Simon Nightingale on faith

s_nightingaleSimon Nightingale recently gave this talk on Radio Shropshire on the Sunday morning ‘Pause for Thought’ slot. The podcast link has now expired.

I had some difficult drafting this talk about belief, because the ethos of Shropshire Radio’s Pause for Thought is that one should provide some insight from ones own religion (or world stance/philosophy in the case of humanism and maybe Buddhists) and that this should be for all listeners. We are specifically forbidden to preach or to criticise other religions.

Humanism is almost alone in rejecting “faith” (belief with very little evidence) and especially “blind faith” (belief with no evidence or even evidence to the contrary). However faith is rather precious to those that have it and they don’t like it criticised. So I talk about belief in a flat world rather than faith in the truth of Genesis, parting of the Red Sea, virgin birth , miracles, resurrection, Mohamed’s miraculous flight from Mecca to Jerusalem, gods with the head of an elephant, alien invasion by Thetans, Jesus’ visit to North America, and … the list seems endless. All are examples of faith, if not blind faith.

I also wanted to say that just because an idea seems incredible, evidence may show it to be true, for example, relativity and quantum mechanics. Occasionally science has had to make a fundamental paradigm shift and accept what previously it rejected – in fact this is really very rare.

When I say that Derren Brown admits it’s all a trick, I imply that, if instead he’d claimed to be a prophet, he might con an awful lot of people. That’s why claims that seem magical need the most careful scientific scrutiny to check we’re not being hoodwinked. James Randi, the famous magician, has offered one million dollars for anyone who can prove under proper experimental conditions, such supernatural phenomena as dowsing, homeopathy, mind reading, prayer or spiritualism. As a humanist and a scientist, I (sort of) keep an open mind on these as I know of no convincing evidence either way. Their fantastic claims would be easy enough to prove with properly conducted research – but most believers don’t seem interested in scientific proof (or in James Randi’s million dollars!), because they have a faith that does not require evidence.

I end by suggesting that we should not reject the incredible, but that we look at the evidence – of course most religions are not interested in providing evidence; they just ask you to have faith too.

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