Thursday, 24 October 2013

Religious belief is like love, not science


What does it mean to say that you believe that something is true?

It means that you live-by it (belief means to live-by).


So, when I believe that my mother loved me, I mean that that truth was what I lived by.

I believed it as a whole; and this belief was not made up from observation, evidence, analysis.

I did not treat it as a scientific hypothesis. If I had treated my mother's love as a scientific hypothesis to be investigated, and compared with alternative hypotheses, and always kept open to doubt and revision; then I would not have believed she loved me.


What does is mean to believe that the Bible is true?

Something closely analogous. It means to live-by the Bible, as a whole.

It means precisely not to regard the Bible as an assembly series of hypothetical propositions for open-ended scientific investigation; 


When I say that my mother loved me, does this mean that I think you could chop-up this love into all the specific moments of a human life, which could be analysed and individually tested, and where conclusive evidence of 'love' could be detected, and where no alternative hypotheses were viable? 

Of course not, that is silly - that is a silly, unserious, obscene way to talk about the subject.


The love of a Mother is not the kind of think to pick-apart and examine moment-by-moment, to test empirically against alternative hypotheses, and so on - in fact, if you are doing this then you are not believing that your Mother loves you.

To behave like that, is showing by your behaviour that you do not believe - that is not how people behave that believe.


What about the Bible? If you believe the Bible is true, does that mean - should that mean - that you are open to scientific investigation of the Bible as the test for validity of belief; that you regard it as appropriate, perhaps necessary to cut-up the Bible into little pieces, into detachable propositions, or into themes, or focus upon micro-translation issues - on the basis that you will believe only if it is established that every-which-way you slice the Bible you are certain of the verifiable factuality and internal consistency of the whole lot?

No - because if you do that, then you do not believe in the truth of the Bible - you show by your behaviour that you do not believe.

In behaving like that, you have ceased to believe; you have ensured that you never can believe in the way that you should believe.

You can only believe (at best) in the way a scientist believes - which is not to live-by a belief, but to regard the 'believed-in' as an object for investigation.  


To believe in the truth of religion is, properly, a behaviour analogous to belief that your Mother loves you, it is not analogous to science, philosophy or any other scholarly discipline.

This is especially the case for Christians; where love is the proper medium of belief; and where the primary (indispensable) metaphor of divinity is relational: God our Father, Christ His Son, ourselves as His Children.