Monday, July 31, 2006

Faith and Logic

Faith and logic - The two cornerstones of humanity. They both attempt to explain why and how, but they don't always agree with each other. They always come together in conversations, but sometimes they are bundled incorrectly. The following is an account based on my involvement in the WorldWide Malaysian Students Network, a.k.a. ReCom.

www.recom.orgFor as long as I could remember, I have been posting actively in some of the religious threads in ReCom ([1][2][3] etc) Those discussions and arguments spanned over 2 years, and as time goes by my enthusiasm has never faded at all. I have posted more than 100 religion-related replies in ReCom, and I even pasted one of my posts in this blog to share my thoughts with others.

It has been a long long time, but I must say it's a time worth spending. Some people ask me why did I bother joining the discussions at all when I know that people won't just change their mind after an online discussion. Some others ask me why I am so obstinate as to be so assertive in threads about religion, when people can have their way of living without encroaching into others' daily life.

The reason is, I can't stand people bashing others holier-than-thou-ly using logical fallacies. I can't stand people who say "Hey, if not because of my religion (fill in the blank), this world would be in a state of chaos because everyone would kill and rape each other". Or even, "Aren't you ashamed of having this [atheist/non-Abrahamic-god] thought?"

And most of all, a lot of people choose to present their points in a closed, invalid logic. "The [holy scripture] is right because the [holy scripture] says the [holy scripture] is right" is what a lot of people always use when they come to religious discourse. What makes this claim more valid than "He is handsome because he said he is handsome?"

I am not trying to attack any religion here, I have never ever attempted to. Challenge, question, doubt, yes I did all of them; but neither challenge vicious attack nor insult. In fact, it's religious insult that I am always countering here... It's posts like this that I am countering:

... maaf kerana agak kasar. Buddha tak belajar sains, dia tak tahu apa2 dari sains. ia hanya menafikan wujudnya tuhan kerana dia tidak dapat berfikir secara sains dan berpandukan fakta yang tepat.

terus-terang saya katakan buddha adalah atheis jika tidak percaya pada tuhan, sy boleh simpulkan Buddhist dan Atheis adalah sama. (tak percaya tuhan).

tahukah kamu hitler tidak percaya pada tuhan, dia buat jahat
kerana ia tahu jika ia mati pun tak apa.kerana tidak dibalas dengan neraka (sama seperti buddha yang mengatakan tiada tuhan).
See how some people try to invoke Godwin's Law by comparing Buddhist to Atheist to Hitler? That's why I always gatal want to rebut this kind of statement although it is detracting from the meagre time remaining for me with Xuan Ni, Kandel and lecture notes. This kind of vicious attack is unjustified, and by nature I just couldn't let it be and continue studying the neuron's structure.

Eerm, wait, I have strayed too far from what I actually want to write here... The actual reason I am writing here is, too many religious fighting and bashing occur because people just don't get the fundamental difference in thoughts among different population. People just don't get why other people don't get them.

In order to contribute my two cents, I have written my point of view regarding why religious fights always occur with no resolution. It's not a comprehensive description per se, but I tried to outline my basic points. Below is the thought I am sharing today... Hope it contributes a little bit to world peace.
Somehow, I feel that everything [a person's point of view] is up to the axiom of life for every individual. (By axiom I mean self-evident, fundamental "truth" which can't be validated, argued nor challenged without employing the axiom itself)

Many people (including me) have been brought up to believe that cause and effects, rule and regulations, hooks and crooks, right and wrong are all up to the interpretation and explanation using logic. Whenever we come to a dilemma, whenever we are unsure of whether something is right or wrong, we go back to step one in logic. By employing the premises of logic, we set off to deduce, to infer, to hypothesize and to validate our hypothesis; and if our hypothesis is proven wrong, we know that it's illogical and hence it's wrong.

In short, for us, logic is above everything, it's the basis of human reasoning and it underlies every reason and argument. Nothing can be valid without adhering to logical sequence; and to be illogical is to be wrong.

However, for many devout believers (e.g. Muslims, Christians etc), the axiom of life is not logic. Rather, the axiom of the universe is the word of God, as revealed in the Holy Scripture (al Quran for Muslim, the Bible for Christian, Torah for Jewish etc). Whenever faced with a problem, a devout believer will always heed to advice or statements or rules in the Holy Scripture, because he or she believes that God's words are the ultimate truths in this universe. For them, even logic is below God's word because without God, logic wouldn't exist at all.

For devout believers, God's words are above everything, even human common sense and logic. It's the basis of their reasoning and it underlies every reason and argument in daily life. Nothing can be valid without adhering to God's word and permission and restriction, and to disobey God's word is to sin. When God's word contradict other people's common sense, God is on the right side. There's no need to argue, "God is right" is something taken as granted, just as much as every literate take 1 + 1 = 2 as a fact in the realm of Mathematics.

