A Candle in the Dark

I have spent far too much time delving into issues others would like to leave well enough alone. Because of that, I have often read and studied in solitude. I have come to realize that my thoughts have been bandied about in this echo chamber of a mind for far too long. A person needs feedback and criticism to avoid errors. I enjoy asking the questions that delve into places many fear to tread, but rarely get questions asked in return. I often make people uncomfortable by asking questions that may not have an easy answer. Why does it make some people uncomfortable? That will have to be a subject for another day. What I have found is that the biggest roadblock that keeps me from accepting the answers given is my inability to have faith.

Before you get your underwear in a twist let me explain what I mean. The world can be a very confusing place. People of all stripes make claims about the world that do not agree. What methods do we use to choose between the concepts tossed about in this ever growing marketplace of ideas? For some, faith is an easy answer. Doubts and misgivings have no place in their world. They believe what they were taught at a young age and are content to hold that belief, no matter what. That is not the case for me. Doubt is not something to be avoided, but a gift. It’s a sign that your mind is working. Doubt means that there are questions, and questions give us a chance to learn and grow. Without the ability to learn and grow we are stuck in the same places we have always been.

When doubt is taken on its own, it is found to be lacking. Doubt alone is not enough. Just asking questions will get you nowhere. What really matters is the ability to take those questions and seek out answers. It is quite possible to just accept what you are told without thought or question. It is even possible to acknowledge doubt, find any old answer, and run with it. People have been doing it for thousands of years. The problem comes when your answers come face to face with reality. Reality cares not for your fantasies. It cares not for your beliefs. It cares not for your faith. You can face reality for what it is or you can be blindsided when it comes screaming in with a vengeance.

With those thoughts in mind I come to one simple conclusion. I want to believe as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible. That simple goal will help my life be rich, full and meaningful. That desire leaves me with a dilemma. What methods can we use to discover the truth?

Some would claim faith is the only way to truth. They claim divine revelation. They point to “Holy Scripture” as their source. Is that enough for me? Hardly! People with many different beliefs all state proudly and without hesitation that their way is THE way. When that is the case (and it is easily shown to be so) faith itself is not enough, especially when disparate groups hold contradictory beliefs. If faith is not a valid method for deciding truth, what else is available?

Easy! Follow the evidence. A belief should take into account all available evidence before it can be held with any level of certainty. The amount and types of evidence required depends entirely on the gravity and scope of the issue being discussed. The bigger the claim is, the better the evidence should be to support it. If you ask me to accept that dropping an apple will cause it to fall to the ground, you will not find me opposed. It is a mundane idea that agrees with all the years of experience I can bring to bear. My attitude would be very different if you claimed that dropping an apple would cause it to do cart-wheels in mid-air (or that purple faeries are what make the flowers grow). When you believe something that disagrees with the way the universe has been shown to work, it is easy for me to disregard that belief. If your ideas line up with my understanding of the world, I am more likely to agree and tentatively accept what you say. But if you call for me to “just believe”, you will find a steady resistance to the ideas you espouse.

I write this long-winded post for one simple reason. I am exploring the world and don’t want to do it alone. This is a simple hello to everyone I have ever had (or will have) a discussion with. Do not be offended if I ask a lot of questions. I can’t “just believe”. If I am asking questions, it means I might actually care about you and what you have to say. It means I want to get to the bottom of things. I may ask questions to help me learn or I may ask questions in the hopes that you realize that your easy answer is not as complete as it should be, but I am not asking questions to be mean. I try to be nice (really!) and enjoy a good discussion.

If you are offended by questions, though, you may be doing it wrong. I look forward to hearing from you!

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