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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Standards of evidence


Can you respect my different political faith and beliefs the same way you respect my different religious faith and beliefs, asks Raja Petra.
COMMENT
By Raja Petra Kamarudin
How many of you can claim to be believing what you believe in out of choice? Were you once a Christian from the west who visited India and then fell in love with Hinduism?
Or were you once a Buddhist who studied Islam and then decided that Islam is the true religion after all (and you did not convert because you wanted to marry a Muslim spouse)?
The majority of you believe what you believe because you happened to have been born into that belief system and were raised within that belief system and received an education, or rather an indoctrination, regarding that belief system.
There is a more than a 99% chance that if you had not been not been born a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever, today you would not be a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.
As they say, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relatives. You were not given any choice as to which family you would like to be born into. And with that lack of choice as to which family you are to be born into, you also have no choice as to what religion you will be following.
Your family and environment shape your beliefs and you grow up adopting a certain belief system, which you invariably accept as the correct belief system.
Then someone comes along and tells you that you are wrong. You have been misled or misinformed and are a victim of conjecture, superstition, fallacies, and folklore. What you had believed your entire life is false. What you presumed as the truth is not the truth. Truth can be tested and would pass the test. Your beliefs are not founded on truth and therefore cannot pass the truth test.
And this contradiction will upset you. Someone is telling you that you are wrong and this makes you angry. It makes you angry because you are not able to rebut this. You are not able to offer any evidence that what this person is telling you is wrong. And you are also not able to offer any evidence to prove that you are right.
The truth test
Ah, yes, your beliefs cannot be tested or proven. They will not pass the truth test. And that is because your beliefs are based on faith.
Beliefs, in particular religious beliefs, are called faiths — religious faith. The reason they are called religious faiths is because you need to believe based on faith, not based on evidence.
Faith, in a way, can be described as the word to explain lack of evidence. Hence, whenever you fail to prove your beliefs with supporting evidence you classify it under faith. And you can get away with whatever beliefs that lack evidence by calling it faith. It would be considered quite acceptable.
Can I use this same basis of ‘evidence’ in a court of law? Can I sit in the witness box in court and testify that I have faith and hence this faith will be my evidence to support my testimony?
The court can never accept my faith as evidence. Evidence has to be tangible. And tangible evidence must be in the form of documentary evidence or the testimony of an eyewitness.
Even if I were to adduce documentary evidence or quote the testimony of an eyewitness that is not acceptable. I must be the producer or maker of that document. If I am not, then that document will be rejected. The maker himself or herself needs to go to court to testify that he or she is actually the maker of the document. Only then will the document be admitted as evidence.
The same applies to an eyewitness testimony. If I were to relate an incident or the testimony of someone else, that would be mere hearsay. That too is not admissible in court. The eyewitness who told me about the incident or made that statement must personally go to court to testify that he or she saw what happened or heard what was said.
That would be the rules of evidence and the court is very clear on this.
You must have been personally there and you are relating what you saw or else the court cannot accept what you say. Either you personally created that document or else that document cannot be admitted into evidence.
Religion does not work on this basis. Religion is all about hearsay and third party or hand-me-down evidence.
And yet while we will reject such standards of ‘evidence’ in a court of law, we can readily accept it when it comes to religion. And we build our belief system around these so-called standards, which under normal circumstances would be unacceptable.
And based on this system of belief, we will pass judgment and make decisions that affect the life of people.
Applying the test to politics
Millions die because of the decisions we make that under any other (non-religious) situation would be considered unacceptable. Millions over thousands of years have suffered because of a belief system that would be considered silly if it was something that did not come under the classification of religious faith.
And we consider that totally acceptable just because it comes under the category of religious faith.
What if I were to use that same standard of faith and ‘evidence’ and apply it to politics? Can I declare that my political faith is evidence that my political beliefs are right whereas yours are wrong?
Can you respect my different political faith and beliefs the same way you respect my different religious faith and beliefs?
The answer would be a resounding ‘no’! But why can you accept my differing view in one thing such as religion and not accept in another such as politics?
Ah, the answer would be because one comes from God and the other from man. Hence what comes from God can be accepted without question while what comes from man needs to be questioned.
That, of course, would apply if you can prove that religion came from God and not from man. But can you prove that? Well, you do not need to prove it because faith does not need proof. And I will just have to take your word for it and believe that without question.
And they tell me that slavery has been abolished. Actually religion is slavery.
Raja Petra Kamarudin is the editor of Malaysia Today blog. He is currently living in the UK.

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