and moving away from alcohol...

all you philosophy lovers. it's 4am, and someone has just switched me on to wittgenstein and his faith. i remember reading his remarks on frazer's golden bough, so let's try to put down some of his thoughts on faith. they are quite intuitive. i have had help from the lse introductory lectures on philosophy:

i preface these remarks with a caveat: whatever is said in these paragraphs, go out, and live a little bit. one reflects on philosophy only because it is 4am and everything is closed=).

‘Burning an effigy. Kissing the picture of one’s beloved. That is obviously not based on the belief that it will have some specific effect on the object which the picture represents. It aims at satisfaction and achieves it. Or rather: it aims at nothing at all; we just behave that way and feel satisfied’

so, an interpretation that faith or ritualistic behaviour only has internal effects, they serve to orient a person within the world, or an adherence to values. so being "moral" in some strict religious sense serves to contribute to a person's well-being, or sense of the world. he can expect little other reward. they are simply "expressive" of an inner state.

counterclaim: why does religious "good" then conflict then with so many aspects of empirical reality. for example, let's consider the belief that it is wrong to have premarital sex. atheists argue: what is the point of having peace of mind with these beliefs, if the beliefs are "wrong"? religious people might simply

- have failed to think things through adequately
- simply be possessed with a fervent wish to belief
- possess a fear of being disoriented without the values that they have grown up with
- face scarce evidence, and thus claim can be neither proved or disproved
- have blind trust in authority


one might also be tempted to evaluate both beliefs along the same scale: i.e. the religious view on premarital sex is simply a distillation of the conventional wisdom which has proved to be right in the past, and is therefore a statistical summary of all beliefs. beliefs might also be changing due to changing empirical realities. it can therefore be evaluated as "good" on the same scale as say, it is good not to wear your underwear for many days in a row, in general, because it gets itchy after a while.

counterclaim 2:

if you believe that these rituals or statements : e.g. "god exists, and there is a heaven", "if we do not obey this or that moral injunction, there will be bad karma or hell" are merely expressive, does that not leave your faith without foundation? the simple fact is, most religious people DO believe these things as something that will happen with some certainty (although we must be careful, we cannot look into their mental states. we only observe their expressions, but they might have the same doubts although what comes out is expressed in the language of certitude).

so, is wittgenstein's view that religious belief is a metaphorical way of expressing something else in our inner states right? we know that words convey feelings different from their literal intentions. another example given:

‘Aren’t the odds that we met each other extraordinary?’

‘Actually, I don’t think you’ve got good evidence for that claim. For if you think about it, it’s not that improbable. We have a lot of friends in common, and we both go to the same university....

wittgenstein views the latter response as a typical one of the atheists, that try to deconstruct or put their scientific frame of belief on certain expressions or utterances that we have. he also cites the fact that someone might believe in judgement day on some dream or intense felt experience. while i share wittgenstein's opinions on religion (e.g. i have an understanding, even if intellectual, but actually also felt, of what faith must feel like, in terms of believing that something will happen even if the current facts don't point to it). is this a core human feeling/belief? and the problem with this kind of interpretation of faith is that it is true that it is an easy choice: i am spared many of the moral injunctions that would have struck me at the core: e.g. fast for xx amount of days, no sex, simply because my faith isn't rooted in a lived, terrified believed reality that there is a god. i suppose even a humanistic version of faith/love is based on some form of sacrifice/love, so is what is all there in religion simply a metaphor? i did have a fear of not praying, but this has faded over the times. perhaps this is what is needed, and the basis on which one would prefer to be an atheist than an agnostic. (and of course, yann martel argues that at least being an atheist requires a leap of the imagination, a removal of the crutch).

so, would it be better for me to not believe at all, or for me to accept this limited view of religion, one that tries to understand the spirit behind faith, hope and love, while giving up on it being any sort of explanation for reality? as of now, i find it better than consigning the entire thing to the wastebasket. maybe as they say, one day the terrifying experience might come. but today i live in hope that humanity is still enough.

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