Joined: Jan. 2006
I'll only second what Bill said, a) because he said it before I could get here to say it and b) because I reckon he said it better than I would have done!
We're back to the questions I asked you at the start. How do you distinguish between two mutually contradictory faith claims?
The answer is: unless you use reason of some description, or some reason-like process, you can't even attempt to do this (I make no claim that one will be successful if one does use reason etc). And if you do use reason you eliminated the need to make the claim on faith in the first place, you've destroyed the faith nature of the claim and replaced it with some intuition or conjection that you are advancing as a testable hypothesis.
It's a classic Catch 22 of epistemology! If you're claiming that Article of Faith X is "knowledge" by some personal, idiosyncratic definition of "knowledge" then you must, by the force of your own arguments, acknowledge that a mutually contradictory Article of Faith Y is also "knowledge". You defeat your own claim of "knowledge" because the same justification can be used for the exact opposite.
Even more than that even if this faith derived thing IS knowledge (which it isn't) it is uncommunicable. The second you communicate it, you are making it available for scrutiny on a rational basis. And that stuffs the claim that faith is valid epistemologically oce again, because the second that an idea or claim is scrutinsied on a rational, reason based, footing it survives or dies on the evidence and therefore is explicitly a product of reason.
That's the problem with claiming faith is valid epistemologically, it catches you coming and going. You trap yourself by the force of your own arguments. Personally (and again there are a few theologians who would agree with this), I think this cheapens faith and makes it available for mockery at the least.
Look at it this way Skeptic, if you are claiming that without a factual faith derived knowledge basis for your beliefs, then they would all be invalid and easily destroyed, how do you cope when someone else makes a claim to a factual faith derived knowledge basis for their beliefs that completely contradicts your own? Take a trivial example: you, as a christian think that Jesus is the son of god, a muslim thinks that Jesus is an important prophet. Both of these things are based on the faith derived teachings of those two religions, and they are mutually exclusive. Jesus can't both be the son of god and not the son of god. A and not A. The ideas are mutually contradictory. (Hint: appeals to mystery will not help you here). You're stuck. Any appeal to historical evidence or ay form of reasoned theological argument proves my point: reason (and reason-like processes) are the only way we know anything at all, faith doesn't work. If you make no use of reason etc and ONLY assert these things by faith alone then you're also stuck, because your muslim chum can do exactly the same, no reconcilliation is possible. No distinction can be made.
Incidentally, on a related but separate note, this is precisely why advocacy of reason is INCLUSIVE. Look again at the Sagan video BWE posts. Our human concerns and biases are infinitesimally small things compared to the majesty of the cosmos (and yes I know the origins of that word!). Simple acknowledgement of certain of our limitations, the failure of faith as a valid epistemological method being one of them, allows us to try to place things on a reason based footing. To follow the evidence, to eschew some of the rather chimpy, evolved, instinctual and petty concerns of our species. These are the first steps on a highly inclusive and productive road.