There is No Proof!

As a fiction writer I’m familiar with legends and myths.  My occupation requires that I spend considerable time in the make-believe.  Fiction is a way to teach and learn truths without beating people over the head with them.  It softens the experience, and in spite of it not being real, it is incredibly relatable.  Sometimes the difference between fantasy and fiction become blurred.  There is something that’s been on my mind lately.  Sometimes there are difficult to explain or for some people downright unbelievable.

For the most cynical, nothing exists except for the stuff that can be proven repeatedly in a laboratory.  These folks then in turn may criticize anyone who has a more open-mind.  To be fair, I understand this point of view.  People are not known to be reliable witnesses and often misremember things.  Sometimes the truth is difficult to discern.  However, we have all seen people making angry, jeering comments on the internet who dare to believe or believe in something they do not.  These people justify their positions by saying “There is no proof!” Especially toward topics of religion, spirituality, the paranormal, or supernatural.

Anecdotal evidence may not be empirical, and is even unreliable to base entire beliefs off, but what if there are countless cases of anecdotes that have remarkable similarities?  Should those be dismissed as well?  A cynical person may say so, may point to the fact that coincidences don’t equate proof.  Perhaps, but what sort of proof would there be for let’s say the afterlife?  If someone is going to demand proof, he or she should know what sort of proof is required to be sufficient.  Sure, NDE’s are seen my skeptics as nothing more than a chemical reaction in a dying brain.  What about the cases where people saw the hospital room, described what the doctors said while unconscious?  If that doesn’t count as proof or even a strong suggestion, then what would?  How would an afterlife be proven?  Would anything suffice to those who are absolutely certain it doesn’t exist?

People tend to base their beliefs off their upbringing, worldview, and psychology, not necessarily evidence.  Certainly, there are exceptions though.  If someone has decided unequivocally that something does or does not exist, it is rather difficult to convince that person otherwise.  Ultimately, evidence may not be enough.  Also, what is convincing to one person may not be to another.

Demanding proof for something, especially God or the afterlife is a bit ironic to me, since technically you cannot prove that anyone outside of yourself exists.  Yes, that sounds like hokey mumbo jumbo, but we cannot know for absolute certainty that the people we know or the world around us as we perceive it is reality.  No, this isn’t delving into the Matrix theory.  The point is rather, there are things we take for grated every day, that cannot be proven.  Do you love your spouse?  Can that be proven?  Yes, endorphins can be measured, and some would say that is proof of love.  What if you have those endorphins but act like a jerk or are abusive to your spouse?  Do you really love that person then?  Love is more than chemicals, it is action.

Proof may not be subjective but how it is received definitely is.  This isn’t about convincing the reader what is and isn’t real, but to hopefully shed light on the fact that it may not be the proof but the person’s worldview that keeps him or her from seeing things from a different perspective.  It is simple to either believe everything or nothing at all, neither require thought and are realms of comfort.  Just something for us all to think about.

I Believe in Science!

I just started writing a science fiction novel.  With writing in a new genre comes research and new things begin to stand out more than normal. Many times, I come across either memes on social media or blog posts declaring that a person or group “believes in science.” I find this to be rather odd.

I’ve never read about, met, or otherwise known of anyone who doesn’t believe in the process of coming up with a hypothesis and testing it to see if the results are not only possible but repeatable.  Despite what some may think, I am not sure there are many worldviews that are actively against believing in such processes.  Of course, I’m not an idiot and know that this declaration is meant to counter what the scientific community’s stances are on evolution and climate change.  More accurately, “I believe in science!” is a statement that has baggage which indirectly is sometimes used to discredit “religious” beliefs.  Not always, but it is true rather often.

As a Christian who accepts the scientific findings, I am all too aware that the culture that surrounds my faith is known for rejecting things that appear painfully obvious to those who do not adhere to Christianity.  I would argue that such an instance isn’t about rejecting science, but instead scientists’ findings and claims.  Those who announce their love for science claim those who do not fully accept climate change and evolution to be real fail to understand or believe science at all.  Those on the receiving side of those arguments say that there are things science cannot answer and can and has been wrong before.  “Religious” folks do not see it as rejecting science as a process.  Many of them believe science supports other ideas than what are mainstream.  Instead they reject common belief due to worldviews and that history has shown that scientists have been wrong before.  Do I as a Christian agree with this position?  Not entirely.  Yes, scientific consensus has been wrong in the past and until more information comes to light we might find out that is the case now as well.  That is the nature and beauty of science.  However, where I disagree is to use that as a catch all to simply justify preconceptions and therefore reject an idea even when heaps upon heaps of evidence, peer reviews, and testable evidence support a theory.

This topic ties into my previous blog post about truth.  People believe what they want to believe no matter what evidence is given.  One must not only be open-minded but have a worldview that doesn’t crumble simply because something is uncomfortable.  This is true on all matters, not just heavy topics like climate change.  Another thing that would help would be for both believers and non-believers to acknowledge that science and faith are not incompatible.  Certainly, they are if either are layered with presuppositions, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  Ultimately, believing in science does not equate believing in scientific claims.  The process and the results are different.  Political and religious worldviews shape how we interpret these claims.  I would argue both political sides ignore important scientific truths.  The reality is we must do our best to curb our natural human bias with discernment.  This is possible, but a difficult endeavor.

Truth

It is said that truth is something that cannot stay hidden.  Many believe that no matter how long it takes, truth eventually comes to light and reveals itself.  I may write fiction, but good fiction is driven by truths.  Truths mostly about the human spirit and condition.  This may sound cynical, but I wonder if indeed truth cannot stay hidden, or if our bias and private perspectives blind us.

