On Certainty …And How to Get Along
What is certainty? I have had a lot of problems with this stupid idea from Descartes because to me certainty is not being open to other people’s opinion on a topic. It is a kind of off limits to discussion. It also seems that people who are certain about their beliefs are jerks to those who don’t agree with them. For example… you don’t see things the way they obviously are so you must be an idiot.
People are way too valuable to be talking about them like that. Being a Christian I believe Jesus loves people way too much to have that kind of attitude, where if you don’t conform to my system of belief then I just won’t talk to you as a human being and will write off your experience as invalid because it doesn’t line up to the way I see the world.
But what if certainty is re-conceptualized as not being a closed-ness to the opinions of others, but instead as an openness to other opinions. The thing that I am certain about I shouldn’t have to protect from questioning. It should stand on its own.
This leads me to the question of the application of certainty, namely to the undisputed topic of gravity and to the highly disputed topic of Religion. Gravity just isn’t disputed, I think it is because it is a pretty simple concept that applies to a single phenomena that shapes our lives. I guess the question I am getting at is what makes religion such a contentious topic? Everyone can agree that gravity works the way it does and apply the open concept of certainty. Is it arrogant to apply the same open concept of certainty to religion because there is a diversity of opinions?
The real question is how do people of different religions get along? Can I say to a Buddhist friend that I am certain about my faith in the way that doesn’t rely on me to defend it; which puts me in the unique position of being able to question my own faith. In this situation my Buddhist friend and I can ask questions of our faiths together and learn from each other. We can be united in our questioning, and I don’t think it matters that at the end of the day he may remain Buddhist and I Christian (and as a friend commented on the last blog, ‘God forbid a fundamentalist sees this’). I think this fulfills my calling as a Christian to “preach the gospel” because my Buddhist friend and I are both more intimately aware of each other’s faiths and further it is alright that she has remained a Buddhist because free choice is more important than being a Christian (it’s the way God set it up).
In conclusion, I would have to say that this is true from my experience as well. I relate to people of other faiths by going into a religious conversation of lets question together. The openness view of certainty is precisely that. The closed view of certainty would say “let me teach you what I believe.” I think the first is a lot more sustainable in a diverse society.