What do Richard Dawkins & Pastor Terry Jones Have in Common?

There are a vast number of spectra that we can be classified under: extrovert to introvert, creative to logical, right wing to left wing (or liberal), and so on.

There is another major spectrum which has gone, as yet, un-defined. Yet it is one that increasingly shapes our world, and it looks set to become only more influential as the 21st century progresses. This is the spectrum between certainty and faith, or The Faith/Certainty Spectrum.

This spectrum requires the ‘un-definition’ of certain concepts.

The concepts of Religion and Faith have, over time, become confused. The two terms are often used interchangeably. Yet in The Faith/Certainty Spectrum, religion can often exist closer to the Certainty end of the spectrum than the Faith end.

Certainty has traditionally tended to be seen as a positive thing, whose opposite is ‘uncertainty’, a negative thing. However, deeper reflection on the idea of ‘certainty’ may see it differently. Certainty is what an individual expresses when (s)he has made and empirical judgement that something is absolutely true or false.

The opposite of certainty is not uncertainty. It is faith, which is what an individual expresses when (s)he has made a subjective judgement as to whether something is true or false, which they acknowledge to be subjective.

As it is with polar opposites, so it is with Faith and Certainty. They cannot co-exist. They are the antithesis of one another.

Someone who believes something in faith is not necessarily any less sure of it than someone who believes it in certainty. The difference is about their distinct perspective on their beliefs, and – critically – their distinct perspective on those who do not share their beliefs.

The faith / certainty spectrum would place Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion), Pastor Terry Jones (of threat-to-burn-a-Koran infamy) and Osama Bin Laden in roughly the same place.

In the coming years, all people will need to decide whether they are people of faith or people of certainty. As long as they sit on the fence or opt out, their world will increasingly be domineered by those imposing their certainty on it.

  1. Rich H-S
    17th Sep 2010

    A good post. I’d like to add a few angles. Your last line ‘those imposing their certainty’ sums up the threat that is posed by the media magnified personas of Dawkins and Jones. Their behaviour is bombastic, loud, deliberately provocative. They understand who they are talking to and how they are talking. They are master manipulators. Bin Laden too understands the fundamentals of global group thinking and movements. So did Hitler.

    But this is just the channel. The means of distributing and sowing the seed of the doctrine that all of the above look to propagate. They have very strong beliefs. They have no discernable doubt. They have confidence in abundance. They have certainty. Attractive qualities. Especially in a world where there is arguably more confusion than there ever has been. And perhaps especially for those without a God.

    So I would argue that certainty is derived from doctrinal thinking where the thinking has gone wrong at some point. The trouble with doctrine (dogma?) is that it demands rigid adherence in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition. Again, the ability to stick to ones guns is an attractive quality and often breeds success. The flaw in the system is where the doctrine drives its followers and prevents them from taking remedial action once it is abundantly clear that the doctrine has failed. Totalitarian states provide good examples of this in action. So does capitalism.

    The doctrine of capitalism was that the markets would work it out. They didn’t. It took a clear view of financial Armageddon to force the followers of the doctrine to reverse their position. Who knows what the next doctrine will be. History shows that there will be one. Perhaps we need one. The chances are that whatever it is will be global. If a small town pastor in redneck Florida can have global reach then who doesn’t.

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