Surprisingly, the pattern that fits best with the historical evidence locates the origins of faith in the rise of reason itself, and despite its novelty it does so in a way that I suspect will strike many readers as sensible and intuitive. This new synthesis in turn yields psychological insights into the issues of faith and reason that continue to bedevil us today—from public confrontations over evolution, abortion, and gay rights, to suicide bombings, West Bank settlements, and flying lessons in which students ominously disdain instruction in landing.
That sort of belief, common to all humanity, is the part of our larger religious instinct that we might call the mental faculty of faith. It permits worshippers to accept the existence and divinity of gods whom they themselves do not worship, as people did, for example, in ancient Greece and Rome. Faith, in this sense, encompasses more than mere religious belief. It also entails a negative belief about other kinds of belief, a peculiar kind of exclusivity found only in true monotheism. We might call that exclusive sort of belief the tradition of faith. Admittedly, all kinds of religion rely on tradition.
Imagine for a moment that we could wave a magic wand and make everyone on the planet forget everything they know about religion. At the same time, we can erase every word of religious scripture, along with all religious representations in art and literature. If we wiped all religion away, anthropology suggests, it would rapidly reappear in new yet familiar forms—but probably without monotheism, assuming that history is any guide.
Religion in the broad sense clearly represents a human instinct, since we find it in all human societies. If you worship that sort of God, you share in that single, though by now hardly unitary, tradition.
The monotheistic tradition of faith seems to focus and amplify the mental faculty of faith, concentrating the idea of the divine into a single, exclusive deity. Who else but the Jews, those famous monotheists from way back? This essentially polytheistic outlook accords with the frequent mention of other gods in the Hebrew Bible Old Testament , for example. El was the Canaanite high god, but under him served other gods such as the fertility god Baal and the water god Yam.
Perhaps Abraham and his kin adopted El as their own, accepting him as the same god who had urged Abraham to leave Ur and seek out the land of milk and honey in the first place. Nor, like El before him, does Yahweh appear at first to have been thought of by the Hebrews as a divine creator, at least not according to the picture we get from the last century or so of biblical scholarship.
Scholars believe that not until the eighth century bc was the first biblical account of creation composed starting at Genesis , and that only a couple of centuries later did an anonymous priestly author write down the full-blown version we get starting at Genesis 1. By that time, the Jews were rejoicing in their return to Palestine after the Babylonian Captivity c. Enjoying a sense of revival and optimism, the Jews built the Second Temple in Jerusalem; Jewish priests acted as ambassadors to their Persian rulers. Jewish life comes down to earth at this point.
How Do I Put My Faith in God?
The days of the prophets are fading. From here on in, the Jews will be concerned less with further prophecies than with the proper interpretation of past ones. In the coming centuries, the Jews did indeed take the final steps down the long road to true monotheism. Neither they nor their new conception of faith evolved in a vacuum. Right around the same time that the Jews were celebrating their release from the Babylonian Captivity, the ancient Greeks freed themselves from a very different sort of captivity.
The crucial first step was a fully alphabetic writing system, which the Greeks invented and began using around bc. Earlier alphabets had been missing vowels. The Greeks took one of them, the Phoenician alphabet, and added new letters for vowel sounds, making the whole thing a much more flexible and precise instrument. Here begins, if not the march, then at least the toddle toward string theory and space telescopes.
For writing and thinking go together, and the dawn of this new literary age was simultaneously the dawn of reason. Within a mere couple of hundred years or so, we see a Greek thinker named Thales of Miletus taking the novel step of trying to explain the material world in secular, naturalistic terms, and of publicizing his ideas so that others could critique them. This is not to say that no one had ever thought rationally before, of course.
All humans have the capacity for rational thought; clearly there exists something we might, for consistency, call the mental faculty of reason. It comprises an innate ability for symbolic logic, which we humans use in something akin to the way dolphins use sonar. Thales and his immediate successors came from Ionia, the coast of what is now Turkey, where the mainland cities of Greece proper had established a number of prosperous colonies of which Miletus was the acknowledged leader.
But their explanations always came back to religious mythology. Thales and his successors struck off in a fundamentally new direction, that of secular explanation.
Within a generation or two, they established free rational inquiry as a recognizable movement, a culturally coherent literary and intellectual tradition, in which ideas and concerns were passed from identifiable individuals in one generation to identifiable individuals in another, with each generation building on the work of those who came before. And as any student of ancient philosophy can tell you, we see the first appearance of a unitary God not in Jewish scripture, but in the thought of the Greek philosopher Plato, who wrote in the early fourth century bc.
