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Faith, Foolishness, and Fanaticism

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Last week I chided the CBC’s Neil Macdonald for his outburst against people of faith whom he clearly would prefer to keep out of sight in the privacy of their own delusions.

I have been assured that Mr. Macdonald is a seasoned and celebrated journalist. So what would prompt such an intelligent person to say such questionable things?

Perhaps we can clarify the central issues at stake by examining three key terms: faith, foolishness, and fanaticism.

Everyone exercises faith, not just religious believers. Faith is the everyday experience of putting trust in something or someone on the basis of what one thinks one knows about that thing or person.

I plunk my considerable bulk down on this chesterfield in our living room. I do so without a second thought, and certainly didn’t pause to examine it for critical defects.

I am not, however, as stupid as I might appear.

I have entered a familiar room stocked with furniture I have used daily for years.

In such a context—which is to say, knowing what I know—it actually would be irrational for me notto put faith in this chesterfield: “I’m not sitting on that thing until it’s undergone a full structural work-up!”

That’s how faith works. I think I know my motorcycle mechanic well enough to trust him literally with my life as I crank open the throttle.

That’s how science works: I trust my pharmacist and the instruction manual to my new appliance. That’s also how religion works: I trust my pastor and my holy book.

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