“The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.” ~ Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Sometimes, I wonder at the ways in which the words “faith” and “reason” are thrown around. We all have faith in something. We all have ideas. We all have beliefs. We all have our reasons for believing what we do.
And yet, there is this lingering assumption that “rational inquiry” does not require faith. This seems strange to me, as the very use of the term “rational inquiry” inspires a sense of confidence–of trust in a certain way of thinking. To believe in the power of “rational inquiry” one has to have faith in it.
What does it mean, then, to have blind faith?
To answer this question, we first have to uncover the meaning of blindness. The dictionary suggests that to be blind is to have a lack of sight–a lack of perception, awareness, or discernment.
I don’t know about you, but the privileging of a singular “rational inquiry” suggests a lack of perception and awareness to me of other forms of reason. Too often, anything outside of this form of thinking is automatically labeled “irrational,” tossed into the rubbish heap of nonsense. So much human reason is kicked to the curb, because it doesn’t fit the boundaries of a narrowly developed, “rational” logic.
Under the governance of this “rational inquiry,” humanity becomes a landfill of nonsensical beliefs. To the “rational” people, this illogical thinking is an eyesore. It stinks. And the problem just keeps getting bigger and bigger, which makes it harder for people to pretend it’s not there.
There are, however, other interpretations of blindness. Like Tiresias in the Oedipus myth, there is the notion of the blind prophet–the seer. He sees more clearly than anyone else.
Why does he see more clearly than everyone else?
Because he is not blinded by sight–he is not blinded by one form of reason.
On the contrary, true blindness leads to the enhancement of other senses. Perception increases in different ways when we are forced to rely on sound, smell, touch, and taste.
You engage with the world differently. You see it differently. You know it differently.
Unlike the first definition, this kind of blindness does not represent a lack of perception, but rather, an abundance of it.
In other words, an appreciation of different forms of thinking does not represent blindness, as much as it does an awareness of the nature of human subjectivity. Once we start to degrade alternative forms of thinking we run the risk of blinding ourselves to the weaknesses of our own thoughts. We question the foundation of our shared humanity: free will.
When we start to trash the choices of others, we unconsciously belittle our own choice. That goes for any system of reasoning. If it isn’t strong enough to stand competition, it ultimately is not as sovereign as it claims to be.
Those with the greatest confidence in their beliefs will trust them to demonstrate the value of their own logic without disparaging others. They will respect people’s choices, because they respect their own right to choose.
After all, faith in any system of reason requires faith in humanity.
Once any form of “rational inquiry” starts to belittle humanity, then we are in danger of losing our own.
I encourage you to see through many senses today. Instead of judging people, inquire about them. Ask. Learn. Understand. Even if you disagree, you will experience the satisfaction of seeing the world through another pair of eyes. Exercise a little faith in humanity, and you might be surprised at what you discover.