H. L. Mencken defined it as: "an
illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable"; what word is
Etymology, Etymology, and more Etymology
as well as grammar, usage, euphemism, slang, jargon, semantics, linguistics, neologism, idiom, cant, and argot.
The critically-acclaimed board game
consists of tough questions about the nuances of the English language.
According to Mencken: "A man full of
faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and
realistic thought. He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill."
However: Francis Bacon wrote "A little philosophy
inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds
about to religion." (from Of Atheism )
An interviewer in the
Atlantic Monthly (from Atlantic Unbound , May 20, 2004 -
The Universe Made Simple ) posed the following
question to physicist Brian Green:
you study all this [String Theory] in depth, do you find yourself moving toward
religion or away from religion?
hard to say. It really depends on what one's definition of religion is. Some
people define religion in a rather abstract way, as the order and the harmony
and the wonder of the universe. And from that point of view, yes, string theory
is revealing great order, great harmony, and great beauty. So if you define
religion in that way, then we are going toward it."
"But if you use a more conventional notion of
religion, which involves some divine being that set all things up, I think the
best we can say is that string theory has nothing to say about it one way or
We can't ever rule a divine
being out using science, because the divine being, of course, could have set it
up so that we could discover what we have but see no direct imprint of the work
of that divine being."
My own feeling,
therefore, is that if we are revealing God's handiwork through our research,
I'm happy to be part of that journey. If, on the other hand, all we're doing is
revealing laws of physics that have governed the universe from the beginning
until today, then I'm happy to be part of that journey, too. So whichever
framework it fits into, I think the work itself is noble and interesting and
very, very worthwhile."
To learn of the marvelous complexities of our being
and environment, the infinite ones of the human body, plants and animals and
all creatures, our world and environment, the universe and the macro-universe,
must in any thinking person beget wonder and awe, and appreciation of the
shallowness of our understanding.
to, in this lack, invent a creator in our own image, or even a creator at all
(logically like a hall of opposing mirrors that never end) is to display in the
most simplistic fashion, our own abysmal ignorance, and an illogically
superstitious resort to "faith" in "Him!" as a substitute.
And to endow this imagined "creator" with traits of
our own needs; good or bad, forgiving or wrathful, merciful or cruel, humble or
vain (in so many humanly contradictory fashions) is to further display our
ignorant self-interest in projecting them into "Him."
Moreover, to insist that such a narrow religious
belief is requisite for morality is totally false, as the creators among us are
the truly moral ones, hardly necessarily of such belief, while there are many
non-believers more moral than many of the believers. "Faith" never looks at, or
simply blinds itself to, the monstrous inhumanity, natural and man-made
tragedies, and evil that permeates our existence, as any sort of contradiction
to its beliefs, except for the occasional, chance-escape from them that seems
to enhance its validity, while ignoring the vastness of experiential evidence
So, let us merely
recognize that we do not understand, never have, and in all probability, never
will; while nonetheless recognizing, in all humility, the great beauties of our
existence, yet the high likelihood that we will end up destroying ourselves,
because the better ones of us simply could not prevent it, while the worst
pursued it with the stolen fruits of the best.
EverPsyPgh at aol.com
This philosophical interlude was a little risky, I
think, because people are *in love* with atheism these days.
But I agree with it. In fact, I'm keeping the
e-mail I originally got so I can look at this page again! Thank you!
jmchen at rocketmail.com
For since the creation of
the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature --
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men
are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
jpmackay at sympatico.ca
Now faith is the substance of things
hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Thank you for offering your
readers an opportunity to respond. Have a great day!
JeanneManiscalco at _NorthwesternMutual.Com
I'm sure there will be a
breathtaking mish-mash of gobbledygook from people who agree with
The problem is that Mencken
made a sweeping generality and like all such generalities there are exceptions.
In this case there significant exceptions.
It's true that anyone who has blind faith in
something he's never tested is a fool. It's even worse if you have faith in
something you've tested and NOT found it to be true. And there are millions who
fit that description. They blindly continue having faith in something that's
never proved itself true.
only religion where this happens. It also happens in politics and even, (GASP)
science!!!! But I won't elaborate with examples because then we'd just get off
into side debates that are off the issue.
The issue is that faith in God should not be blind
faith. If God truly is God, then he can prove himself to a person. And this is
the whole point. "Taste and see that the Lord is good" wrote the psalmist. And
the writer of Hebrews wrote, "he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek
The God of the Bible promises
substantiation of faith and I can personally testify that it is true.
Mencken chose to wallow in cynicism
instead of humbling himself. I suppose he looked at the many phonies,
hypocrites, and religious liars and decided that all "faith" is a lie.
It makes an arrogant man feel superior
when he can look down on everyone else and see himself as the only one with any
brains. Arrogance and pride may or may not have been Mencken's major
malfunction but it certainly is in many of those share his sentiments about
dougclind at _yahoo.com
This frank treatment of religion is a pleasant
surprise, when you think of its country of origin. But what has it got to do
[Mootguy: MooT's domain is etymology, semantics, and grammer.
The country of origin is Canada where - as in the United States - frank
treatment of all things is quite possible.]
niels.hovmoller at _utbildning. stockholm.se
Let's face it: faith is
the antithesis of fact.
story of the bible has Adam and Eve being thrown out of the Garden of Eden.
