Faith vs. Wilful Ignorance?

The TED radio hour re-aired Believers And Doubters recently. It is a mark of how much I really objected the the subject matter in the selected talks for this show that I didn’t even realize I’d listened to it before until my Mother of Memory, Facebook’s On This Day app, reminded me of it a few days ago,

The first TED program I’ve ever skipped through. No interest whatsoever in Billy Graham, his views, or who he influenced. As a corn-fed Kansan who lives in Texas currently, I can get my fill of the product of his influence right outside my door. The rest of the program was interesting if misguided. Like Julia Sweeney I try not to use the far too ubiquitous word ‘belief’. I know facts. I accept concepts. Belief is the subject of momentary whim; as in “I believe I will share this podcast” click send, belief dealt with.

Facebook, December 29, 2015

Funny, but I had a similar feeling when they re-aired this program again. Similar feeling, different response. Let’s go through this together, shall we?

What I find most interesting about Billy Graham’s TED talk (and I’ve heard the whole thing, not just the snippets here) is the near-complete lack of informational content. The next most interesting thing is his daughter’s description of how her father came to his faith. Listening to her description, I could not help but realize that what she was describing was the adoption of wilful ignorance, not faith.

This is borne out through his years of preaching, so I don’t come to this conclusion based solely on her description. His entire career was based on a false belief in the power of god to save mankind from itself; when quite clearly the saving of mankind has to be upon mankind itself. If it isn’t then the Calvinist’s and determinists are right and what happens was always going to happen, because we don’t have any volitional control over what we do or what we can change.

Wilful ignorance completely describes everything Billy Graham; and it is frightening to realize that he has guided the destiny of several presidents with his mistaken faith. How much death and destruction, how much pain and suffering has been caused by this one evil man’s hold on the spiritual leash of our nations leaders? That is a question worth contemplating.

I find it amusing that the anecdote about Edison calling a priest to his deathbed is mentioned by Graham in his talk. I have spent hours digging through tomes on Edison, and I’ve never found a credible source that relates the story that he imparts in his TED talk. It never happened as far as I can tell.

“Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving. If God made me — the fabled God of the three qualities of which I spoke: mercy, kindness, love — He also made the fish I catch and eat. And where do His mercy, kindness, and love for that fish come in? No; nature made us — nature did it all — not the gods of the religions.

Thomas A. Edison

He then goes on to laud Blaise Pascal for the reasoning that lead him to make the famous wager. Really? Pascal’s wager is a demonstrable false dichotomy. There is no either/or question that can be answered by Pascal’s wager because there is no one god to worship or even one version of one god that can be credited as being the god to worship to keep you out of hell (As I said in the addendum to Atheism is Not a Belief System, the only sane solution to the problem presented by Pascal’s wager is to decide that there is no hell. -ed.) so worshipping any god is probably a bad idea if staying out of any one belief systems bad place is your ultimate goal. Just don’t go there in the first place and then you can’t be sentenced by the people who follow that faith. Well, they will blame you, curse you, attempt to compel you. In the end they can’t make you worship because the can’t make you think they way they want you to think.