Reza Aslan says in a recent article: “And yet, in the end, faith is nothing more or less than a choice. You either believe there is something beyond the physical world (as I do), or you don’t. You either believe you are more than the sum of your material parts (as I do), or you don’t. You either believe in the existence of a soul (as I do), or you don’t.
No one can prove or disprove these things, not any more than anyone can prove or disprove love or fear or any other human emotion.”
His final sentence is the part he gets wrong.
Love and fear are human constructs. They are socially subjective and definitional. They are not any more real than “delusions” or “hallucinations”. The difference is they provide a utility, for either social or physical survival.
The “realness” of what the belief in is not important. It’s the “utility” of the belief itself.
Having faith in “god” or anything provides utility, regardless of whether “god” exists.
Faith alone is sufficient, for it provides utility.
Acknowledging this, we can the abandon the limited definitional constraints of religion in favor of a more scientific vocabulary while examining the utility of beliefs, and collectively acknowledge a universal secular worldview.
Love and fear, like any words, are socially defined. They are still not “real” any more than people collectively believe that a supernatural event or divine miracle is real. If everyone believes it, it becomes as real as it needs to be for society and shapes their reality.
It’s like saying there’s one language that is real or true. This is never and will never be the case.
Language is always limited to socially accepted definitions and usage
You can’t have your own private language and expect to communicate or have influence.
He has a very secular take on religion, which I like, but I loath the fact that he’s stuck on there being a realness to the thing he believes in:
“My well is Islam, and in particular, the Sufi tradition. Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is “truer” than other religions (it isn’t), but because Islam provides me with the “language” I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it.”