Here’s my view about those pesky “secular progressive” agendas on campus:
I am going to do some very odd for an atheist, but bear with me. I am going to quote scripture.
In John 18 Pilate is questioning Jesus who, according to the Bible, will soon be crucified.
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
Many claim to be pointing to the truth. The Christians have Jesus and the Bible. The Muslims have the Quran. Many atheists declare there is no god with at least some degree of certitude, and everyone seems to think that if everyone else followed the same thought processes that they did everyone would reach the same conclusions. When everyone doesn’t reach the same conclusions, the other group is wrong and excuses are made. In a sense, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” Of course, we have no idea if Pilate really said this, or indeed, if this scene really took place. Still, imagine just giving up flabbergasted and retorting, “What is truth?” I’m sure most of my readers know that it was Barabbas who was released. Does the truth matter? And what do you do with truth once it is found? Do you get a gold star for finding the truth?
But there is a scarier situation. What if on the journey to find truth, all that is found is chaos and, ironically at the same time, nothingness? What if, on finding the truth, the notion of human progress seems flimsy at best. What if there are no answers on how to live a good life? What if, at base, there are no logical answers to life’s most urgent questions? Maybe you do get that damned gold star, but at what price?
I’m not saying truth is that grim, only what if? Does one live their life wearing their gold star with pride, or do they do something different?
As always, opinions welcome!
Philosophers often struggle and strive to create logical arguments to get at the truth of a particular subject or so the claim is. In philosophy classes, students are bombarded with various forms of logical deductive and inductive arguments, so that they know what qualifies as a genuine argument. The students are trained to avoid logical fallacies, and they write many a paper, where they will lose many a grade point if they fail to make a logical argument and avoid these fallacies. Still, doing real philosophy is not this simple. I would argue, that philosophers are often “biased”.
This is not to say that philosophers aren’t, for the most part, making logical arguments. The problem is that even a logical argument can potentially be wrong, if new information arises. For example look at this argument:
- All white bears are polar bears
- X is a bear
- X is white
- Thus, X is a polar bear
That argument is logical, but it is also wrong. Non-polar bears can be, of course, white. But, if someone had never heard or seen a white non-polar bear, this argument would seem reasonable, wouldn’t it?
And, this brings us to the next point. Philosophy and logic are absolutely indispensable, but logic alone is not enough to bear the weight of the burden of proof in many cases. If someone had never had a science class or lived a long time ago, it would make sense to them that the sun went around the earth. Why? It seems patently obvious to the naked eye. Both modern knowledge and logical argumentation is necessary to prove that the earth in fact goes around the sun and the like.
One of the problems philosophy faces in arenas outside science and instead in arenas such as morality and religion is to get past the “obvious.” It is obvious to some that God exists, and it is obvious to other that he/she/it doesn’t. Many a premise and conclusion are made to prove both sides of this debate correct, but the debate still rages. For example, when people make the claim that something can’t come from nothing, this will seem obvious to many people, but has anyone ever dealt with absolute nothingness? Could we be wrong about the obvious? I’m not trying to claim the answer one way or the other, but the point is, how would we really know? These philosophers and lay people are relying on the obvious which is in reality a bias!
Nevertheless, it is not just religious philosophy that suffers from the problems of the bias of the obvious. For many the idea of maximizing happiness as a moral system seems obvious, not that there aren’t arguments for this, but should we be digging deeper? Sure being happy and causing others to be happy seems “nice.” However, it is tempting to ask if happiness and pleasure are really the highest aims to being human.
There are many other cases and examples I could have used in philosophy. I hope to have used some relatable ones. The problem with philosophy, sometimes, is that it is often trying to answer questions before we have enough knowledge, or it is trying to answer questions where superior knowledge will never be found. Often the bias of the obvious is used, so I beseech you to notice this when you are doing your own critical thinking.
Thank you for reading. Feel free to like and comment!
Here’s my unplanned unscripted audio blog on why religion is comforting.
Here is my unscripted off the cuff remarks on my interest in Buddhism
Here is the material I will be talking about in my audio blog:
My brief commentary:
The Whole Video:
Certainly, I have a complicated relationship with religion. Currently, I am a non-religious atheist, or as I’m better described, a devout skeptic. (See the menu on the left for an article I wrote on that term.) I have been this way for years. Now, when I say I have a complicated relationship with atheism, that doesn’t mean I’m going to run to church today and go get “saved.” It’s much more “complicated” than that.
Basically, I find world religions to be truly fascinating! I’ve even invested a good amount of time and money studying them. I enjoy understanding them both from an academic prospective and from the subjective experience of their followers. This, of course, means I occasionally, once or twice a year, go to different religious services to experience what it is like to be a member of a particular religion, but I never officially join.
Although I hate what religions can do in some instances to a society, I don’t hate religions or religious people. In fact in some ways, I enjoy them, but what on earth do I mean by this? Religions are the closest things we have to actually living out a fantasy book or movie.
There is an idea in religions that there is something beyond this realm, and people can somehow harness it’s power. This is practically the plot to every fantasy book, and while I don’t believe that this religious notion is true, it is fascinating and fun to play with and study once in a while.
So, I warned my readers. My “relationship” with religion is a complicated one, but at the end of the day, I am not a theist. I don’t know if anyone can relate, and I suppose that’s okay.
As always, feel free to comment, even if you don’t like what I wrote!