Objective vs. subjective

Image

I have honestly lost count of how many times I have exclaimed that a huge problem with religious belief is that it is not based on any reason and evidence, and that it should therefore be dismissed. A very common reply I get from my religious counterparts is that not all beliefs can, or even should, be based only on reason and evidence; that there are certain things a person simply HAS to take on faith. This will oftentimes be followed with some examples like: Who should one marry? Why get out of bed in the morning? How can you be so sure your spouse isn’t cheating on you? And so on. The point to each of these questions is that one cannot answer any of them through reason and evidence, but simply must have faith. Having watched every one of Christopher Hitchens’ debates with Dinesh D’Souza, I have noticed that this is one of D’Souza’s favorite arguments. 
Looking back at the first time I heard this type of reasoning, I can only just remember how it left me a little speechless. My intuition was telling me that there was something deeply flawed with it, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
At least not for a full three minutes till I figured it out (which is, I admit, exactly two minutes and fifty nine seconds longer that it should have taken).
The biggest difference between faith based beliefs and beliefs based on reason and evidence is the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. What I mean to say by this is that my belief that my spouse loves me, or that it is indeed worthwhile to get out of bed this morning is a completely subjective and personal belief; leading to subjective and personal decisions. There is an ocean of difference between this type of subjectivity and objective truth claims, let alone huge sweeping objective truth claims regarding the origin, nature, and purpose of the entire universe.
One simply must be able to tell the difference between subjective and objective claims. If the claim is subjective then it might be possible to get away with basing it on faith. However, if the claim is about an objective fact then it simply must be based on reason and evidence, otherwise it must be dismissed.
You can try this in real life and see how it works:
1. I believe that if I marry my girlfriend and live the rest of my life with her, we will be happy. Do I have any evidence to base this on, or do I know what the future will bring? No, but I just have to have faith because there really isn’t any way of knowing these things for sure.
2. I believe in the existence of microorganisms called bacteria and viruses, and believe that these microorganisms are the cause of many diseases and infections. Even though I can’t see these organisms, I believe this because it has been conclusively proven through many experiments and observations, and because it is backed by an enormous amount of reason and evidence.
The key here is to not confuse subjective faith based beliefs like the one in example -1 for objective claims like the one in example -2. It is important to notice this difference because this is the trap that theists keep trying to set. The next time you encounter someone trying to back up an objective truth claim with a subjective faith based belief, kindly point out that this is a fallacy, and explain that objective claims deserve objective evidence.
You might also want to point out that if their own subjective faith based belief could back up an objective truth claim, then your subjective faith based belief could just as easily dismiss it.
I often like closing arguments with a one-two punch of a quote – a combination of Carl Sagan and Christopher Hitchens (which is usually a debate stopper)
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s