The British Society for Psychical Research defines the boggle line as “a term coined by Renée Haynes to indicate the point at which a phenomenon is considered highly unlikely to be real. This point is subjective and will vary from individual to individual.” If the line is subjective and varies from person to person, is there a rational intersection of faith and reason, or are the two inherently exclusive of one another?
The boggle line bears much significance in human psychology because regardless of where one’s line sits, it is certain that being very sure of what you don’t believe in engenders confidence and dedication to what you do believe in. In essence, rejecting something on one side of the line tightens your grip on what’s on the other.
Many people would suggest that to embrace faith means to reject reason and, therefore, to deny what can be perceived with the senses. This idea is based on a philosophy of “oneism” or that everything in our known universe fits within the confines of a box. Here, the universe began inside the box without external influences, and everything that is, was, or will be must be defined within the confines of the box. All phenomena, therefore, need not have a cause or a purpose—rather, all that is needed is an explanatory mechanism (how) based upon the rules established within the closed system (one need not consider why the box is there or who established the rules of the box). And since there is no reality outside of the box, the pinnacle of existence occurs during our lifetime. There was nothing before, and thus, there is nothing after. Oneism suggests that reality (the whole box) came out of nothing and is ultimately fated to become nothing. Atheism and theism thus have a common trait at a single point: out of nothing came something. A divergence exists in what happens before and after that point.
In “twoism,” there is something outside of the box, and that other thing can communicate with, speak to, and interact with our box. In twoism, there is another entity in the universe separate and distinct from our human world. In this paradigm, God certainly does exist and can move between the two boxes. Here, our reality is a function of another reality, and that other reality will follow rules and norms foreign to us. And that other reality must be superior to ours because in order to create, design, and influence another box, the first box must have more power, knowledge, skill, and talent, just as a painter creates an image that resembles, but is subordinate to, himself.
In oneism, Christ is not God but a regular human being just like you and me. Of course, He existed, but He couldn’t possibly be God because He comes from the same system as you and me—at best, He can be a great role model or teacher. Men, women, grass, plants, animals, and different religions, for example, are all the same because we all come from the exact same raw material. No one has dominion over the other, there is no separation among groups, and thus, a rock is equal to a young boy.
Now allow me to take a moment to explain the problem of bias. Pretty much everyone has the same amount of information, knowledge, and resources in front of them—we all have access to the Bible, we all have access to scientific information about the known universe, and we all live in a time where information (in most of the world) is freely disseminated. Yet despite having the same data, some people are staunch atheists, and others are devout believers in God. Why? Bias. In our human minds, we all have certain predispositions toward ideology, and our upbringing, experiences, and environment will mold how we view and perceive the world. It is this cardinal bias that ultimately forms our belief system. Like it or not, we all are guilty in some form of this prejudice, and Haynes described this phenomenon to be the boggle line.
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins famously said that he could not prove God did not exist, but based upon the sheer mathematical improbability of God’s existence, atheism, for Mr. Dawkins, was a foregone conclusion in the same way he could not prove that the tooth fairy does not exist. True, I also cannot prove God doesn’t exist nor can I prove that God does exist. Where does that leave me but in a nebulous void where I must subjectively choose which path to follow based upon personal preference?
Ironically, a cornerstone of belief in God is predicated on the fact that nonbelief has to be a very real possibility. Belief and hoping in the unseen, or faith, actually requires the possibility that the subscriber be wrong, for if that possibility did not exist, there would be no conscious trust on the part of the believer—if not, what you’re left with is coercion. After all, if I splash you with a bucket of water and then tell you that water is wet, there’s absolutely no room for argument.
In oneism, why have hope if the best we can do is right here on Earth? Why excel in life if, once you die, you’re bound to spend eternity in perpetual nothingness? Why dream unless those wishes can materialize here and now since their effectiveness is nullified upon death? Why ever care for another or practice selflessness instead of choosing to maximize one’s own potential at the expense of others?
