Faith and Knowledge (The Debate Rages On)

When I used to ride the train to work, a daily ritual of mine would be to navigate the sea of solicitors at the station as quickly and politely as possible.  “Wanna buy a metrocard?” “Did you know the army offers over 950 jobs?”  “Have you accepted Jesus?” “Spare Change?” “Incense, soaps, and loosies (cigarettes sold one by one for all of you unfamiliar with that term)” ” DVD five dollar. Only five dollar I say!” “Repent in Jesus’ name.”

After a while I got really good at dodging these characters. It was like I was in a video game. Sidestep the metrocard vendor, charge through the recruiter, stiff arm preacher # 1, throw quarter into cup, spin off incense dealer, hurdle over DVD blanket, and speed burst away from preacher # 2 to beat the closing train doors.

I should really make this videogame. 

One morning I was pressing the x button to pass one of the preachers, when he said something that caused me to pause for a brief moment. He said “hey young brother, come here and let me drop some knowledge on you.” Of all the things I had heard this man say, ranging from “Jesus wants me to be in this subway car” to “all of you standing in line waiting to buy metrocards may as well be standing in line for hell”, this simple statement was the one that unhinged me from my routine. 

In case you’re wondering what bothered me so much about this statement, it was his use of the word knowledge. See knowledge implies knowing and really what the fuck does he know? What does anybody know really? There are only two things this man can tell me about. He can tell me what he THINKS and he can tell me what he BELIEVES. Here is what I know:
1) THINKING is not knowing.
2) BELIEVING is not knowing, which also means having FAITH is not knowing. In fact, FAITH is BELIEVING without knowing.
Therefore if this asshole is prepared to tell me he THINKS I am going to hell because his FAITH tells him I’m not saved, then he is not dropping any knowledge on me at all.

I didn’t turn back to debate this point, if only because I knew it would have been an exercise in futility. I really wanted to though. You see there is nothing I love more than a spirited debate (with a worthy adversary that is). The topic of my damnation is one of my favorite subjects for debate, but when faith and beliefs are involved debates can often get messy. A good example is a debate I witnessed on the bus one day between a bald Christian woman and a delightful Hebrew Israelite man. The debate began with the Hebrew Israelite man telling the woman she was a whore according to his beliefs because she cut off the hair god had given her. The woman answered back, with astounding composure, that she was a good Christian woman and not a whore at all. My favorite part came when the woman said “God loves me no matter what I look like,” to which the man replied “God doesn’t love you, you don’t even know god’s real name!” He used this point at least three or four times before I lost it. “How the hell do you know God’s real name? How fucking arrogant are you? Did you play poker with him last week? Do you have his business card maybe? How the fuck do you know his real name?” He was stunned. I had been sitting there minding my business for the better portion of the bus ride, but I couldn’t take it anymore. Luckily I also didn’t have to take it anymore. “Well here’s my stop. God bless you sir.”

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50 comments

  1. We all act on faith, to get through our daily lives. We see things and have faith that our assumptions about them are correct.  True faith is based on observation. The Bible says “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   The hope spoken of is not some “well I hope I win the lottery”  feeling brought about by gas moving about in my stomach in a new way. It is the same hope we use when we sit  in a chair and hope the legs won’t fall off. You look at your environment and based on the evidence (in this case, every chair I have ever sat on has held me securely) and have the faith that this one will too. There is blind faith, (which works if the object of your faith is secure), but this faith is insecure, because without some evidence it can easily be misplaced. The Bible encourages the educated kind. Timothy is told to be able to give a good explanation for the faith he holds.  The problem for Christianity  (for that matter insert almost any other ideology) is that using your brain, has in many instances been discouraged by people in power, because it reduces your reliance on them. Christianity, though, in the Bible, specifically warns against this trap. St. Paul specifically tells his audience to test his words against scripture and to discard them if they prove to be false. So I contend that true faith is faith with knowledge, a faith that has been set aside by too many in exchange for a few easy platitudes and an easy, hopeful, but truly hopeless faith in something unworthy of that faith.  

  2. The weakest position we can be in as people who believe in G-d is one where we have to rely on an obscure tenant of our religious differences in order to make a point.Good for you Dave. Good for you.Where’s that video you promised?

  3. Faith is believing without PROOF; not without knowledge, as @lightnindan pointed out above. I’ve known many women over the years who lost their hair to chemotherapy, old age or disease. It’s outrageous that anyone of any faith would tell a woman God doesn’t love her because she’s bald. I marvel at that woman’s poise and at your debate winning strategy. “Your an idiot. Here’s my stop. Buh-bye!” Now that I know your secret, I will never engage you in debate on a bus.

