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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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About Bob Seidensticker
  • Bob Calvan

    For argument sake I will go with Bob’s definition of faith. ( which is not even close to the Christian position, as usuall another false caracture. Bob may want to look up Dr. Greg Bahnsen for the correct definition of Christian faith..The Late Dr. Bahnsen was a brilliant mind, and a professor of Philosophy and Theology). Using Bob’s definition of faith. Belief without suffiicient evidence.

    Bob believes the following by way more blind faith than any Christian:
    1) The universe came from Nothing..Nothing exploded and became something..
    2) Matter came from non-matter.
    3) Order came from non-order
    4) Life came from non-life,
    5) intellegence and reason came from Non-Intellegence.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Science does argue that life came from nonlife (abiogenesis). And order can come from nonorder (examples: sugar crystals precipitating out of solution or frost on a window).

      The cosmology stuff is nonsense, however. The Big Bang does not say that something came from nothing.

    • Retro

      Bob Calvan believes the following by way more blind faith than any Atheist:
      1) God made the Universe came from nothing.
      2) Matter came from a non-material God.
      3) God made order came from non-order.
      4) Physical life came from a non-physical form of life,
      5) Intellegence and reason came from God, and God’s intelligence and reason came from nowhere.

      How does “God” actually answer any of these questions? Where did God come from? How can God make matter from non-matter? Where did God’s life, order, intelligence, and reason come from?

      The answer of “God” is an excuse not to need or give any explanation at all.

      • Dain Q. Gore

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

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          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.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          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!!”

  • Jon Cohen

    Science does not argue that life can from non-life. That is a hypothesis with no evidence.

    I think the order that BobC is referring to is ask why does the universe observe physical laws, for example that entangled particles that are far apart instantaneously take the same state when observed.

    It seems to me that the atheist world view came about when science reached a point that a mechanistic view of the universe seemed plausible. But for that world view to work, you have to ignore a whole bunch of mysteries, such as the nature of reality, consciousness, and the origin or the universe. There really is not that big a difference between faith in no god versus faith in God.

    And I have no idea where you got the idea that faith brings and end to questioning. That comes out of Islam and a few other isolated religions. Judaism and Christianity are the opposite of that.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Abiogenesis is a hypothesis with zero evidence? I don’t think so. I’ll grant that it’s not hardly as well supported as germ theory or evolution, for example. But I suspect that it’s the scientific consensus.

      Science doesn’t ignore mysteries; that’s the point. Science tackles them, which is why we know so much more about reality and nature now. We learned all this from science, not religion. Consciousness, what came before the Big Bang, and so on are simply the latest tough challenges for science. Yes, there are questions to be answered. There always will be. But science makes progress against these questions. Religion … not so much.

      As for faith bringing an end to questioning (or not), I’m not sure what your question is. “God did it” is a conversation stopper. It’s the end of the line. That never spurred a scientist to dig further and find out what really caused it.

      • Jon Cohen

        Name one piece of evidence to support abiogenesis. Not little bits and pieces to support its plausibility, but actual evidence that it happened.

        And what is your evidence to support that Judaism or Christianity hindered science? A few isolated case of political conflicts 500 years ago doesn’t count. The role of God in the minds of people like Newton and Einstein is clear.

        There is a very interesting series of interviews of scientists on deep questions.
        http://www.counterbalance.org/cqinterv/scifaith-frame.html

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        As far as I know, there is no geological evidence of abiogenesis. Nevertheless, it’s the scientific consensus.

        I wasn’t saying that Christianity hindered science (although, now that you mention it, the example of stem cell research does spring to mind). My point was that science has given us new information about reality and continues to do so. Religion gives us nothing.

        Newton was clearly a Christian. Einstein was clearly not even a deist.

        • Dain Q. Gore

          “Religion gives us nothing.”

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

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          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.

  • Jon Cohen

    You can call Einstein whatever you want, but he pushed science forward based on thought experiments he came up with to try to establish the absurdity of quantum randomness in the face out how he viewed his impersonal God would behave.

    That resulted in real science, not the consensus with no evidence that you place your faith in.

    The restrictions on taxpayer funding of fetal stem research come from a pro-life position, which is not religion. There are pro-choice Christians as well as pro-life atheists. I became one of those long ago when I saw that there is not any legitimate rationale to deny the protection of life to the unborn, apart from rare cases of danger to the mother.

    To say that religion gave us nothing is in breathtaking contrast to the historical record.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      If your point was that “God” was just an imaginary constract in Einstein’s mind, invented to help with a thought experiment, I can accept that.

      If I’m right that abiogenesis is the scientific consensus (I think so; not sure), then I’m happy to accept whatever evidence science has put together to support that hypothesis.

      Are you saying that there’s no connection between the pro-life position and Christianity? Imagine a US without Christianity. Would there have been the outcry against stem cell research? I doubt it.

      I realize that religion has had an impact (don’t get me started!). What I said was that religion gave us nothing in the area of understanding about nature and reality.

      • Jon Cohen

        I cannot imagine a US without Christianity. One would assume it would a culture like the Vikings. I have no idea what such a place would think about taxpayer funding of fetal stem cell research. They would probably be fine with it as long as they could pillage it. In any case, fetal stem cell therapy to my knowledge has been a failure whenever it was tried.

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        Jon: So only Christianity is keeping the US from becoming a raping and pillaging country? What about all the other non-Christian countries (India, Japan, China, central and SE Asia, etc.)? They seem morally decent to me.

        IMO, funding for fetal stem cell research had been curtailed largely for Christian reasons.

        As for its effectiveness, I’d prefer we leave that evaluation to the experts. If they say that there’s promise there (keep in mind that they might find a treatment that improves your life or mine directly) then let’s fund that research as wisely as possible.

  • avalon

    “We know that reason is the Devil’s harlot, and can do nothing but slander and harm all that God says and does…” Martin Luther

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      I’m not going to tangle with Martin Luther!

      • avalon

        Locke put it best:
        “I find every sect, as far as reason will help them, makes use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, ‘It is a matter of faith and above reason’” Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        That’s a keeper. Thanks.

  • Jon Cohen

    “What about all the other non-Christian countries (India, Japan, China, central and SE Asia, etc.)?”

    From wiki:

    “A 2005 study estimated that over 90 million females were “missing” from the expected population in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan alone, and suggested that sex-selective abortion plays a role in this deficit”

    Is that the kind of world you are advocating?

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      We have abortion in the US as well.

      • 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

    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.”


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