If you’re reading this article, and have not yet read my article about evidence, I would recommend you read that one first. It just flows better. And especially if you are religious, please read that one first because I already covered many objections you may have in reading this article alone. Thanks.
So, what is faith? One definition is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” That’s the general definition. Another definition is “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” I’d like to dwell on those last three words for a second, “rather than proof.” As you will be aware if you did read my article on evidence, there is no evidence for god. So faith is belief absent that evidence.
Now I read on another blog (that I refuse to mention because he blocks comments) that us evil “new atheists” had managed to change the definition as of late to include the lack of proof bit, so I checked the 1913 Webster’s which said “(Judeo-Christian Theol.) The belief in the historic truthfulness of the Scripture narrative, and the supernatural origin of its teachings, sometimes called historical and speculative faith.” The 1828 Webster says “Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence.”
So at least for the last 190 years, the religious definition has included the idea that there was no reliable proof or evidence to support the belief. And since we know there is no evidence for God, that pretty much could be the only definition. If there WAS evidence for God, the definition could be changed to include it!
So why do people put so much stock in faith? Well, to be fair, most people probably don’t spend their day looking up the definitions. But honestly, it seems they think faith is evidence. It’s not evidence, of course, because there is nothing you can’t believe based on faith. Faith points toward anything, and it rules out nothing.
But it could also be because faith feels personal. It gives believers a personal touch to their religious experience. And it gives rise to statements like “I just feel it”, when describing why they believe. The feeling, taken as evidence, is reinforced every day in our culture, where faith- the most illogical, uninformed, and flawed pathway to belief- is considered a good thing. And not just a good thing, it’s a celebrated thing!
The Christian proposition, boiled down to it’s basic components, is belief that a Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a woman was convinced by a talking serpent to eat from a magical tree. I know it sounds really silly, but this honestly is what Christianity is based on. When Christians try to “save” you, this is what they really mean, even if they never put it together that way.
And here’s the damnedest thing about it, despite there being no evidence for any of this, it is this very proposition that a denial of will prevent you from holding public office in the United States. As Sam Harris has said, and I will paraphrase him here, it doesn’t matter what your qualifications otherwise. You can be highly intelligent, movingly charismatic, exceptionally appealing in appearance, and exceedingly competent on public policy matters, but just uttering “I don’t believe it” to this silly proposition is political suicide. Believing in another completely made up and evil god is passively acceptable, mind you. You just have to believe in one of them. But why? Why is faith important?
Nobody celebrates credulity. It’s looked down upon. Yet the definitions of credulity and faith are almost exactly the same. I say “almost” because faith IS credulity, just specifically on the subject of religion. And credulity is a subcomponent of gullibility. They are all related.
In what other aspect of our lives do we celebrate gullibility? Not at work. Not in relationships. Not when shopping. Not when parenting. Not when investing. Yet if we are credulous about the most important question for mankind, that’s just cool? WTF?
Seriously, it has got to be the height of narcissism to assume that of all the thousands of religions out there, and the thousands of denominations of each religion, that YOU (a religious person) have used the processes of gullibility to arrive at the right answer! This is not humility, this is smugness.
So maybe that’s why they value faith so much. With faith, they get to pretend they have the right answer! It reminds me of the 5 different Republican candidates that all said they got a message from God that he would make them the next President. So, either their faith didn’t give them the right answer and they were wrong, or God is a jerk and intentionally made them look wrong, or God doesn’t exist and they were wrong. There are your options.
So, religious people, if I roll my eyes when you tell me I just need to have faith, it’s because I’ve seen the application of faith. You are literally telling me to be gullible, and I won’t do it.
The Spartan Atheist