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Plato's Cave Allegory and Faith

By John W. Loftus ~

Plato's cave allegory is a good one applied to the issues that separate believers and non-believers. I know I'm in a culturally derived cave. So I can reflect on that which I have been led to accept since I realize I'm in it, and this makes all the difference in the world. My conclusion is that I can only trust science to tell me what I should accept. Doing so allows me to think outside the cave, to question the reality I was raised to believe. Believers raised in their respective religious cultures are in the cave and in denial. They have accepted and now defend what they were raised to believe using a double standard, one for their own faith and a different one for the faiths they reject. But the problem is faith. Believers all defend the merits of faith even though faith has no method.

Sometime ago in the past in that cave during a dispute between prisoners, one of them said, "Let's test the idea," and the test solved the issue in dispute. Then as time went on human beings learned this is how to settle disputes, and science was born. With it arose the idea that we should think outside the cave, outside of our perceived realities, our culturally inherited ones.

The world got bigger too. People met and interacted with other cultures who had come to believe different realities with the same level of assuredness. Taken together, when we reflected on both science and a global world we began thinking outside the cave. We questioned our own culturally inherited beliefs in the face of different religious cultures, and we used science to solve the questions that separated us. It produced doubt, what I call the adult attitude.

You just want to have believers travel all over the world and debate their own religious faith against the myriad numbers of religious believers who defend their own culturally inherited faith, so they can see this for what it is. But even then that may not be enough, since believers can still look others in the eye and think they are deceived, or they need a "fulfilled" religion--the one they inherited from their own religious culture. Depending on their faith they'll even think these other believers will be condemned to hell for what they were raised to believe, simply because they were raised to believe it, which is at the heights of delusionary thinking.

When asked, Christians will say, "Only God can judge others," even though Sunday after Sunday most of what is preached is that only by faith in Jesus can someone be saved, and that non-believers will be condemned to hell. Listen, either they think God correctly revealed how he will judge people or they don't. Either they believe what is preached or they don't. And if they don't believe it then they should not attend churches where this false message is preached. I have never heard one single Christian look a good non-believing friend of theirs in the eye and say, "You are going to hell," which is the logic of what they hear preached. Not one. Christians always say to these friends, "Only God can judge." What, do they change their minds all of a sudden in the face of the harsh realities? The logic is there based on what they hear preached. So say it. Rejoice in it. God is good, kind, and just, right? Tell your non-believing friends the truth based on the logic of what you believe.

People of faith will also denounce science, saying that science has no method. But that is at the heights of delusionary thinking too, the likes of which I can only shake my head at. It's humorous to me. There are three responses to such a delusional attempt to level the playing field between science and faith.

The first response is that if science has no method then believers have the burden of proof to show us how it advances without one, and how faith solves anything. That cannot be done, just try it.

The second response is that if believers demand we prove with certainty that science has a method by poking a tiny pinprick of doubt about it, then this emphatically does not mean there is any parity at all between science and faith. It is simply amazing to me how believers accept things based on little or no evidence, things a child could easily deny, and in turn invoke a double standard upon people of science to prove with certainty what we have come to conclude. This is why I maintain believers must be shown their faith is nearly impossible before they will ever conclude it is improbable, and that is an utterly unreasonable standard. It is, however, the standard of faith, because faith is unreasonable.

The third response is that science is a human endeavor, and like any human endeavor there is a human element to it. So if science proceeds with theory laden data, probabilities rather than certainties, and is not done by completely objective scientists, then that is not the problem of the scientific method itself. Science proceeds because the evidence has a way of eventually changing people's minds. It is self-correcting by nature.

By contrast people of faith reinvent what they believe in every generation because of the need to continue believing in the face of scientific evidence and the harsh social realities. As human beings live longer it will become more and more obvious that that's what believers do. I've seen it in my lifetime. Science continues to advance while faith continues to retreat.

People who refuse to doubt are almost always fearful of looking at the evidence squarely in the face. They are like the prisoners in Plato's Cave. Fear and ignorance result when faith reigns. Faith imprisons people within their cultural realities, so to speak. It refuses to see them for what they are. Believers are fearful of leaving the comfort of their perceived social realities. They are fearful of displeasing their perceived divine realities. Because of this they are forced to deny what is clearly obvious. They must even deny science. It's time to wake up and think. It's time to grow up and become adults. It's time to throw off fear and superstition.


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