Why? Because they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. So, what's the
message? Seek knowledge and you will be punished.
Religion requires that you not question its
validity; any thoughtful consideration leaves one realizing its absurdity. And,
it's not divine -- it is based upon Gilgamesh.
Also, the story of the son of god - with a virgin
mother - who had trials in the wilderness, died on a hill surrounded by his
followers, returned to life after three days, then ascended to heaven -- gee,
isn't that the story of Hercules?
bolobill at _mailpanda.com
Green is a joy to read when, as I am,
one has an avid interest in physics, but... sadly... very little talent. He
helps make the obscure far more clear... for which my thanks; and, to say the
least, when considering strings or any other explanation of what is currently
the most fundamental understandings in physics, one needs a helping hand along
However, I think that I would
add to his beginning thoughts that there are some things about religion...
let's be up front... and say BELIEF... which are not going to fit well with the
rules of science.
Still, I offer the
words of a friend whose spiritual connections were so clear that he was
eulogized by many often adversarial religions. He once told me... "Sometimes
you don't have to understand something to know that it is true."
The statement fits well for me both with my
"faith" which is not based on science and not a game of the intellect... and it
fits well with what I read of strings. I believe in God... the one whom I
learned about as a Catholic, but whose reality was confirmed by personal and
very unscientific... perhaps one might call them miraculous events.
I cannot duplicate these for
science... I just know that they were as real as any scientific things which I
have ever fully understood by scientific methods.
Strings have that ring of truth about them too.
Honestly... I cannot follow all the connections from the basics to the
esoterical... but having first been confused, then having rejected the idea...
then having read some more... I do not currently need to understand it all to
know that there is something ringing true.
I cannot handle the math to get there by that
method. So, I depend on good explainers. And yet... I sense that we are not
really there yet. We still need to look for the turtle on whose shell the
strings dance. And when we find it, we will probably need to look beneath that
turtle for another one.
Faith is not
scientific... but it is real and it is, in my experience, based on personal and
very tangible events. Pushed to its edges it is philosophy... and, as Bacon
knew long ago... one finds the beginnings of our most profound understandings
of science there as well.
[Mootguy: Faith's existence is not in question, but the
existence of that which faith has faith in is.]
mikepa at _spokaneschools.org
I think reality is
overblown. You need to have faith that the earth will be there to accept the
next step you take. There are no guarantees.
Brian Green's reply, far from waffling, reflects a
great positivist belief in the essential goodness of the universe - that order,
harmony, and beauty are to be identified and appreciated, and that we humans
have the capacity, even the imperative, to participate.
Could there be a more compelling religious
It is very difficult as I grow older to
accept the absence of knowlege concerning "life before and after death". I
admit I am abject in my ignorance. And, really, we must all be so. The illusion
of an orderly created universe certainly helps to maintain an orderly society.
But we are only observing a hope, an illusion.
Labratt917 at &&aol.com
First, can we all agree that EVERYTHING
in the universe is a probability: there are no fixed variables to be
Faith is always blind for if
faith could see, it would be knowledge.
[Mootguy: Thanks Mr. Nietzsche. You
otsg33 at & at & comcast.net
Historically 'faith' comes from the word 'trust', ie. "I put my faith in you". The reason we place our trust in God is because He shows himself to the individual, if asked (as Jesus tells us to). It isn't signs he wishes to give us, which only constitute evidence: rather He proves his own existence.
This is the opposite of the definition of faith that has reared its false and ugly head recently : "Belief without knowledge". Totally irrational, of course, and makes believers look pretty stupid. But it is a false and modern definition.
Authentic religious belief is totally reasonable/logical, though not based on reason, rather 'pure knowledge'. Of course, it is not possible for another to know that one has authentic belief, unless God were to tell us directly.
In Theology 'faith' is distinguished from 'trust' or 'beleif' by adding in the business of free will, as in this technical definition (Roman Catholic) :
"Faith: assent to Divinely Revealed Truth"
In other words : even God's revelation can be refused because of the gift of freewill.
Any real scientist knows that science is all about evidence of material things, and not suited to judging the existence of God (disclaimer : I am a scientist, as are many members of my family on my mothers side). Menkel's "improbable" can't come from science, and definitely not philosophy, probably more likely from two possible sources : creationists christians, who make chritianity look pretty silly, and the suffering of innocent children.
The former are highly vocal, but don't represent the majority of christians who have never been bound to the literal interpretaiton of the bible that is the source of creationists ideas. The latter are addressed by the suffering and death of the most innocent Son of God, Jesus Christ, in whom all the innocent are united and with whom they suffer for the sake of the redemption of the guilty.
They make up for what lacks in Christ's suffering, as mentioned in a letter of St Paul.
Ironically atheists, who believe that God does not exist, are irrational because their belief does not have proof (unlike the Christina mechanism of 'faith'). However, when you prod them it turns out that most atheists are agnostics in disguise. Really they are of a strong opinion. An opinion doesn't have the certainty of belief. Or they are "unbelievers": they claim simply to have no belief either way, but really that is a form of agnosticism.
greg5 at lorriman.com
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