I'll concede that people of intelligence are more capable of questioning personal or systemic systems of belief, but I think that the intelligent are just about as likely to accept something on what I'll call, for lack of a better term, "faith" as someone of average intelligence.

Which does one choose? I would have said, at one point, that faith is the easy way out, but from personal experience, I know this is not the case. It takes effort to believe in something; to justify that belief. Theologians of incredible brilliance have devoted their lives to the task of reconciling religious faith with classical, and later, contemporary philosophy and science. Whether such efforts were sucessful or not is beside the point: not all people cling to belief because it's easier than questioning.

Many people seem to have a psychological need for certainty, even if it has to come in a package that isn't entirely pleasant. The amount of self-consistency and apparent "truth" in a belief system does, of course, differ among the many different belief systems. Some would sacrifice certainty that theirs is the "right one" for comfort or ease. I can appreciate the need for certainty, but I can't identify with people who display such a level of intellectual laziness.

My own need for certainty and intellectual honesty has caused me to reject every supposedly self-consistent and all-encompassing system of belief that I have studied. I cannot accept a system that isn't what it claims to be, and as has been proven by Kurt Godel, there cannot be a system that is complete unto itself. Mathematical logic- reason, as its application to philosophy is termed, however, comes closest to a faultless tool with which I can understand and evaluate things on an both an individual and a general level.

Even when one has chosen individualist reason as a path to truth, however, there are lines to be drawn and choices to be made. Do you believe in objective, absolute truth; subjective, interperative reality; or somewhere in between?

I am, by nature, a skeptic. I've been so since as early as I can remember. Believing anything is absolutely true is very difficult. On the other hand, constant questioning of your presumptions and beliefs is not only tiring, it's unproductive and quite simply, confusing.

The idea that there are multiple truths, that everyone's reality is subjective, is a seductive one. It tends to offer a easy fix to problems of conflict, of who is right and who is wrong. Pop philosophy is particularly fond of this approach. The other side of the coin is that truth does not, in fact, exist.

    From The Big Lebowski: "In a heightened state of awareness, this can start the path to enlightment, by showing that everything is just, like, your opinion, man. It's very subtle--your opinion could coincide with mine, but my opinion, no matter how firmly held, no matter how well reasoned, can't have any effect upon you at all. Unless you let it."

The problem with this is that everything is not just opinion. To quote one of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away."

In essence, reality is the brick wall that you can't walk through by believing that it does not exist. The rest is opinion. My goal is to question opinion and learn reality. Of course, this is done through a series of "approximate truths", of hypotheses and theories. I treat whatever my current belief set is as a temporary fix- if it works, if it's self-consistent, that's great, but I don't presume that it's Truth with a capital T. In a certain sense, though, the process of gaining knowledge is what it's really all about. We'll never reach the ultimate Truth, we'll never know the sum of knowledge, but perhaps the journey really IS the destination.