In our postmodern era, perhaps not everyone would agree that truth is truth regardless of culture or perspective, but I’m certain most would.  After all, we know there is only one star that our solar system revolves around.  Someone may believe the moon is a star too, but that wouldn’t be correct, no matter what worldview that person would use to justify his belief.  There are other things that get trickier, and truth begins to blur so much with worldview that they become almost indistinguishable.

If a person believes that evil spirits and not microbes are the cause of illness, even if he is shown the bacteria under a microscope, that is when a worldview interferes with truth.  We know intellectually that just because an idea is widely believed, that doesn’t make it true, but we are social beings who want to be accepted.  The more an idea is floated around and made prominent, the more readily accepted it becomes.  Sometimes this happens for good, sometimes for bad.  History is replete with examples of both.  Slavery is an example of an evil in humanity, while civil rights and freedoms are examples of good.

There are things that I feel are true and have been tested and proven as such, yet in some instances certain people are unwilling to mold their worldviews to the truth.  In other cases, what was once accepted as truth even “common sense” appears to be becoming lost in western culture.  The inability for people to see through their worldviews is largely what is at the heart of the political strife in America.  Anymore either side cannot agree on what is right even at a fundamental level.

This situation is nothing new.  For the entirety of human culture, people have refused to acknowledge truth based on presuppositions. If that is the case, then how can truth always come to light? Having beliefs is normal and essential to being human, so do not misunderstand me.  Nor do I feel that beliefs should always be compromised by what someone else says is truth.  Merely, I find it fascinating that truth while apparent to some may not be as apparent to others.  Truth in some matters might be understood by a person, but the same man or woman may be blinded by untruth in other matters. Something to think on.

Faith and Fantasy Pt. 2

In my last post I touched on my journey reconciling writing and reading fantasy while being a Christian.  There is so much more that could be said on this topic.  It is true that many Christians do not have a problem with Fantasy as a genre, and many enjoy it just as much as I do.  Yet, there is a culture and expectation amongst certain circles that one should not engage in it.  Certainly, this isn’t a topic worth being a martyr over, but it is worth exploring deeper.

The first thing we should get out of the way is that the Bible has been used to justify or condemn every sort of behavior imaginable.  This leads to anything from judgmental Pharisee-like attitudes to downright destructive behaviors.  The condemnation of Fantasy comes from the Bible speaking out against magic users and sorcerers, and the call for us believers to use good judgement and discernment when it comes to our entertainment.  Not a bad intention.  On top of that there are those who have more sensitive consciences, which makes it difficult for them to comprehend why someone would enjoy something that appears so “evil” to them.

Putting blanket rules around entertainment is difficult for these reasons.  Often times people read into Scripture their presuppositions and try to impose them on others.  I understand that, especially since believers are called to rebuke fellow Christians if they are not following God’s commands.  However, it is easy to take it too far and become judgmental over things that ultimately do not matter such as enjoying a specific genre of books.

There is something important to note.  Most of the time magic and sorcery in fantasy does not even closely resemble occult/pagan magic condemned in Scripture.  Magic in ancient times often took the form of astrology and divination or summoning spirits.  Fantasy magic such as in Harry Potter is invented as a plot device and for fun.  Fiction authors don’t pretend their works are real either which is something that distinguishes itself from true occultism.  We are told right away these stories are fake and meant to teach lessons of friendship, love, and what it means to be human among other things.

As believers it is our job to discern what entertainment we consume.  Instead of cherry-picking Scripture to back up our biases, we need to look at the Bible in its entirety.  Yes, sorcery is condemned in Scripture, but Paul also makes it clear that different people are sensitive to different things.  Our only job as believers is to not create a stumbling block, not reign judgment upon other people.

Faith and Fantasy

When Harry Potter became popular, there was debate amongst Christian circles whether it was healthy for children to be exposed to or not.  After all, Scripture condemns sorcery, and that in Harry Potter, children go to school to learn magic.  As a Christian who enjoys fantasy of all kinds, this was a struggle for me growing up.

As a young man who attended an extremely conservative Christian college, my hobby of writing and reading fantasy became a point of contention in some conversations.  Later, in my college career, something happened to me which caused an existential crisis of faith.  For a few years I questioned everything, researched everything, learned varying perspectives on all matters in order to find out what I believe and why.  Ultimately, I learned that obsessively researching online only leads to confusion and depression, but I digress.

In the end my faith remained intact, and I came to a few conclusions on important matters, one of which is that being a Christian doesn’t mean I have to be against it, but the opposite.  Deciding to condemn fantasy and avoid it is a personal conviction, not a Biblical truth.  For me, the genre is not mere fun, but a part of me, it reflects important timeless truths.  If you are one who believes reading or watching fantasy is wrong, that is your choice and conviction.  However, it is far from Scriptural to condemn stories simply because they have magic.  The words of Jesus seem aptly appropriate for this, “Beware the yolk of the Pharisees.”  I know, that doesn’t give us a pass to do whatever we want, but Paul makes it clear that some people have more sensitive consciences than other.  That is okay, however do you like Football?  The argument could be made that its evil if Scripture is twisted to say that due to scantily clad cheerleaders that football is evil.  I know that sounds silly.  So are most arguments against enjoying fantasy.

In the end a walk with Christ is more important than fiction choices, and those who enjoy stories different than what you like do not deserve condemnation.  So much more could be said on this topic, which is why I will continue this in my next post.