Faith Shows the Emperor has No Clothes

The emperor parades around in public wearing his new (invisible) clothesSuppose a religion worshipped a god that didn’t exist.  How could it endure?  Wouldn’t it be immediately exposed as a fraud?

Not if it turned thinking on its head and argued that not reason but faith* is actually the proper way to look at the world, or at least the religious part of it.  Fellow believers would encourage this faith-trumps-reason worldview.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and just have faith!

Defending an invisible God and celebrating faith is exactly what Christians would do if their religion were manmade.  Faith is always the last resort.  If there were convincing evidence, Christians would be celebrating that, not faith.

Augustine said, “Do not understand so you may believe; instead believe so you may understand.”  But why?  You don’t do that in any other area of life.  You don’t pick a belief system first and then select facts to support it; it’s the other way around.  You follow the facts where they lead.

Faith is permission to believe without good reason.  Believing something because it is reasonable and rational requires no faith at all.  If you don’t have enough evidence to cross an intellectual gulf to the belief on the other side, and if only faith will get you there, then don’t cross that gulf.

It’s a bizarre world where faith not only trumps reason but is celebrated since we use reason all the time to get through life.  Only by using reason and following the evidence—that is, rejecting beliefs built on faith—did we build the technology-filled world we live in today.

In fact, faith is the worst decision-making and analytical tool possible.  You don’t use faith to cross a busy street, or learn French, or treat malaria.  It provides no method for distinguishing between true and false propositions.  Faith doesn’t provide a reliable answer but simply encourages an end to questioning.  It’s even worse than guessing, because with a guess, you’re at least open to revisiting a decision in the face of new evidence.  Not so with faith.

No one relies on faith unless their god weren’t just invisible but was actually nonexistent.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

*By faith, I mean belief without sufficient evidence.  Christians might respond that their definition of faith is identical to that for trust: belief in accord with sufficient evidence.  In my experience, however, Christians use each of these definitions for faith, switching them as necessary.  If they only stuck to the idea that faith and trust were identical, that might clear up a lot of problems.

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  • Dain Q. Gore

    Note he used the qualifier ” sex-selective abortion.” Do we have data that supports gender-based abortions in the U.S.?

  • Dain Q. Gore

    “Religion gives us nothing.”

    From your selective experience, perhaps. But you cannot speak for “us” any more than I can.

    • Dain:

      But you cannot speak for “us.”

      It’s a fairly objective thing we’re talking about. Does religion give us new information about reality? As far as I can tell, it doesn’t.

      • Dain Q. Gore

        I guess that depends on how we define reality based on qualia.

  • Dain Q. Gore

    To both Atheist and Religious: sometimes it really is okay to just say “I don’t know.”

    • Scientists say that all the time. That certainly works for me.

      I think it’s the religious that need to hear your message.

      • Dain Q. Gore

        I have been guilty of making a blanket statement, as the nature of your followup points out to me more clearly the mistake I’ve made here.

        Perhaps “more” religious need to hear this, but to say *the* religious is to imply that none ever say “I don’t know.”

        That statement ascribes qualities to the whole using only the data from the ones that are vocal about their certainty as evidence. By that standard, I would be able to do the same of scientists if I used the data set of those whose theories have been proven wrong yet (vocally) insist in their veracity. But then, I imagine they wouldn’t be called scientists anymore…except Einstein himself did just that near the end of his life.

        We also cannot know what they truly say to themselves in their minds, despite what they may say out loud (which again, is an issue of qualia). Certainly in *some* (again, not all) religious sects vocally admitting you have doubt (a.k.a. telling the truth) is tantamount to blasphemy.

        • Perhaps “more” religious need to hear this, but to say *the* religious is to imply that none ever say “I don’t know.”

          I don’t know that it implies that, but anyway, that’s certainly not what I meant. I meant that the comfort with saying “I don’t know” is a lot higher in the atheist community than with the Christian community.

          Let me admit that it might be more complicated. Maybe that’s just an illusion with Christians trying to plug every hole with “God dun it!!”

  • Dain Q. Gore

    Re: Not changing your beliefs or decision-making based on faith.

    In this view of how religion works, as if it exists in a vacuum. (or sterile petri dish if you will), If religion (or let’s say, a system of faith codified) were this completely rigid, and not really just another symptom of the human condition, subject to all those flaws, flexibility, and all-around searching, I wonder why:

    -Denominations are formed, often from a new interpretation of a single passage
    -There are Reformations at all, ever
    -Why the Catholic Church makes declarations on how they changed their minds about things (funny though they often are, they still do so)
    -Why there is text within modern Torah readings that include multiple interpretations of the text (Midrash)
    -Why some religions (such as Buddhism) encourage you to question everything around you

    These examples are just a few of my favorite things I wonder about when Atheists selectively attribute qualities to what is called “Religion.”