Some thoughts about
faith and belief
This was posted before but got buried in unrelated stuff…
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Language, at best, can only evoke the truth,
it cannot say the truth.
A review of : Daniel Everett (“Don’t sleep, there are snakes”)
There is a linguistic scientist who recently became famous because he challenges the mainstream concept that the way we use language is basically hardwired in our brain. (It’s actually Noam Chomsky who is challenged here, also a famous linguist and, beyond that, one of the most brilliant, relentless political dissidents of our times and one of my personal heroes.)
This scientist – Daniel Everett – went to South America as a young missionary, (before he became a scientist), and he spent many years trying to convert a very primitive tribe there to Christianity. First he had to learn their language that turned out to be amazingly unique. It doesn’t have words and grammar, the way to combine words, we know so well to make sentences. They seem to express themselves with sounds and tones; they rather make music than formulate language. They can say the same thing either using the tongue or whistling or drumming it with their fingers. I heard a sample; it is absolutely amazing.
This man had a very hard time to get his Christian ideas across to these “simple” people even after he had learned their language. They had this wonderful way of perceiving reality personally, of trusting their direct experience rather than any intellectual interpretation of it. They had conversations like this:
“There was a guy who came back from the dead? That’s astonishing, did you see it?”
“Well, I didn’t see it personally …”
“How can you know when you did not experience it?”
In the end – and that’s the point of this story – they converted him. He saw his own impersonal conditioning. He saw that he believed something that could only be proven by stories and that stories were basically music, open to perpetual interpretation. Music doesn’t say anything, it evokes things. Music, and why not language for that matter, doesn’t say the truth, it may evoke the truth – in you – but you are the one who actually generates it, who creates it. He gave up all attempts to convince them of his views and rather studied their interesting communication technique. And he gave up the lifelong struggle to create a sense of security by having an opinion as such, a belief, by wanting an insurance policy to keep at bay all those things that remind us of the uncertainty of life.
Here is a clip in which he talks a bit about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKqxnU5P1Yc&feature=related
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Here are some powerful quotes about belief.
To learn is far more important than to know. Learning about belief is the end of belief. When mind is free of belief then it can look. It is belief or disbelief that binds, for disbelief and belief are the same. The believer and non-believer are the same.
Through experience you hope to touch the truth of your belief, to prove it to yourself, but this belief conditions your experience. It isn’t that the experience comes to prove the belief, but rather that the belief brings about the experience. Your belief in God will give you the experience of what you call God. You will always experience what you believe and nothing else. And this invalidates your experience. Belief conditions its own supposed proof. What is important is not what you believe but only why you believe at all. Belief comes from fear. Belief, like any other ideal, is an escape from “what is”.
This is what Sartre said – plain and simple:
To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is
not to believe.
Richard Dawkins said what every serious scientist will confirm:
Faith: blind trust, in absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence. The idea of blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.
And here are two more provocative quotes:
Organized religion is little better than organized crime.
Prayer is an ugly form of barter.
And this is what I would add:
Ideas, like beliefs, can never bring people together except in conflicting groups.
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Klaus, April 11, 2007