Veridical – what does that mean?

A term that shows up often in discussions about religious experience is veridical. googling “define veridical” results in: “truthful” and “coinciding with reality”, which matches with my understanding of the word.  For example, if Jesus truly was resurrected in reality then the experience of the disciples seeing him would be called veridical (and actually it would be considered veridical if he was bodily or spiritually resurrected as long as one of those things truly happened).  Another example: if a Muslim claims that Allah spoke to them, and in reality Allah exists (either naturally or supernaturally) and did truly speak to them then it would be called a veridical experience.

This is my understanding of the word.  If anyone knows better please let me know.

Relating this back to my previous 2 posts, I want to clarify that I was not making a statement about whether or not these heartfelt feelings are veridical.  It is certainly possible that any and even all of these heartfelt experiences are veridcal.  While I don’t believe contradictory conclusions from these experiences could all be correct (remember my foundational belief in deductive reasoning or logic), it could still be true that some of the conclusions spreading across all the different religious experiences could have a basis in real experiences with the hidden realm.

But of course if you have been reading my other posts you know that I do admit to leaning toward naturalistic conclusions but nowhere near the certainty of a lot of my other beliefs about reality.  It’s hard to put a percent on it but maybe in the 50’s if it helps clarify my stance.  So my hunch is that these experiences are not veridical.  But again this is not the conclusion that I am stating with any high level of certainty and I just want to make it clear that that is not at all what I was trying to state in my previous posts.

The point I want to make very clear is that I do not believe the method of putting our heartfelt feelings above evidence is the proper way to find out what is objectively true.  While one could certainly get lucky and get things right that way, given that there are so many people who express these kinds of heartfelt convictions that contradict each other it is clear that many (and possibly all) of these people are wrong about at least parts of their conclusions.  The law of non-contradiction forces us to that conclusion.  Now you could certainly try and believe that there aren’t really that many people of other religions who express this kind of feeling.  Or maybe you believe that even if they do it isn’t quite the same as your feeling.  But I’ve both talked to and seen enough people of several different persuasions talk about their experiences so that I can no longer be honest with myself and use those kinds of justifications.

In my next post I’ll give a few examples of the people I have spoken with in different religions.

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12 thoughts on “Veridical – what does that mean?

  1. Hey Ryan. Those are great questions, and I probably can’t do them justice in a quick comment, but I’ll give it a shot. Faith is a bit of a complex word and can mean very different things depending on who you talk to. I’ve touched very briefly on the topic here. If faith is defined as believing something even if reason or evidence seems to indicate otherwise then I believe that faith can prevent us from finding out the correct truth about reality. In this respect I wouldn’t call it virtuous. Now interestingly enough, faith can sometimes cause people to do very positive things towards other people and it can also cause people to do very negative things towards others. In these cases I would say that the actions and results are what are virtuous or non-virtuous. Since faith itself can cause either good or bad results I don’t see a need to describe it either way. I do plan on talking more about morality in future posts which will help a little bit in clarifying what I am saying here. What are your thoughts about faith Ryan?

  2. I think faith is something that is necessary for us. It is the belief that something can/will be accomplished in the future.

    For an example I’ll use construction:

    Through the human history people have built roads, houses and bridges with the belief that they will be completed one day. Furthermore, they believed that they would work. Some of these have stood the test of time, others are now ruins.

    There is no way they can verify this at the time of construction. Builders can however compare their plans to other buildings that exist and assume that theirs will also be completed and will work. However, they also need to have faith in order to act upon completing it.

    Some of these projects require huge amounts of energy, peoplepower and material. But one of the biggest commodities is time. These projects may not be finished today. Or tomorrow. Or even within a persons lifetime. For example see Cologne Cathedral

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cologne_Cathedral)

    Through construction people pour their energies into a cause because they believe that one day it will be completed. They have faith that it will be accomplished. Even though they themselves may never see this accomplishment. To act upon any project requires a level of faith I think.

    Ryan 🙂

  3. The bible outlines faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Faith I think encourages people to remain focused on what they believe.

  4. So yeah, this is quite a simplistic overview,

    But I think faith enables people to act because they believe it places value on what they are working toward. they need to believe that it will be effective so they can work towards it.

    This allows people to pass on the torch to future generations so they can carry on where others have left off. To keep the faith so to speak.

    I think this is why we have traditions that solidify our identities.

    1. Values become actions.
    2. Actions become habits.
    3. Habits become our identity.

    4. Enough individual people in a community practising the same habits become united in tradition.

    And so it goes, until a revolution. And then the habits of that revolution become the habits, traditions and faith of the next generation.

    But I think faith is the glue that brings a sense of purpose to our actions. It’s the belief that we will achieve or that what we believe will happen.

