Each religion makes scores of purportedly factual assertions about everything from the creation of the universe to the afterlife. But on what grounds can believers presume to know that these assertions are true? The reasons they give are various, but the ultimate justification for most religious people’s beliefs is a simple one: we believe what we believe because our holy scriptures say so. But how, then, do we know that our holy scriptures are factually accurate? Because the scriptures themselves say so. Theologians specialize in weaving elaborate webs of verbiage to avoid saying anything quite so bluntly, but this gem of circular reasoning really is the epistemological bottom line on which all 'faith' is grounded. In the words of Pope John Paul II: 'By the authority of his absolute transcendence, God who makes himself known is also the source of the credibility of what he reveals.' It goes without saying that this begs the question of whether the texts at issue really were authored or inspired by God and on what grounds one knows this. 'Faith' is not in fact a rejection of reason, but simply a lazy acceptance of bad reasons. 'Faith' is the pseudo-justification that some people trot out when they want to make claims without the necessary evidence.But of course we never apply these lax standards of evidence to the claims made in the other fellow’s holy scriptures: when it comes to religions other than one’s own, religious people are as rational as everyone else. Only our own religion, whatever it may be, seems to merit some special dispensation from the general standards of evidence.And here, it seems to me, is the crux of the conflict between religion and science. Not the religious rejection of specific scientific theories (be it heliocentrism in the 17th century or evolutionary biology today); over time most religions do find some way to make peace with well-established science. Rather, the scientific worldview and the religious worldview come into conflict over a far more fundamental question: namely, what constitutes evidence.Science relies on publicly reproducible sense experience (that is, experiments and observations) combined with rational reflection on those empirical observations. Religious people acknowledge the validity of that method, but then claim to be in the possession of additional methods for obtaining reliable knowledge of factual matters — methods that go beyond the mere assessment of empirical evidence — such as intuition, revelation, or the reliance on sacred texts. But the trouble is this: What good reason do we have to believe that such methods work, in the sense of steering us systematically (even if not invariably) towards true beliefs rather than towards false ones? At least in the domains where we have been able to test these methods — astronomy, geology and history, for instance — they have not proven terribly reliable. Why should we expect them to work any better when we apply them to problems that are even more difficult, such as the fundamental nature of the universe?Last but not least, these non-empirical methods suffer from an insuperable logical problem: What should we do when different people’s intuitions or revelations conflict? How can we know which of the many purportedly sacred texts — whose assertions frequently contradict one another — are in fact sacred?
Alan Sokal
Life is like a train ride. The passengers on the train are seemingly going to the same destination as you, but based on their belief in you or their belief that the train will get them to their desired destination they will stay on the ride or they will get off somewhere during the trip. People can and will get off at any stop. Just know that where people get off is more of an reflection on them, than it is on you. There will be a few people in your life that will make the whole trip with you, who believe in you, accept that you are human and that mistakes will be made along the way and that you will get to your desired destination - together, no matter what. Be very grateful of these people.They are rare and when you find one, don't let go of them - ever. Be blessed for the ones who get on at the worst stops when no one is there. Remember those people, they are special. Always hold them dear to your heart. Be very wary of people sneaking on at certain stops when things are going good and acting like they have been there for the whole ride. For they will be the first to depart. There will be ones who secretly try to get off the ride and there will be those that very publicly will jump off. Don't pay any heed to the defectors. Pay heed to the passengers that are still on the trip. They are the important ones. If someone tries to get back on the train - don't be angry or hold a grudge, let them. Just see where they are around the next hard turn. If they are buckled in - accept them. If they are pulling the hand rail alarm again - then let them off the train freely and waste no space in your head for them again, ever. There will be times that the train will be moving slow, at almost a crawls pace. Appreciate that you can take in the view. There will be times where the train is going so fast that everything is a blur. Enjoy the sense of speed in your life, as it is exhilarating but unsustainable. There will also be the chance that the train derails. If that does happen, it will hurt, a lot, for a long time. But there will be people who will appear out of no where who will get you back on track. Those will be the people that will matter most in your life. Love them forever. For you can never repay these people. The thing is, that even if you could repay them, they wouldn't accept it anyway. Just pay it forward. Eventually your train will get to its final stop and you will need to deboard.At that time you will realize that life is about the journey AND the destination. Know and have faith that at the end of your ride your train will have the right passengers on board and all the passengers that were on board at one time or another were there for a distinct purpose. Enjoy the ride.
JohnA Passaro