17. Faith

Faith

Faith is far too useful a word for it to only be applied to belief in supernatural dogmas. Fuck that.

Indeed, faith in supernatural dogmas without evidence is weak faith because it is counter-factual, childish, self centered, and parochial. A much stronger faith, in the beauty and goodness of reality as discovered by rigorous science, is required to find the strength to take on the travails of existence necessary to be successful as life forms.

Faith and God. These old words come closest to a couple of the central concepts that the scientific pantheist has profound use for. Even though the scientific pantheist’s use of the words differs from the norm, they would argue that the pragmatic core of the meaning of the words “faith” and “God” is correct. And thus, the less pragmatic wholly counterfactual uses of these words needs to give way.

Regarding faith specifically, The scientific pantheist and the utilitarian will agree that the supernatural dogmas that have been handed down to us are not worthy of faith because there isn’t enough evidence for them, and because they are now obviously parochial. However, the pantheist, deists, and theists can claim the the secular utilitarian ethos of well-being of conscious creatures also tends too much towards the parochial. 

To be clear, faith, defined as the belief in something without proof, encompasses a whole spectrum of degrees of likelihood. For example, when I am driving my car on the highway, I don’t have definitive proof that the next oncoming car won’t suddenly swerve into my lane and kill me. But I have enough evidence that I have a fair degree of faith that it won’t happen.

However, for us conscious life forms, a profound amount of faith is still necessary. How we see reality is a mirror of how we see our lives/existence. For most of us, and for the vast majority of human history, if it isn’t/wasn’t necessary to have faith that reality is the good, then there wouldn’t be the need for all of the rituals and art that even the most secular people consume that reinforces our faith that our life(s) are worth the effort. For example, we wouldn’t go over and over to see fictitious movies, the vast majority of whom have positive endings. We wouldn’t need to. We wouldn’t regularly read novels where good triumphs. We wouldn’t listen to beautiful music and look at beautiful art that reinforces the idea and feeling that this reality is beautiful to exist in. Or at least if we did go to movies, listen to music, etc., the sum total of the art we consume would intentionally be neutral or downright ugly or bad, or at least as much ugly and bad as it is beautiful or good.

So yes, Scientific Pantheism is a religion. It not only has an ethical paradigm that establishes a hierarchy of values that descends from the reverential love of reality/nature/God (down the right side of the mandala in the first post (Link)), it also has, or would require, rituals, the demarcation of “sacred” spaces, etc. like any religion (see the left side of the same mandala), in order to cultivate the faith in, and love of, this reality that is pragmatically required/necessary if you and I, and our descendants, are to be successful in and a part of this reality.  And hey, we are fortunate that thus far Einstein, the greatest scientist of our era, was also pretty much a model practitioner of scientific pantheism; so anecdotally at least we can say that some faith in a benevolent universe doesn’t necessarily lead to bad science.

Faith is a necessity. For the vast, vast, preponderance of the history of reality you and I (infinitesimal motes that we are) either, didn’t yet exist, or, we will be dead. Save possibly as a link in the forward moving thermodynamic process of life, we will all be utterly forgotten.  And, consider that sometimes for all of us, and quite often for many of us, this life can be ferociously hard. So, why bother? . . . Because, the scientific pantheist has seen enough, lived enough, with eyes wide open, to feel that this reality, this mysterious yet profoundly comprehensible and beautiful universe, this indifferent existence, is generally worth our love, reverence, empathy, and serious effort; intergalactic voids, worms, warts, plagues, earthquakes, supernovas, and all. To take this often extremely difficult existence on, ya gotta believe in the beauty/goodness of reality. So, for the difficult times a wise scientific pantheist, of necessity, cultivates faith.

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