Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Validity of Belief

I've just been listening to the audiotape version of "Buddhism Plain and Simple" by Steve Hagen. He describes an interesting concept...

What if I told you I had a diamond in my closed fist? Would you believe me or not? You might consider how well you know me, how trustworthy you think me to be and how likely it is I might come across a diamond. In the end, however, all you'd have is belief. Either you'd believe I had a diamond in my fist, or you wouldn't.

BUT... your belief would do you no good. You wouldn't really know, would you?

Now let's say I open my fist and you learn whether or not I did have a diamond there. At that point, would you still have a belief about whether or not I had a diamond? Of course not, you'd know either way. Again -- your belief would do you no good.

So just believing something is not enough. You should know. Believing before you know is pointless; believing after you know is moot.

So what is the point of belief? I don't know, but there are a lot of people who believe in things that can't be proven. If they want to do that, that's fine, but when they start telling others that they should share their beliefs, and that everyone should tailor their actions to those beliefs, or worse be everyone be forced into acting in accordance with those beliefs, then I don't think it's too much to insist that some proof be given. Otherwise you're just arguing over things that cannot be proven.

Is there a God? Is Jesus his son? Is there life everlasting, heaven, hell, angels, devils? Is there a soul? We can't know, we can only believe. And that is not enough.

We need to know. There is no substitute for direct knowledge.

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