Of Faith and Reason

in me

The concept and actuality of faith makes no sense to me. What I mean by this is what I dismiss the entire idea of miracles as that of effect without cause. Somewhere deep down in my brain exists a part of me that rejects the miraculous as effect without cause.

One of the most important stories of Christian canon is the Wedding at Cana. Long parable short, Jesus turned water into wine while at the wedding. On several fronts the story offers proofs of an omnipotent and omnipresent god:

  1. The majority of attendees found the wind to be of the highest quality. God knew their tastes.
  2. God knew the subtle combination of time and process which underpins all good vintages. Perfect past knowledge implies perfect future knowledge.
  3. God accomplished without any side effects. For example god only converted the water in the jars to wine, and not, say, the water in the body of some bystander.

God is detail.

The chain of effects without cause is aberrant in the context of our ordered universe. Everything that occurs, occurs according natural physical law. The efforts of the best and brightest of our species haven’t produced any proof to the contrary. Whatever we don’t understand now, we will in the fullness of time.

And so the small acts of faith with the great. What I find to believe in has been an exhausting open question over the last eighteen months. The lessons of agency and choice, the questions of action and responsibility, have destroyed my faith in the assumed, the unseen and the unknown. As you, for me. The natural world derives from a predictable and time-reversible set of physical laws. The human world belongs to a different order of cause and effect, a system that looks like enlightened self-interest. We all look our for us and ours; most of us also try to cause no harm along the way.

If you express faith as a function of trust, then I’m not someone given to trust. I had to earn my own trust last year before I could go and earn anyone else’s. The hard truths about awful hurts I caused and the destructive ways I acted and interacted, they destroyed my faith in myself.

Now, this outlook is exhausting. I can’t go through life afraid to trust anyone because of an unbased fear in my ability to cause and receive hurt. That I realise my fear as another, negative, kind of faith leads me back toward reason and mindfulness. You, whoever you are, you I’ll trust. Give me your proofs and I’ll give you mine.

Back at the larger scale, I trust in science and logic and reason. In combination they offer a testable set of proofs on the nature of the world. They describe the nature of cause and effect and consequence in neat steps. While yes, I hold a reductive view of Everything, Everything gives me a heady sense of wonder. Across billions of years and time and space, here and now I am alive, aware, and able to find spontaneous disordered beauty in a domain of law and order.

Six Months in the Mountain Kingdom

in me

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