Thursday, September 16, 2004

Throwing the last stone

From this page.

In his essay "The Will to Believe" James speaks of religion as presenting a "momentous option." One must choose either to believe or not to believe. In James' view, given the nature of religion, remaining indifferent is, in effect, to choose not to believe. He goes on to say the following:

...Science says things are; morality says some things are better than other things; and religion says essentially two things.

First, she says that the best things are more eternal things, the overlapping things, the things in the universe that throw the last stone, so to speak, and say the final word. "Perfection is eternal" - this phrase of Charles Secrétan seems a good way of putting this first affirmation of religion, an affirmation which obviously cannot be verified scientifically at all.

The second affirmation of religion is that we are better off even now if we believe her first affirmation to be true.

...To preach skepticism to us as a duty until "sufficient evidence" for religion be found, is tantamount therefore to telling us, when in the presence of the religious hypothesis, that to yield to our fear of its being error is wiser than and better than to yield to our hope that it may be true. It is not intellect against all passions, then, it is only intellect with one passion laying down its law.

I can't remember, anymore, what it was like to doubt. "Faith," according to Webster's 1913, is this:

\Faith\, n. [OE. feith, fayth, fay, OF. feid, feit, fei,
F. foi, fr. L. fides; akin to fidere to trust, Gr. ??????? to
persuade. The ending th is perhaps due to the influence of
such words as truth, health, wealth. See {Bid}, {Bide}, and
cf. {Confide}, {Defy}, {Fealty}.]
1. Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is
declared by another, resting solely and implicitly on his
authority and veracity; reliance on testimony.

2. The assent of the mind to the statement or proposition of
another, on the ground of the manifest truth of what he
utters; firm and earnest belief, on probable evidence of
any kind, especially in regard to important moral truth.

Faith, that is, fidelity, -- the fealty of the
finite will and understanding to the reason.

3. (Theol.)
(a) The belief in the historic truthfulness of the
Scripture narrative, and the supernatural origin of
its teachings, sometimes called historical and
speculative faith.
(b) The belief in the facts and truth of the Scriptures,
with a practical love of them; especially, that
confiding and affectionate belief in the person and
work of Christ, which affects the character and life,
and makes a man a true Christian, -- called a
practical, evangelical, or saving faith.

Without faith it is impossible to please him
[God]. --Heb. xi. 6.

The faith of the gospel is that emotion of the
mind which is called ``trust'' or ``confidence''
exercised toward the moral character of God, and
particularly of the Savior. --Dr. T.

Faith is an affectionate, practical confidence
in the testimony of God. --J. Hawes.

4. That which is believed on any subject, whether in science,
politics, or religion; especially (Theol.), a system of
religious belief of any kind; as, the Jewish or Mohammedan
faith; and especially, the system of truth taught by
Christ; as, the Christian faith; also, the creed or belief
of a Christian society or church.

Which to believe of her, Must be a faith that reason
without miracle Could never plant in me. --Shak.

Now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
--Gal. i. 23.

5. Fidelity to one's promises, or allegiance to duty, or to a
person honored and beloved; loyalty.

Children in whom is no faith. --Deut. xxvii.

Whose failing, while her faith to me remains, I
should conceal. --Milton.

6. Word or honor pledged; promise given; fidelity; as, he
violated his faith.

For you alone I broke me faith with injured Palamon.


Assent. Confidence. Fidelity. Fealty. See?

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