  4. This makes me realize how much I think. Great post, though 😛 I wonder what they thought at night…

  5. To share faith is one thing to judge someone  is another, one we are called to do as Christians,the other we are admonished not to do, I do not why some people think they work together.

  6. It is poor logic to assume Christianity (or Judaism, or any world view) is bad simply because someone does bad things and then claims to adhere to that ideology.  Also to argue a point based on two different definitions of the same word (faith in this instance), is disingenuous.   Even in science we operate on faith. I have knowledge A which leads to conclusion B. If I can prove it then it is accepted as fact until it can be disproven. If I can’t prove it but also can’t disprove it, I still use it until it is proven wrong. Without this type of faith we would have no ability to think in the abstract and would function at a level lower than even animals.

  7. To top it all, the God of both the Jews and the Christians as evidenced in the Old Testament, the part of the Bible they share, is a God of love who loved humanity despite their betrayal of Him. So the Jew in this instance was arguing against even the tenets of his own religion.

  8. It’s interesting to read that an Orthodox Jewish man said that to a woman about cutting her hair, since many Orthodox women (particularly the Chassidim) cut their hair short and wear a wig in public, as an act of modesty/piety.

  9. Nice post!  Both God and Hell (or hades) are pagan terms/concepts.  The New Testament (the Christian portion of the Bible) confirms what the Jewish man said about a shaved head being a shame to a woman.  If you ever get accosted by a female Christian who has uncovered or short hair, ask her why she doesn’t practice 1 Corinthians 11…the response should be interesting.

  10. @lightnindan – “It is poor logic to assume Christianity (or Judaism, or any world view) is bad simply because someone does bad things and then claims to adhere to that ideology…”Not necessarily. I would argue that much of the negative manifestations of religion is sytemtic. For instance, not all Christians adhere to fundamentalist faith healing; but as long as the Bible exists, there will always be a percentage of Christians who would let their sick child die in faith while shunning conventional medical establishment.“Also to argue a point based on two different definitions of the same word (faith in this instance), is disingenuous.   Even in science we operate on faith. I have knowledge”You make an imprecise point.I agree with your definition of “faith”– but there are varying degrees of faiths. There are baby steps in faith (the sun will rise tomorrow) and huge fucking leaps of faith (Zeus molded man out of clay). The proposition of God and the fidelity of the New and Old Testament is one of those fucking huge leaps of faith.Furthermore, an additional differentiation is that the faith involved in religion is essentially untestable and unverifiable.  In contrast, the classroom acceptance of taught science– this faith– can easily be verified by digging into scientific literature and reproducing the basic science experiments. Religion is one huge unverifiable stab in the dark.

  11. @CelestialTeapot – A. The person who would let their child die without medicine, in no way reflects on the teaching of Christ unless He commanded it. A percentage of Democrats will kill their wives, but I don’t assume it is a teaching of Democrats to kill my wife, unless I see it in their platform.                   B. The faith in religion is no more untestable than the faith involved in science. Some things are untestable and thus the things we take on faith color our interpretation of the things we can touch and experiment upon.  The fact is that logically our universe must have come from something or someone that has the power of being. Creationists interpret the findings of science based on their supposition or faith in the existence of a Creator. Evolutionists interpret the findings of science based on their faith in the non existence of a Creator. It seems to me that their world view requires more faith. I believe it was Huxley that said that they must come up with an alternate explanation without a Creator or he could not in good conscience justify his sexual proclivities and his political ideology.

  12. You mean to tell me that you aren’t playing poker with God? Where have you been? Fly to TX. God and I play poker every Friday night. (FYI…he always seems to know when I am bluffing, and I didn’t think my tell was that obvious!) And to the serious side of things: It really grates on my nerves when people suddenly declare that they know God’s will for the lives of others. Or when they declare that the person to whom they are speaking clearly doesn’t know God. Or when they declare that God doesn’t love the person to whom they are speaking. Or…let’s just face it: legalism grates on my nerves, period. @lightnindan – I think that is the best response on the post. Nicely said.

