Suppose 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 discourages further questions. 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.
The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic
is no more to the point than the fact
that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
— George Bernard Shaw
(This is an updated post that originally appeared 10/7/11.)
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 stuck to just one, that might clear up a lot of problems.