    I think we need this. But like you said, it all depends on where faith is directed. People can have faith in very destructive ideas. People can also have faith in very compassionate ideas. No matter if these are under the guise of secular or religious, I think some faiths are based on empathy while others are based on dominance.

  5. Btw I wasn’t referring to the bibles outline of faith as simple in a negative way.

    I mean that it’s simple in an effective way. After all ideas are best shared through simplicity. Simplicity is good.

    I think the bible defines faith beautifully in Hebrews 11:1 🙂

  6. Hi Ryan. If your example of belief in the ability to construct things is what defines your use of faith then that definition of faith seems fine to me. Belief that we can build something because of reason and evidence can be useful and productive. Reason and evidence in this example might be either that we have seen others in the past successfully build things, or we have examined and observed certain aspects of physics, math, and materials and come to the conclusion that it is possible to build the thing that we plan and think about.
    Chapter 11 of Hebrews seems to go beyond this type of definition of faith though. In fact Hebrews 11:17-19 is an example of faith causing someone to believe they should do something very bad to another human being. I understand that the story ends without the death of Isaac, but the fact that Abraham would offer Isaac up because he felt that a deity told him to is an example of faith causing someone to do a very negative thing. If I felt in my heart that a spiritual being had told me to kill one of my children I would hope that I would conclude that I was developing a neurological problem. If I believed in spirit beings then I would also consider the fact that a bad spirit was trying to influence me. I believe that the vast majority of reasonable religious people would agree with this. Just because Abraham lived a long time ago, or because this story ended well, or because it is a story meant to encourage us doesn’t really take away the fact that this really is a bad example of the results of faith.

  7. Hi again Howie 🙂

    I see God as asking Abraham: how much do you love me?

    For example, God gave Isaac to Sarai and Abraham, and according to the bible this was a blessing from God that took a long time to be fulfilled. Also, God promised a long time ago that Abraham would have many, many descendants. Now God had given this child to the previously barren Sarai and finally God has given them this gift of new life from Sarai.

    I see this as God saying through this account “right, so you trusted me and I have given you what I had promised”.

    But I also see what God asks next as: “How much do you trust me now I have given you what you have truly desired?” Do you still trust me? do you believe that I am able to deliver on this promise I made with you?”. “Even if I ask Isaac back from you?”

    In other words, I believe through the request God gives Abraham to sacrifice Issac God is asking him: “Do you trust that I am God?” Do you trust that I can do anything?” “Do you trust that I will still keep my word, even if I ask Issac back from you?”

    Issac was Abrahams and Sarais pride and joy, truly valuable and precious to them but also a fulfilment of Gods promise that Abraham will have many descendants. God had given them Issac at such an old age, after all their years of trying.

    For God to then ask Abraham to sacrifice (give back) his child to Him is very confronting. Through this I see God as essentially asking: “Do you trust me, now that I have given you your gift, this life?”

    “Even if I ask for Issac back do you still trust me that I will keep my word?” Essentially: “Do you trust that I am God”. “Do you trust that I am Good?”

    Abraham (as Paul writes) is counted as righteous by God because of his faith. He believed God would still keep His word. He had no way of knowing, but he trusted and acted accordingly. And His actions revealed his trust. Where his heart was so to speak.

    God asked Abraham to give back what was most important and precious to him. How else would true faith be revealed?

    Just some thoughts. Hope your having a nice week.

    Ryan

  8. Hey Ryan. What you have detailed was the way I had viewed this story when I was a Christian. What I began to realize while I was a Christian was that there were people of great faith throughout time within Christianity and also in other religions who ended up hurting other people because of their faith – sometimes very badly. The suicide bombers of Islam stand out in most people’s minds today. Suicide bombers are people of great faith (by great I don’t mean good) – they believe very strongly that Allah is using them to end the suffering of his Palestinian people, and they are willing to sacrifice their lives for this. As you know though, they badly hurt other unarmed humans in this process. The story of Abraham includes the fact that Abraham was willing to kill Isaac because of his faith, and not only that -> the writer of the story said that Jehovah was pleased with the fact that Abraham was willing to kill this unarmed boy. This is an example of faith causing someone to do something very hurtful to another human – which to me would be the opposite of virtuous.
    Going back to your original question (do I see faith as a virtue?): again, I’m not necessarily convinced that it is the faith itself that is virtuous or non-virtuous, because as I said before faith can cause a person to do good or bad things – so I see the results as virtuous (or not). And further there are stories in the Bible which display very terrible acts of faith, so I have a hard time using it as a model for what faith should be.
    I appreciate your thoughts and your tone – hope you have a good weekend. – Howie

  9. Pingback: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling | Truth Is Elusive

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