Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sunday Sermon: To Have Faith!

Everything, good morning.
Thank you for another week of life, love and work.
Thank you for all of us.
Thank you for our life on this glorious earth.
Help us help you make it better for our descendants.


We are not here to insult God. We are not here to be idiots and make mockery of God. Everything has given us mind and an extraordinary and ever-accumulating legacy of thought and understanding. If there is a narrow, holy path of truth, it is using all of the faculties God gave us humbly and honestly.

"Proclaiming themselves wise they become fools" is a bit of biblicism that is often heard against science and reason by closed-minded religious bigots, but it is a sentiment that is deserved in the other direction, against those who think they're wise because... well, just because. Generally, in practice, it's because some teacher said so. Reason and evidence do not proclaim wisdom. They proclaim evidence which can be challenged, contingent upon further evidence. They properly begin with Socrates' insight that we know nothing at all.

So to be clear, to the extent that 'faith' means 'believing stuff that ain't true', we should reject it out of hand. This is most certainly the meaning for many modern religionists but, to be clear, the Bible's definition of faith ("The evidence of things not seen" - Hebrews 11:1) is not this idiotic. To be sure the context of the definition was the belief that the Christian founder Jesus was going to be resurrected from the dead, but this didn't actually contradict what they knew. Resurrection stories were fairly common in the first century, and early Christians honestly thought it could and would occur. We do know better now.

But today a fairly reasonable use of the term faith ('evidence for that which we can't see') might be the faith we have when we flick a light switch. Most of us don't really understand electricity and certainly can't see it, but we flick the switch in full knowledge that the light will go on. Hume was kind enough to point out to us that we have no reason to believe anything at all, including, say, that a ball released will fall to the ground, except that it has happened every other time we've done it. It's faith, if you like, 'evidence for that which we can't see'.

But that is all meant to clarify what I am not meaning by faith, so that I can get to the point. The House of Every is to be a congregation of those of a like mind about certain things, and there is most certainly a faith - a belief in some things that we can not immediately see - that I hope we can share in, and I am not merely speaking of the everyday.

We believe that the world can be a better place for those who will come after us.
We believe that war can come to an end.
We believe that poverty, malnutrition and an enormous amount of disease can be abolished.
We believe that the world economy can be rendered sustainable, that biodiversity can be preserved, forests and reefs protected and expanded and that world civilisation can move toward renewable energy.
We believe that governance can be democratic and transparent, without corruption, and that education can become universal and good enough that such democracy may respond to a well-informed and critically thinking constituency world wide.
We believe that the problems facing humanity have solutions that may be found if we are conscious, courageous and confident in humanity, the universe and existence itself.

This is faith. This is hope. In a way, this is also love, and it is certainly collective self-love. Similarly as with our individual paths - our attitude to our individual biographical pathways - humanity must have a bit of nerve, a bit of confidence, a bit of self-belief. Humanity must have self-love. This is faith.

And without faith we are lost.

Most importantly of all, please, please never tell your children that there is no hope, even if you think that it appears that there is not. Faith is essential to mental health, to social health and to getting on with history in a positive way.

If you want to have a good week, have a bit of faith in yourself and your immediate environment. If you want the world to have a good millennia, have a bit of faith in biology, humanity and consciousness.

Rather than choosing a song about faith, I have chosen a song and video of joy, as in my view joy feeds faith. I hope it is as uplifting to readers as it is to me.

Everything, bless the readers of this sermon. Bless us all. Help us discriminate between what is true and helpful to us and yourself, and that which is of no use. Most of all, help give us that bit of nerve as we face the future, that we may participate, that we may be agents and not passive spectators. So be it.

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