Faith: The Obnoxious Word Part 2: Faith in the Humanist Communities and Why I’ll Stick With “Skeptic”

In Part 1: The Common Tirade, I waxed poetic about what many have waxed poetic about before. Go read it if you’d like. In Part 2, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the obnoxious word, beyond its meaning to most science circles as “religion”. We’re going to look at a more general meaning from dictionary.com and Merriam Webster:

-A belief that is not based on proof
-A strong or unshakable belief in something especially without proof or evidence.
-Allegiance or duty to a person.

How much “faith” is there in the skeptical, humanist and atheist community? I would say a lot. Now I’m not talking about Dawkins, Meyers, Hitchens, Dennet, or Harris. They are scientists writers, philosophers, who have through their experiences, thought, reading, education and experiments come to their conclusions. They are well vetted. What about the rest of us who’ve decided to take on one of these labels? What’s the difference between the new Christian that doesn’t really understand the Bible, but trusts his pastor and some of us, who don’t really understand the science, but just trust in the famous atheists, humanists, and scientists of today? A good number of us have just found refuge in the community and have taken a lot on a sort of faith that especially matches the second and third definitions above, or we basically have made the decision that the supernatural is extremely unlikely.

A lot of us would say that we had studied the evidence and that we had made informed decisions in direct opposition to those definitions above, and maybe it’s true. I still tend to agree with PZ Myers first line in this post:” Most of you don’t understand evolution” (You should continue on with the post, because he goes on to explain the basics in a beautiful concise style, that only inspires you to want to delve deeper into the subject. I sometimes wish PZ would start a separate science writing only blog, not that I think he should stop criticizing religion and culture on Pharyngula.)

In the above mentioned post, Myers mentions how most of his readers (a radical anti-religious bunch) either don’t understand evolution or have a very half-truth sort of understanding of it. Which means his followers (and there are many, he gets anywhere from 300 to 1000 comments on his posts and according to Google Reader he has 6600 subscribers) in his indirect view are relying on faith, or an allegiance to PZ Myers’ work and thought on the subject, or have a strong belief in evolution without knowing the evidence, or a faith that Dawkins, Gould, Myers ect really know what they’re talking about. Faith.

To some extent all of us in the community are guilty of this. I’m one of the few who admit it, and who are actively working and trying old school polymath style to understand the science (and the human condition in general, which goes beyond just science).

Whether right or wrong, or whether you like it or not, most of us are just like the new Christian that doesn’t really understand why they don’t sacrifice animals to God anymore like they read in Leviticus. We have faith that our side is right, because of some good persuasive writing by people who have done the leg work and come to their more humanist conclusions. This is the main reason why I like to refer to myself and probably always will refer to myself as a skeptic.

Should we be more like crazy ranting high school kids or should we be more like the people who post on Research Blogs?

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  1. September 30th, 2010

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