Saturday, June 4, 2011

The crazy stuff I believe.

One of the best books I've read in the last few years is The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. Put most simply, it's a book about the history of humans use it, how we've changed it and it's changed us. It's won a lot of awards and attracted a lot of criticism, but one passage in it really got me thinking about faith. is a matter of belief, even faith: belief in the person paying us; belief in the person issuing the money he uses or the institution that honours his cheques or transfers. Money is not metal. It is trust inscribed. 

One of the biggest turning points in my life as a Christian was accepting that logic isn't the end all and be all of human existence. A long time ago, a former pastor used to say something that confused me deeply. Quite frequently he would call from the pulpit "You have to know that you know that you KNOW that you know." I never understood how the concept of knowledge could be applied to something none of us had ever seen and could not possibly, logically "know". Sure, there are elements of logic in Christianity and you can use it to decipher issues in life and Biblical study, but at the end of the day, it really doesn't make logical "sense".

Mr. Ferguson got me thinking of other things in life I simply "believe" with little physical or experiential evidence.

  • The theory of relativity: Sure, I understand it from a very basic, scientific level, but I've never personally conducted any experiments and really have no experience with its applicability across the universe. 
  • Man landing on the moon: Yes. I believe we did it. I've seen shuttle launches and pieces of moon rock. Still though, I've never been to the moon myself, couldn't build a shuttle or complete the calculations needed to get a craft to the pretty round ball I see at night. 
  • The existence of...anything in space. I just saw the movie Thor (which I LOVED conceptually and visually) and the most amazing part for me, were the scenes flying past nebula, planets and stars (...ok...the Ice Giants were cool too). But still, as much as I do believe they do exist, I have as much proof that they exist as I do Bigfoot or Nessy or the Chupacabra.
  • Almost...all of history: I've seen quite a few historical artifacts, Dowager Empress Xi Ci's palace, Akhenaten's death mask, Ancient engravings at the ruins of Tulum...all of them amazing. The stories behind them? I'm taking people 100% at their word. I saw none of them created and have never spoken with any one who has. Considering that "history is written by the victors", and I've done absolutely no work in archaeology, that's pretty much the definition of blind belief. 

Why believe things like this? Is it because they're convenient and fit neatly into the way I see the world? Is it because belief to the contrary would label me an outsider? I'm really not sure. What I do know though, is that believe and faith, in the secular and the spiritual, require suspension of reliance on the absolute reach of your individual understanding and experiences. 

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