (that is, the scientific community - not me personally) can tell us why the planets orbit the sun, and therefore have empirical evidence to support the assumption that the sun will "rise" tomorrow morning.

A better analogy might be gravity. Science acknowledges the existence of gravitational forces, but hasn't a clue to their cause. When we drop something, we have "faith" that it will not fall up.
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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Sun Jan 25, 2009 5:01 pm

Aaron wrote:
Deism is based on reasoned faith.

In the original quote from an Atheist, Faith is implicitly irrational. The implication is that reason only works with hard evidence. But in reality, reason works just as well with imaginary things as real things. Reason is the ability to infer invisible relationships (ratios) between things or concepts. Nevertheless, I am still reluctant to use the "F" word to describe my beliefs, since in conventional use it also implies a blinded belief, dogmatically held, despite reasonable evidence to the contrary.


Wiki : Faith
A certain number of religious rationalists, as well as non-religious people, criticize implicit faith as being irrational, and see faith as ignorance of reality: a strong belief in something with no evidence. Bertrand Russell used to note that no one speaks of faith in the existence of such entities as gravity or electricity; rather, resorts to arguing faith occur only when evidence or logic fails. The issue is more than theoretical.[10] People can agree on the reality of that which is evidential or reasonable, but what is based on faith is not usually communicable except by common inculcation, which makes faith a divider and thus a phenomenon commonly correlated to intolerance and warfare. In the rationalist view, belief should be restricted to what is directly supportable by logic or scientific evidence.[11]

Defenders of faith say that belief in scientific evidence is itself based on faith — in positivism; yet they do not themselves defy reason by walking off cliffs out of faith in divine intervention. Others claim that faith is perfectly compatible with and does not necessarily contradict reason, "faith" meaning an assumed belief. Many Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that there is adequate historical evidence of their God's existence and interaction with human beings. As such, they may believe that there is no need for "faith" in God in the sense of belief against or despite evidence; rather, they hold that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that their God probably exists or certainly exists.


As I see it, the faith versus reason dichotomy divides over the definition of evidence---physical versus metaphysical; real versus ideal; observational versus circumstantial.
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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Sun Jan 25, 2009 5:06 pm

Quote :

I agree with your premise, but I find this particular argument (above) to be weak.
Point taken. I was not happy with the sunrise analogy, but at the time, nothing better occurred to me. But I was trying to work in the idea of scientific, statistical certainty. Perhaps Uriah's analogy is a better example of mundane faith---or reasonable expectation---or fear-quelling hope.

Quote :
Getting on an airplane and expecting to land safely at your destination is an act of faith.
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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:11 pm

Atheists (and Objectivists) often tend to see reason as purely objective and faith as purely subjective and therefore diametrically opposed to one another.

I disagree with this notion. I think reason includes some subjective perceptions and some inter-subjective cultural traditions (they are inescapable) and faith often includes objective evidence.

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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:24 am

I just spotted this quote by David Hume and thought it pertained to this discussion.

    "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

I don't know that I'd take it as far as Hume did but I agree that reason includes subjective elements.

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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:17 am

Aaron wrote:
I just spotted this quote by David Hume and thought it pertained to this discussion.

    "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

I don't know that I'd take it as far as Hume did but I agree that reason includes subjective elements.

Well, I think Hume's Materialist view had to concede that Human perception was fallible, it was evident to him that one does not have conscious control over one's emotions (passions), so he accepted that no matter the force of will applied to observation or thought, those uncontrollable passions would inject themselves into the equation.

In fact, Faith is a conundrum to much of philosophy (especially Cartesian Dualism) because there are two separate kinds of faith - or, two separate views of what faith is. I think this is what Gnomon was pointing out.

Is faith an intellectual accession to a given proposition or hypothesis?

Or, is faith something mystical, a non-rational thing, stemming from the soul, from an "inner knowing"?

Or, is it both, are there two kinds of faith?


Deism certainly purports to be a faith of the former variety, but many who would themselves Deist also believe out of a non-rational faith. This, of course, is part and parcel to the human condition. Humans, as it has been noted, are hardwired for faith and spirituality.
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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:42 am

Uriah wrote:
Humans, as it has been noted, are hardwired for faith and spirituality.

I don't think we would be able to function in the world without them.

