Taking Things on Faith
Structures of Understanding
Among my personal quirks is that the idea of god seems unreasonable to me and so I don't take it into account in my own daily life - aside from philosophy discussions of course :-) I've met people who understand how unreasonable the idea is but they accept it on faith. I've heard them refer to themselves as 'believers' and 'people of faith' and the capacity to believe unreasonable things is a measure of the strength of their faith. People like me are called faithless.
Among people who find the idea of god to be unreasonable are many who agree in a way. They claim to take nothing on faith. They need to be convinced by reliable evidence. And since even religionists don't claim to have convincing evidence for god (just faith) then they don't have to rely on faith.
Both are mistaken but in different ways.
My view was formed when I considered solipsists and these 'brain in a vat' thought experiments. The movie The Matrix made it vivid. Rather than being a person walking around in reality we 'could' be a brain in a vat getting sensory information from (say) evil scientists. The solipsist position is that there would be no way from experience alone to tell that that was not the case. Seemed to be a solid argument that couldn't be countered. I countered it by saying to myself; I take on faith that reality exists and that I can learn about it. So the solipsist might be right. There is no way to refute the assertion. But it's completely sterile. I've not found it to yield any other ideas - it's a dead end - nothing more to be learned or said.
Religionists and I both take on faith that reality exists and that we can learn about it. I don't think people could function in reality at all without taking that on faith. Even solipsists take that on faith when they are outside of philosophy discussions :-)
But given that reality exists and that I can learn about it, the capability of being convinced by reliable evidence is hugely important. And for me, reliable evidence gets grounded in reality somehow. Starting as babies with just taking the existence of reality on faith and proceeding to learn about it, that learning produces a mental structure that I call a structure of understanding. I call it a mental structure because it's an abstract explanation about how we come to know and understand things but I also think that it reflects how our brains physically work. A structure of understanding is the set of things we've learned that don't contradict what we already know.
We might take learning to be a two step process here. When we first perceive some feature of reality it is meaningless until we can find its place in our structure of understanding. Sometimes we make a new place for it and the structure adjusts accordingly to accommodate it. And it happens that if we can't assign meaning to that raw perception then it doesn't become a thing we are aware of. Religionist and I share the faith that reality exist and that we can learn about it. I think that they have an extra layer of faith at the foundation of their structure of understanding; a layer that involves the existence of a god. That extra layer can profoundly affect the interpretation of our perceptions.
In general I've found this to be pretty benign. When I was young there was a rule of not talking about religion or politics at the supper table. This allowed people with different things taken on faith to get along. Somehow that's been lost. Well - I watched it happen and at first it was progressive people doing it. Many progressive movements have involved forcing people of different faiths to confront something they perceived as bad as if it was good.
Now our society is somewhat in turmoil. I think vaccines are safe and a necessary and reasonable public health measure. Other people find that stories about vaccines magnetizing people fit right into their own structure of understanding. And they are not politely keeping their views to themselves.
I was interested to learn that Trump was influenced by Norman Vincent Peale and his idea of "positive thinking". That idea was that if you say something often enough and positively enough, many people will adopt what you say into the things they take on faith. Which of course affects people's structure of understanding which in turn affects what seems reasonable to them and their behavior.
What do you think?