One depressing defeat for oneism lies in the reality that it inevitably leads to nonexistence, which paints a picture of humanity even more tainted than the one that already exists. There will be no ultimate justice, no ultimate mercy, no redemption, no salvation, and no future. To subscribe to oneism means to deny God’s existence and to pretend that all the treacherous, cruel behavior in this world will never face judgment from the divine, and all immorality and licentiousness is valid and acceptable behavior to an indifferent, void universe that regards all of humanity as happenstance. Oneism means you accept every perverse, wicked, cruel, malicious, and destructive desire man has ever produced and embrace such debauchery with the casual indifference that that’s the way things will be. Oneism permanently condones the suffering of the innocent and celebrates in the triumph of evil. Oneism applauds the pride that fuels its own convictions; it directs all honor and glory toward the self in the perpetual festival of self-interest.
Another depressing defeat for oneism is the absence of primary causality. Everything in our world has a cause and also has its resultant effect. If a tree falls down in the forest, it’s because a lumberjack decided to get some wood. If a car explodes, it’s because someone threw a match into the gas tank. If there’s an earthquake, it’s because tectonic plates shift. If everything in our world has a known, established cause, and science strives to seek out and explain such causes, why would any rational mind accept that the original starting point of our world “just happened” without a definite cause? In fact, the ultimate fallacy of oneism lies at its genesis: how can a causeless, purposeless megaphenomenon (the big bang) spawn a universe that follows rules antithetical to itself?
We live in a world so blinded by its own desire for all to be the same that we have begun sacrificing the truth for mixtures and derivations of the truth so that all may feel welcome with their own perception of reality. The truth, in and of itself, is mutually exclusive. If the truth were mutually inclusive, then it would not be the truth but an accommodation. Earth functions in the manner we’re all used to because gravity remains constant at 9.8 m/s2. If this number were 13.4 or 7.4, the world as we know it would cease to exist. The truth does not waver, yet people tend to waver between two opinions, hopping from branch to branch.
Ultimately, we are each faced with the one cardinal question in life: shall we choose to believe that we are the pinnacle of all existence, or is there something else greater than us that does, in fact, exist? Statistics and reason tell us that both scenarios are equally improbable. To what conclusion, then, will reason lead us? It could be to neither and that we are simply asking the wrong question, yet common sense suggests that all answers will essentially boil down to more-than-oneism or oneism. For each, every person’s boggle line segregates the acceptable from the implausible, but implausibility is a matter of perspective. What you believe, therefore, has little to do with the actual facts but how those facts are perceived. And this perception is built upon the security of certainty—reason finds comfort in the tangible, observable, and familiar, while faith challenges you to take a risk and venture into the unknown. Furthermore, at some point, the certainty itself can be idolized, dissolving the importance of whatever the certainty is in. (Also consider that life as we know it is not, in fact, certain but based on assumptions about reality and significant likelihoods).
In my experience, I have come to the conclusion that faith does not negate reason, but the former is the ultimate expression of the latter. (In fact, as the former Pope John Paul II suggests in his thirteenth encyclical, Fides et Ratio, faith less reason leads to superstition and reason less faith leads to nihilism). Hence, the intersection of faith and reason is the point where reason finally admits its own deficiencies and submits to the higher authority. If oneism were true, randomness still could not create an ultimate form of reason in an ultimate form of life because, as with any other observable system, anything that is influenced by chance will tend to regress to a mean. This means that based on oneism, human beings are mediocre compromises who, in their mediocrity, have formulated (at best) an ordinary, yet wholly inadequate, explanation for their own origins. This realization begs, then, to ask a very striking question: if mediocrity, in the pursuit of certainty, can produce a very unlikely yet theoretically plausible answer, what would superiority, unhindered by the rules of oneism, produce with total assurance?
Only your boggle line will help you decide.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal
*For further reading, I highly recommended the chapter titled “The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism” in Miracles by C. S. Lewis. For more on the limitations of oneism, feel free to read the flaws of Darwinism by clicking here.