Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Knights of Dei- Haldeman

Haldeman had a very interesting piece I thought. I was surprised to find out that Atheism was the default position for people in math and science when he was pursuing his degree, in the 60's or 70's. I know today that a majority, or at least a hefty minority, of scientist are atheist, but as Haldeman points out there are a growing number that use science to justify belief in the divine with scientific rationalism. I was also surprised, and now kind of worried, to find out one cannot get conscientious objector status in the military without having a letter from a priest or other religious figure. Does anyone know if this is still the case?

At any rate, Haldeman's thoughts on religion and science were enjoyable to read. He notes that there is a plethora of beauty and wonder to be observed in the universe in both the astronomical and terrestrial worlds. He says he can understand how people might connect such wonders with a god, as they cause one to have an emotionally reaction. However, he makes the distinction "A belief in God might be a convenient avenue for expressing feelings this strong, but no belief is actually necessary. Just witness." He then goes on to distinguish between faith and belief. Faith, he claims, is simply there and no amount of persuasion will dislodge it. Thus, he has no problem with faith in god just as he has no problem with faith in the Red Sox or faith in a political party. Belief, however, requires a belief system. It is a list of statements and operators that describe how things work, or that we can never understand how something works. Thinking in this way, then an Atheist is a person without a belief system. One who has no stereotypes as to how things have to be, which allows for a broader universe of discourse.
Exam question: According to Haldeman, what is the difference between faith and belief?
Answer: Faith is simply there, while belief requires a belief system to explain how things work.

1 comment:

  1. I do find it interesting that in the Qu'ran, and to a lesser extent the Bible, the natural world is taken to be the ultimate evidence of God's existence. Fine-tuning/teleological argument maybe, but the scriptures contain a huge number of references which suggest that if someone really sits down and looks at the universe and tries to absorb it all in in it's wonder, they will see God there. Whatever 'transcendence' there is, I think Carl Sagan types are right that observing nature is a huge part of it.

    As far as Conscientious objection in the military, the review process can take multiple months, even up to a year. One of the problems, frankly, is that conscientious objection applications skyrocket during times of war. A lot of people who join the military suddenly start having conscientious objections just before they're about to have to deploy to combat. Call me cynical, but... I doubt that most of them really have well-developed positions of objection.

    A second issue is that we no longer have the draft. Military service is not compulsory, it is voluntary. So the attitude is that you know what you're getting into and what you'll be asked to do, if you really object to it, don't sign the contract in the first place.

    That being said, it is true that you have to speak with and get written support from the Chaplain, whether you are religious or not. You also have to have a psychiatry review board, and you do not have to provide religious reasoning to be a CO, though I guess most people do. But the Chaplain is considered a sort of all-purpose counselor for the spiritual and emotional well-being of the troops. A chaplain is expected to provide for the needs of everyone from Catholics/Protestants, to Muslims, Mormons, Santeria practitioners, you name it. At least in my experience with Chaplains, I wouldn't have a problem going to one as an atheist.