  13. Wow, I’d have loved to see that outburst. Did anybody cheer? I certainly would have. We had Bible Bashers come to our house the other day, tried to push a magazine on drugs onto us. The man looked insulted when my mum told him me and my brother were good kids and didn’t do that kind of stuff

  14. Everyone knew that the earth was flat…until we discovered it was round.The most valuable knowledge comes from experience – and I do believe that it is possible to experience God, or faith…there are plenty of solid reasons to believe that God exists…I could list so many philosophers from Socrates to Aquinas to Kierkegaard that give numerous well-thought out and logical reasons to believe in God…but I’ve never known anyone who was converted by the statement ‘you’re going to hell if you don’t listen to me!’ Those people are shitty preachers and shouldn’t be out there spouting their crap. That isn’t how God wants us doing things.Well written as always, Dave.

  15. I got kicked out of a church service because of my clothes. “God doesn’t care about how I’m dressed, you do. You don’t speak for God. Shouldn’t how I feel trump my choice of pants and lack of shoes?”Apparently not. You know, who cares if they alienate people who walk in off the beach? It’s not like it’s literally beach property and they could do good by accepting people. Right?

  16. @SilentSeekr – No. Hebrew Isrealite. Totally different thing.@AnamcharaConcepts – Yeah I was wondering what the hell he was talking about too.@lightnindan – But here is what I don’t like about it. Even according to your explanation of faith, the knowledge you speak of is based on your personal experience. It’s based on scripture that you’ve read. How many different faiths are there in the world? Too many to count. They are all based on some knowledge and some set of experiences. Not everyone can be right. We are all just following faiths that we THINK we know to be right. It is possible that one faith has it right, but how do we know for sure. We don’t. My faith is such that I am fine with not knowing for sure. I know what makes the most sense to me and that sustains me. Other people may feel so strongly about their faith that they feel there is no margin for error. This is just not the case with me. If the chair breaks I will not be shocked. It is possible for a chair to be broken. You just never THINK it will be.

  17. 1) THINKING is not knowing.2) BELIEVING is not knowing, which also means having FAITH is not knowing. In fact, FAITH is BELIEVING without knowing.Therefore if this asshole is prepared to tell me he THINKS I am going to hell because his FAITH tells him I’m not saved, then he is not dropping any knowledge on me at all. Well…D’UH!!!!  Seriously, though, the distinction does get lost on a lot of people. Poor things.

  18. @vanedave – The faith I speak of includes personal experience, but is based on historically accurate facts as well.  There are many faiths in the world, and they all make truth claims. The truth claims of most religions can easily be proven false. Christianity stands alone. None of the truth claims of Jesus has been proven false, and he fulfilled many prophecies from hundreds of years before His birth.    The problem with faith is that if it is misplaced, it is of no benefit. If I have faith that chewing tobacco will cure my cancer, my faith can be very well intentioned and I can believe with my whole heart, but the treatment will be ineffective.  I have placed my faith in something undeserving of my trust.The problem with misplaced faith and blind faith, is that there are many wrong choices out there and if my faith is in something unproven, my life, very least will be wasted, and at the most (if Christianity is true) my soul will be lost.  Some truth does not leave a margin of error. If you step off a high rise apartment, you will die when you hit the pavement. In misplacing your faith or trust, the chair breaking can have serious consequences.

  19. @lightnindan – The Bible encourages the educated kind. Timothy is told to be able to give a good explanation for the faith he holds.  The problem for Christianity  (for that matter insert almost any other ideology) is that using your brain, has in many instances been discouraged by people in power, because it reduces your reliance on them. Christianity, though, in the Bible, specifically warns against this trap. St. Paul specifically tells his audience to test his words against scripture and to discard them if they prove to be false. Perhaps, but Christ said to Thomas, “You believe because you see.  Blessed are those who believe without seeing.”  (John 20:29)  It depends which scripture you want to quote as to how to defend the faith with/without knowledge.Great post Dave.  I also love a good debate but choose to refrain most times in order to maintain a semblance of professionalism.  When not at work, I can argue a point to the death, but these days, I spend too much time at work and I just can’t justify debating such touchy subjects.  If I were you, I might have missed my stop just to stay and debate it further.  I can’t leave anything undone.  hahaha!

  20. @vanedave – My faith is such that I am fine with not knowing for sure. I know what makes the most sense to me and that sustains me. Other people may feel so strongly about their faith that they feel there is no margin for error.My sentiments exactly.  I believe what I believe and I believe it strongly.  However, should I die and go to heaven (and I really do hope there is a heaven) and I am told that nothing I believed on earth was true, I think I might still want to go ahead and enter heaven (unless of course my idea of heaven is wrong too – – haha).  My point is, that we believe these things on earth (whatever they may be) in hopes of going to a better place after this life.  If we get to that better place, does it really matter if what we beleived here on earth was accurate or not?  Haven’t we achieved our goal?

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