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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:46 pm

I agree, in my view they serve the function of meaning-making.

The mythologization of existence, and culture.
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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:27 pm

Aaron wrote:
I just spotted this quote by David Hume and thought it pertained to this discussion.

    "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

I don't know that I'd take it as far as Hume did but I agree that reason includes subjective elements.

My problem with the theological concept of Faith as a sign of God's grace, is that Christianity has traditionally asserted that Reason must be subject to---a slave to---Faith. In other words, you must believe what you are told by the authorities, even when your personal reasoning concludes that the "fact" in question is doubtful. Preachers typically extol the virtues of "strong faith", and warn against the dangers of debilitating doubt.

If I had followed that rule years ago, I would not be a doubting Deist today. I agree with Mr. Hume's* stated opinion, but not with the common interpretation. I think he is merely pointing out that humans always use their reasoning abilities in the service of their own desires (i.e. as an act of Will). But the products of our reasoning must always be subject to empirical proof, whenever possible. Reason, like Faith, is not a miraculous gift from G*d, but a mundane talent of the human brain. So neither is guaranteed to be infallible. Therefore, it's always wise to do due-diligence in fact-checking our own reasoned beliefs.



* Hume is usually classified as an Empiricist and a Skeptic, and ironically an Anti-rationalist. Which would suggest that his quoted opinion that "Reason ought to be subject to the passions", ought to be subject to question. Obviously, the "passions" referred to here have nothing to do with collective Faith, but instead with individual motivation. His critique of the "problem of induction" is still a thorn in the side of modern, rationalist Science. Hence, even scientists, in the final analysis, tend to believe what they want to believe. That's why the Scientific Method is based on Skepticism instead of Faith.
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PostSubject: With regard to the faith of Deism   Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:24 am

I don't know that I can define faith accurately as defined in texts. Though
having been raised with religious affiliation I believe faith is the belief in a
truth that cannot be proven. For instance I recall the priest 'saying' mass at
the altar repeating the words of Jesus at the altar then singing a melodious
phrase, 'Let us proclaim the mystery of faith' typically after the blessing of
the bread and wine reflecting belief in the changing of the wine to blood and
bread to flesh of Christ.

With that being my impression of what 'faith' means to some, I've rejected that
faith for a simpler faith. That faith being that the laws of nature and all
within, around and above it are guided by some creative, intelligent force
beyond human comprehension unless of course it is simply the natural laws legislated and executed by the Deus. Yet I believe in this intelligent and inhuman force
referred to as the Deus; Whereas others prefer to refer to it as
'God'. To me that word is so used and abused that at this point means nothing to
me. Whether that force is aware of me as an individual, I don't feel I can
substantiate enough to convince anyone beyond a doubt.

In place of faith, for me as a Deist, I've developed a Trust. Since I was a
child, I recall being told that God is all around me. So with me being a literal
person rooted in reality, I looked to nature as not only God's creation but as my
scripture and as God's eye's looking directly at me with rays of the sun,
caressing me with the wind, bathing me in rain and sheltering me deep in the
woods.

This was my reasoning as an impressionable child. And as of the past year and a
half, I've since returned to this earlier reasoning. It is my faith based on
what I came to believe naturally on my own. Thus Deism being a natural religion
or faith based in Nature with reason.

If I had to be specific I could add the prefix 'Pan' to make PanDeism and if
necessary take it one step further and look with agreement at PanenDeism. But to
me, all of the prefixes, suffixes and further tweaks seem to be attempts to
define the indefineable. So in efforts to achieve alignment with the greater
movement I define myself as simply Deist and when necessary start offering my
tweaks to further define my understanding but not to define the nature of the
Deus.

That's my take on Deism, faith and reason, for what it's worth.

J.

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PostSubject: Re: Is Deism a Faith?   Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:19 am

Javerzak wrote:
If I had to be specific I could add the prefix 'Pan' to make PanDeism and if
necessary take it one step further and look with agreement at PanenDeism. But to
me, all of the prefixes, suffixes and further tweaks seem to be attempts to
define the indefineable. So in efforts to achieve alignment with the greater
movement I define myself as simply Deist and when necessary start offering my
tweaks to further define my understanding but not to define the nature of the
Deus.

That's very understandable.

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