October 12, 2013 in City

Faith and Values: Belief systems and reality

Donald Clegg
About this column

Three times a month, three community columnists weigh in on matters of faith and values. The Faith and Values column appears Saturday and features artist Donald Clegg, of Spokane, retired Methodist minister Paul Graves, of Sandpoint, and Steve Massey, a pastor from Hayden.

I’ve been pondering the nature of various types of belief systems and their relations to knowledge and ignorance, i.e., valid vs. invalid belief. Put another way, their congruence with reality. Always with my favorite definition of just what that wascally wabbit – reality (or Reality) – might be. Sci-fi master Philip K. Dick said it best: “Reality is that which, when we stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

Wow, what a concept, that when we turn our eyes, minds and all of our senses off of reality, it doesn’t go away. That our best hopes, wishes and dreams may not be in tune with it, and that we exist in that state of disaccord at our peril.

So I’d like to begin an examination of these matters, eventually getting into hope, expectation, opportunity, fairness, justice, morality, faith and other Small Issues, as I attempt to build a system of thought that is perhaps at least slightly more congruent with that which won’t go away. Think of this as a continuing series, with forays into other matters as I see appropriate.

To do so, I need a foundation to build on, and foundations always rest on a body of assumptions. Physical foundations only need an understanding of concrete and steel, small potatoes compared to metaphysics, which would like to know the doings and workings of nothing less than the human mind, heart and spirit.

What, for instance, is your understanding of what it is to be human if you separate these realms? What, if they’re unified? What, if they’re just poor metaphors?

So I start at the beginning, with the study of basic assumptions, which is my definition of metaphysics. And whether you know it or not, I just did you a big favor, by providing the shortest, most concise definition that exists. I’ll leave it to you to consider its merit.

And because I consider philosophy to be a blue-collar worker – it’s actually useful – I find myself pondering its relation to what is happening to civil society. Namely: Is civility in danger of disappearing entirely? Is America becoming a nation of Balkanized territories, mutually exclusive and continually warring tribes? Might we lack basic assumptions in accord with “that which doesn’t go away”?

Examples, please, you ask. The current brouhaha over “defunding” Obamacare comes immediately to mind. It astounds me that the fine folks who are fervently opposed to government-funded health care have the best government-funded health care themselves. And that they oppose government “entitlements” while keeping them – government-funded offices and staffs, etc. – for themselves. In a word, socialism for them, privatization for us.

If you like, you can even choose your state on this issue and decide where to live accordingly. Paradoxically, states that are opposed to the type of socialism that partially subsidized insurance represents are pretty much on the dole themselves.

Look at just about any state that votes Republican and you’ll see this pattern of abuse, this taking of more tax dollars than paid. So, in a rich irony, Red states that are targeting their poorest citizens by rejecting Medicaid expansion could, by accepting it, get Blue states to pay for it!

This is an example of, let’s see, bad metaphysics, weak epistemology, i.e., invalid knowledge and therefore wrongly held beliefs, and poor ontology, which is to say, many folks don’t appear to have the least idea of who they are.

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via email at info@donaldclegg.com.

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