Faith & why it is not a good guide to reality

There are many definitions for the word faith. There’s the “faith that” as in “I have faith that my brakes will work if I step on them.” That would be the everyday-expectations use of the word.

There’s the “faith in” version, as in “I have faith in my husband” meaning that “I believe in his character” or “I value him as an honest man.”

Coming back to our proposed “conversation” of the last chapter, try to find out what your loved one has “faith in”. I’m sure you will be very proud to know that most of the things that you value, they value as well.

Religious faith, however, is a different thing altogether. Religious Faith is saying “I believe something even though I don’t have a good, evidential reason to do so.” If you did have evidence, it wouldn’t require faith, would it? Religious Faith is convincing yourself that you don’t need evidence for things that you’re told are real. Incredible things, like souls, an afterlife, resurrection, transubstantiation and sin. Mark Twain famously once said that “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” He was referring to this kind of faith. From here on out, I’ll refer to Religious Faith with a capital F.

During the conversation that you’ll have with your non-believing loved one, you will probably come to the point where you say “That’s why you have to have Faith! You just need to believe in what the pastor (father, imam, prophet, etc.) says, and everything will be fine!” But, ALL the world’s religious leaders will tell you to have Faith that what they preach is true. Also, the things that they preach contradict one another; they can’t possibly all be correct.

If there is only one God, and he only has one means of salvation, and only one message, then why are there over 10,000 religions in the world? And why are there more than 30,000 different Christian sects in America alone? Does God want all the believers of all the other religions and sects to go to hell when they do no more than practice the dictates of their own Faith?

If you think about it, you can use Faith to believe anything you want to believe. The multitude of religions on the planet each have preachers, priests, or shamans telling their followers that the book that they are holding represents the one and only truth. Faith is what your preacher says you must have so that you’ll believe that, and all the other stuff he wants to tell you.

Arthur C Clarke once said that “A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.”

However, I think that Dr. Peter Boghossian summed it up best: “Faith is pretending to know things you don’t know.” The next time you hear someone say “I have faith that Jesus is coming back soon,” what they are actually saying is, “I’m pretending to know that Jesus is coming back soon.”

Don’t forget that Religious Faith is responsible for a huge number of human atrocities:

  • The parents in Jim Jones’ People’s Temple (a Christian Church in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978) were relying on Faith when they gave poisoned Kool-Aid to their children. A total of 918 people died, including more than 300 children, expressly due to an act of Religious Faith. Leo Ryan, the only congressman ever to be assassinated in the line of duty, was murdered there trying to help some of his constituents escape that doomed cult.
  • David Koresh told his followers to have Faith that he was the Returned Christ in Waco, Texas when they were arming themselves to fight the federal government. Seventeen of these victims were children under the age of 17.
  • Faith is up-front and personal during the stoning of Islamic women and the beheading of infidels in the Middle East.
  • Brandi and Russel Bellew had Faith that God would heal their child, and so did not call a doctor when their 16-year-old son’s appendix burst. He died after days of terrible agony.
  • Members of the Amish religion have Faith that God doesn’t want them to have more than an eighth-grade education and so they deny higher education to their children.
  • Look at the September 11th, 2001, massacre in New York and Washington, D.C. Those Muslim people had Faith that their actions would hasten and ensure their entry into eternal bliss. But what they actually did was throw away the only life they had, in an act of Faith.

Space prohibits me from presenting more examples here, but I could go on and on. I’m sure you could think of many more examples if you tried.

Religious leaders tell their congregations to look to Faith to give them the answers they need. However, Faith does not give you answers; it simply keeps you from asking questions.

Dr. Charlie Web wrote in his article Think for yourself:

“Faith is nothing more than thought control, and blind faith is legalized slavery… To find the truth we simply need to think for ourselves and examine the evidence. Evidence is everything.

“All the world’s evidence tells us that whoever wrote the Bible and whoever wrote the Quran knew absolutely nothing about geography, geology, astronomy, biology, or evolution. They thought their world was flat. They shared the profound ignorance of their time, and yet we are told to have Faith that these primitive people knew more than we do. Only blind faith could swallow such a yarn.”

Also, by appealing to Faith, you admit that whatever claim you are asserting cannot be defended or supported by evidence or logic. If you had evidence or logic to support that claim, you wouldn’t need Faith, and wouldn’t bother mentioning it. However, once you admit that neither evidence nor logic supports what you’re saying, you are admitting that you’re being irrational and your claim should not be taken seriously.

When religious leaders can’t sell you on the idea of blindly accepting Religious Faith, they will resort to defaming Reason itself. The father of Protestantism, and one of the most famous of religious leaders of all time, Martin Luther, called Reason a “whore”:

“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute; the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed; she and her wisdom… Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.” – Works, Erlangen Edition v. 16, PP. 142-148.

Reason is the one thing that elevates us above the animals, and Martin Luther would have us turn a deaf ear to it; to deny it totally in favor of Faith.

Indeed, the only way one could possibly defeat Reason would be to use reasoned argument, not personify it then use ad hominem attacks against it, as Martin Luther does.

Even Thomas Paine knew, over 200 years ago, that Reason was necessary to determine truth, and that the religious person lacked or denied their Reason: “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” – The Age of Reason

While it is true that Religious Faith sometimes has its usefulness, in hard times people have relied upon it to get them through those times. But it should never be used to determine what is real. It may be useful, but it is never a reliable path to reality.

If you don’t read the Bible through the lens of Religious Faith, what real basis do you have for believing that the Bible is the word of an omniscient being? God doesn’t seem to know about germs, electricity, or sanitation, nor anything about physics and the larger cosmos, knowledge that scientists, and indeed most citizens of the world today, take for granted.

From a moral standpoint, the God of the Bible condones slavery, orders the killing of women and children, and says we should stone homosexuals and unruly children to death. Even Jesus, in the New Testament, tells us to abandon our families and possessions, and live for the next life, all based on Faith.

One other thing. As shown above. there is a very definite cost to accepting the claims of your religion on Faith. Because of Faith, you are building a wall between yourself and everyone else who doesn’t believe the things that you take on Faith. For instance, you have to believe that atheists, and people of other religions, are going to hell. You further have to believe that they are harmful not only because they don’t share your Faith, but that they could spread that disbelief to others. These beliefs cost you not only their friendship, but actually place obstacles in the way of accepting any overtures of kindness from them.

The Bible tells us that we must have Faith; i.e. we must believe!! It positively demands it; upon pain of death and eternal torture.

But answer me honestly, is that something that you think the Creator of the Universe would command? Do you really think He would care what the inhabitants of one infinitesimally small planet, in this grand universe of trillions of planets, believe?

Conversely, it would be vitally important to a preacher whose income and position are directly tied to what he can get you to believe. Remember, every holy book ever written was written by the preachers of that time.