Moreover, its origins go back to none other than Thales, who had proposed that nature can be explained by reference to a single unitary principle that pervades everything. Thales thought everything boiled down, so to speak, to Water, which he seems to have seen as an inherently divine material substance with no agency in nature; his immediate successors posited their own monist principles, including Air, Fire, and the Infinite.
Divine but not divine agents, these ideas straddled the line between religious and secular. Adding limited agency to this tradition, Plato in his dialogue Timaeus described what he called the Demiurge, a divine Craftsman who shapes the material world after ideal Forms that exist on a perfect immaterial plane. Centuries would pass before the Jews assimilated Greek thought, and scholars suspect that it was Hellenized Jewish philosophers such as Philo of Alexandria who imported the Greek idea of a single unitary God into the Jewish tradition.
So one indisputable thing the last century or so of scholarly work has uncovered about faith and reason is that they are hardly the rigidly separate traditions we commonly take them for. Even more surprising, perhaps, is how quickly monotheistic faith followed, starting with its first glimmering in the thought of Thales himself.
As we perceive order in nature, it seems, we also gravitate to the One. This extraordinarily powerful idea was, in fact, entirely unprecedented. For thousands of years before Thales, humanity encountered only one undifferentiated world, a world still inhabited today by some, it is true, though their numbers are dwindling. In this holistic world, matter and spirit are the same: people, places, objects, and events merge and mingle with the gods, goddesses, spirits, and demons who animate them.
We saw a vivid example of this outlook during the solar eclipse over Asia in July , when some local authorities closed schools and urged pregnant women to stay indoors to avoid ill effects as the evil spirit swallowed the Sun god. The epic poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey , reflect the oral traditions of this sort of world.
These poems established the classical Greek religious pantheon, in which the gods gleam brightly in the sunlight and the sea, rumble through the land as earthquakes, and darken the sky with clouds or eclipses. With the help of his ally Athena, goddess of wisdom, Odysseus gathers his wits enough to swim along the shore, desperately looking for a place to land. Like the Olympians, the little river is amoral and not much interested in the human world, but it is susceptible to a properly formulated plea for sanctuary Greek custom held that sanctuary had to be granted to a self-declared suppliant.
River and deity are one and the same. Putting up that boundary was the most significant act in the history of human thought. There are real things, whose characters are entirely independent of our opinions about them; those realities affect our senses according to regular laws, and. The new conception here involved is that of reality.
Naivety and Faith As a Startup Spark
I recognized him as Alan Alcorn, the Creator of Pong, one of the first arcade games Pong is called the first commercially successful video game in history, and its name is associated with the emergence of the interactive entertainment industry. I jumped out of the car, ran up to him, said I knew who he was, started talking about my product.
He was very pleased that he was recognized, we took pictures with him. I had written to Steve Wozniak earlier, but he didn't answer me. After that incident, I sent him my picture with Allan, they are friends, that's when he answered us. Nothing special. It's just naivety. This approach produced interesting results. After the first incubator, when we did not have money to rent an office we went through 3 accelerators, no one wanted to invest in us , Microsoft let us work for three months in their office.
But this cooperation did not work out. When we talked about our product, Microsoft was surprised that we were using Minecraft, and asked, "Do you pay us to use it? The relationship began on a not so good note.
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Plus, they didn't have an understanding of how big of a company could cooperate with our hardware project, although we offered different options. In fact, it is difficult to work with large companies, we tried to work with a couple more, but the partnerships did not happen either. How did you find and attract people to a no-name company at the start? There were five of us at the start, but three months later it was just me. As a result, I launched a Kickstarter alone. Later we attracted people quite easily — many liked the mission.
The developers understood the meaning of the product, because they often learned to program through games themselves in childhood. In marketing, we had a non-traditional team, headed by my classmate from Oxford, PhD in astrophysics Mihran Vardanyan. He has a very mathematical approach — more about optimization than about creativity, which allowed us to run a lot of effective advertising for very cheap.
You have cooperated with schools, attracted parents; did you make Piper fashionable among children, make them ask Santa for Piper? That's why we attended schools, different children's events, for example, the yearly Maker Faire in San Francisco.
There are children that were easily fascinated by the product, built it together, played Minecraft. After that, of course, they asked their parents for the product. Six months ago I left Piper partly because of this contradiction. I wanted to influence the education of children in general, not only for a limited circle, but the product turned out to be expensive. Now we are developing a free, online product for schools — MyCreativityBox. The last couple of months I spent in China, there was a great demand.
Therefore, we plan to launch the product primarily in China and America.
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