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Faith and probability

January 17, 2011

The topic of sacrament meeting yesterday was faith. A young woman asked, “Would a farmer plant his fields if he didn’t have faith that they would grow? Would a mechanic try to fix a car if he didn’t have faith that the car could be repaired?” Maybe not. But we expect these outcomes because we see that they happen all the time. They are probable.

What these analogies to religious faith ignore is the shading or probability. If you plant a seed and properly care for it, it is very probable that the seed will sprout. If you know anything about repairing cars, and you work to fix the car, it is probable that you succeed in fixing car.

Faith in God, or in Christ, or in the atonement, or in the resurrection, is a very different kind of faith. These are phenomena for which there is no evidence in the natural world. They are improbable.

So to say that farmers have faith that their plants will grow just like the religious have faith that they will survive their own death is a false analogy. We know that the first happens all the time, but we have no knowledge of the second ever happening.


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