So that's how we ended up having different mindsets, non abrahamic-god-believers on the street and devout believers. Let's not start arguing which set of axiom is true or false, because as soon as you start arguing, you are going to begin step one with your own axiom. The camp of logic is going to start by finding logical fallacies in the religious teaching; and the camp of religion is going to start by quoting the Holy Scripture. And we will never achieve a resolution, as long as we hold steadfast to our respective axioms. And as long as there are people who fail to appreciate the difference of axiom in each individual, they are going to be really pissed by each other in this thread.

Personally, I have no trouble with people having different axiom of life. As long as people do not kill each other just because of different axioms, I am perfectly alright.
The employment of logical fallacy is more frequent than what we think. Whenever faced with questioning, some people tend to resort to their Holy Book, use some "logical deductions" and think that everything is henceforth a fact. In the post above, I was countering a poster who said that "pig is an unclean animal" is a fact because the holy book says so, and also his holy book said God created pig as a filthy animal, so it must be filthy. This kind of argument exists everywhere, be it on the street or on ReCom. And the worst part is, those who use this kind of argument would seldom realize that their logic is fundamentally flawed.

I hope that by posting this, we can all refrain from insulting other's religions, what more insulting via illogical arguments. We will never have a conclusive proof of who's in the right, so for now,

p/s: In case anyone is wondering what my faith is, I would say I am a not-very-convinced agnostic Buddhist. Or a free-thinker if you want to put it that way.


ko said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
randomph said...

Yup, I can't believe how fantastically illogical some of those comments can be. I'm even ashamed of those who share the same religion with me who spout such deluded crap. They're the straw men of every argument.

I can see why religion is such a red-button topic now: It is unthinkable to admit that you are wrong in the very first place. So unthinkable, that sometimes there is no place for pure logic and sound reasoning.

Jiun Wuu said...

Good article.I myself dont worship,either on a human,a statue like some religion said buddha or some form of power or so call superpowers.I believe on my own ability and powers.

For sure,I'm not trying to say that I'm saying that buddha is not good as I was born to write buddha as my religion in my birth certificate.I agree on buddha teaching too,cz its a way of life.Like the quote that u writen in malay as they think we dont believe in god so we do bad things.But for me,I have my own thinking,if a person need some form to make urself descipline,then issit shows that u r a loser?Y dont u believe on urself,do good things because u want to,y do we need those so call kalau-buat-balik-boleh-jumpa-tuhan credit to motivate ourself to do good things?Then wat r those terrorist thinking?They do bad things bcz their G-O-D told them too,so,wat does this mean?

I always told to myself,believe on urself,u r the 1 who need to combine wf other people to create something for everybody.The world doesnt form to be good or bad by somebody up there,but is ourself who decide how good or how bad we want this world to be.Why we give up believing ourself and believe something or somebody that is far away or dont even exist?y dont we believe in the power of humanity?

The more i know and understand abt religion,the more i lost trust upon religion,yes,they do motivate sometimes,but most of the time,human oledi become too rely on the religion and humanity start to get weaker and weaker,sad thing

Cheok Quen said...

That was so... deep.

youngyew said...

Randomph: Yeah, I couldn't believe it too, when I came face to face with the rampant you-guys-burn-in-hell thought... What makes it worse is, this is from a Malaysian.

Jiun Wuu: Eerm... Nice comment. For the terrorists though, it's they who misinterpret their religion, so can't blame the religion itself though.

Cheok Quen: Huh?

Casper said...

wa, i haven't been online for only one month and discussions in ReCom goes to be so detracting already ar..haha... looks like i had miss out on a lot... heh heh...

hmm... for me, human development is based primarily on logical thinking, if not for that, we will still be believing that the earth is supported by giant elephants which itself is standing on even more giant turtles...

belief is a personal, there is no need to impose anything onto others...

youngyew said...

casper: Although in terms of common sense we shouldn't impose our own belief onto others, in some religions you have the obligation to. Just imagine you know that your friends are going to hell, would you just let them suffer the eternal torture? Of course not. So I guess it's also kinda a dilemma there, while they know that people don't like hearing about hell, they knew they ought to let others know about it. If you were a Christian, would you choose not to share your belief?

Anonymous said...

You sound like never actually put your foot seriously on any religion, only commenting faith from outside. I believe that you will make this article more interesting if you have a faith. :)


youngyew said...

Hi, thanks for leaving a comment in my blog! :)

You said that I have never "put my foot seriously in any religion". Yeah it's true that I have never been totally immersed in any belief system, and I am only commenting on faith from outside. However, I have been reading quite a lot about religions, so I am still fairly familiar with it to present valid points for and against it. And more importantly, the things I wrote here was an analysis of the relationship between religion and logic, so it didn't require me to be in a faith myself. In fact, if I were to be in a faith, I might have been biased in my judgment with regards to the validity of logics in some religious arguments.

I am not sure what you mean by "make this article more interesting if you have a faith". I am not sure what I would write if I have a particular faith, but I think in that case, I most probably wouldn't write an article of such nature to begin with. :)