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Dilemmas

By Carl S ~

CNN Headline News features a program named "Forensic Files." These are actual cases involving the forensic solving of crimes. Sometimes the evidence seems to offer conflicting interpretations and outcomes. One of them involved a case where a woman was found dead of a shotgun wound in her living room. The action took place while her husband said he was asleep in the bedroom, from where, he said, he heard a sound like a branch cracking, waking him momentarily. The forensic investigator concluded she was shot from behind, and spun around from the impact, falling backwards on the floor. Other evidence supported this conclusion. The husband was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 25 to 35 years. But wait! This was only 12 minutes into a half-hour program. What appeared to be an open and shut case turned out to be more complex.

Different lawyers, working pro bono, decided to re-investigate the case. In their minds, some things didn’t add up to conclude murder; in fact, suicide could possibly be the answer. The body was dug up and autopsied by a "real" expert in forensic autopsies, using the latest sophisticated equipment. Another investigator showed that the blood splatter pattern on a wall indicated that the gunshot could only have come from in front of the victim, etc. Eventually there were enough evidential reasons to conclude the woman had actually killed herself. This came out when it was revealed that she had already made several attempts to commit suicide. The new evidence was presented at a new trial, and the jury acquitted on grounds of that new evidence and of reasonable doubt.

When a life is at stake, shouldn't the most thorough investigations be made to conclude, without a reasonable doubt, that the accused is innocent or guilty? Should hearsay or rumors be admitted as evidence? Should anyone's word be taken at face value, unquestioned and unchallenged? What about an eternal life?

People think that believing what they are told is true will save them from negative consequences awaiting them after they die. Should they care whether this belief is credible? After all, the stakes are high, and you'd need all the evidence that you can get to make sure you have made the right choice without a reasonable doubt. Is taking the words of others, "evidence?" Doesn't the jury member have a duty, a most serious obligation, to hear all the evidence for and against in order to make the most serious of decisions? Obviously, believers are neither interested nor invested in finding out whether what they claim as true actually is. They're day tripping, taking the easy way out, and aren't all that interested in knowing, but only in what they want to be true.

Should such believers who have the attitude that faith is sufficient, and is its own evidence, be allowed in juries? Aren't jury members selected with the criteria, "We don't care what you believe. Put that aside or you're not eligible?" How would juries be selected if the criteria for individual members required the following: "I know in my heart he's guilty," or "l don't need evidence to confuse me," or "Millions believe he's guilty; that's enough to convince me?" Would you want a jury composed of believers to decide your fate? (Oh wait. Isn't this a description of the Inquisition judges?)

What if such faith determines the way guilt, innocence, and the consequences are arrived at: by hearsay, taking the words of dubious "experts" who contradict one another on faith, a.k.a. prejudice, and to hell with reasonable doubt? Who needs evidence? (Faith is, after all, the rejection of reasonable doubts.)

There's a dilemma. If not believing condemns a person to eternal torture, it's important to investigate all sides, hear all the evidence pro and con, in order to find if that belief is true. But if it isn't important enough to do so, why insist that it be believed? And since a believer's claim to fame rests on insistent claiming to know what no one knows, what's the point? Why should anyone respect this? It's also a dilemma that the faith one is born into happens to be the one true faith which must be accepted to avoid eternal punishment, while those living outside it or without any faith don't have that need, do they?

Now, suppose some of those believing salespeople show up at your doorstep or somehow are in your living room, sick room in the hospital, or greeting you at the funeral home as you mourn for a loved one you’ve lost, and they try to sell you their beliefs on the grounds that an eternal after-death of eternal bliss or torture depends on buying them?

You might inform them that surely, after thousands of years of "testimonies" regarding the "veracity" of each and every faith and sect thereof, such "evidence" would be overwhelmingly compelling. Why isn’t it? You might ask them: 1. Does this eternal life actually exist? Where's the evidence?" 2. "Are your so-called "witnesses" credible, and how do you know this? Where's the evidence?" 3. "Does your ‘judge’ (who supposedly imposes the sentences he arrives at) even exist? Where's the evidence?"

Tell the religion salespeople: "I have an idea. Why don't all you guys get together and decide who's right based on "evidence" you come up with? Say! Obviously, two thousand and more years haven't been long enough to do it! I'll wait. Then get back to me. Meanwhile, I'm headed out for a hot fudge sundae. It's delicious. The evidence is in every spoonful."


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