Monday, May 17, 2010

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The Irrationality of Belief

A couple of days ago my friend and I were at my apartment having coffee and discussing random subjects. At one point during our conversation we came across the subject of religion. Mazen is a Durzi – a religious sect derived from Islam, but which has many unique aspects to it. He told me that he is a believer but not a practicing one. In fact the structure of the Durzi faith is very complicated and not all Druzes are allowed to read their Holly Book (al-Hikma “The Wisdom”); only when you decide to become a “Sheikh” you are granted access to the scriptures. Most believers spend all their lives without even looking at the book once and they base their beliefs on the teachings of their parents, who, in turn, are most likely to have received them from their own parents. The Druzes are a minority compared to the other Islamic sects and the majority of them reside Syria, Lebanon and Israel. They do not marry outside their community and anyone who does is cast out.

We stayed on the subject for quite some time and I was really enjoying the discussion. I was able to strike him with powerful arguments that challenged his entire belief system. I could tell from his reactions to my reasoning that he had never before engaged in a conversation with a non-believer. The discussion became really interesting when he told me that he believes in reincarnation. The first question I asked him was “How would you explain the population growth if you believed that every time one person is born another one should already be dead in order for his or her soul to be transferred to the new host?” I was really shocked by the answer he gave me, mainly because he is a well educated person and I didn’t expect him to reply with such irrationality. He said “the truth is that the population is NOT growing and when God first created human beings, he created 6 Billion people right from the beginning” His reply really surprised me and it took me a while to ask him another question; I said “but what about the statistics which show the growth in the world’s population? I mean take Lebanon for example; the data proves that the number of Lebanese citizens has more than doubled since 1960. How would you explain that?” He replied by saying that the population of some other country must have decreased then, and also that there is no way I could prove these statistics are trustworthy.

Population of Lebanon Druze

After listening to his logic, I kept on probing his viewpoint and showing him how absurd his reasoning was. I knew he was becoming uncomfortable with his own approach, the more I spoke. However, like any other person basing his beliefs on blind faith, he wasn’t letting go of his convictions easily. I ended the conversation hoping that he will take into consideration my observations and maybe he will no longer take religious “truths” at face-value.

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