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College Humor points out how one particular group of people is always obsessing over minutiae, quoting old source material to back up certain arguments, and abstaining from pre-marital sex…
(Thanks to Alex for the link!)
Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.
“point is, there’s nothing wrong with faith” …um.. yes, yes there is. By definition it means believing without evidence (or even in spite of the evidence)
I caught that too
That is not, in fact, what faith means. In actuality faith does not necessarily preclude the possibility of evidence, but rather refers more closely to “trust”. In any case, the more relevant argument is whether it’s reasonable to live according to faith.
Every year, 40,000 people DIE in a car crash each year. There are literally millions of sets of credit card information at the disposal of criminals. I’m acquainted with a former soldier (hit man) for a derivative of the Gambino crime family that told me about the extent of organized credit fraud in the US. I, myself, have had my credit card falsely billed for items I haven’t used. Every time you drive your car, take a walk, or swipe your credit card, that is an act of faith. By using this computer, you put yourself at risk for any number of negative consequences, particularly when connected to the internet.
I myself am a researcher. I present my original research at multiple conferences a year, have published in several international health journals and have given years of my life working for free to create this contribution to public knowledge. I do it because I believe, without proof, that maybe it will help mental well-being throughout the world. I live a life of faith, in essence, and my life is no poorer or more ignorant for it.
Every business that has ever been created was built and operates on the foundation of faith. It is SO easy to walk out of a store with a small purchase. If everyone did it, the business would collapse. Every researcher, author, artist, everyone that has pushed the world forward did it as an act of faith, that their contribution would mean something. From the perspective of business, art, creativity, the social and practical innovation in the world, faith is the foundation and necessary condition of action.
Did you know that elderly white men have the highest rates of suicide in the United States? I believe that this is often the case because in many cases they reflect on what they’ve done with their lives and, instead of seeing the collective work of something meaningful, they see a long history of compromises and petty gains. It is a life of faith that creates a lifetime of meaning, and it is faith in the twilight hours that can inspire the elderly to serve some meaningful purpose, rather than end their years.
I accept that you likely are not disparaging the life of faith that you and I live but rather faith in God, whatever “God” is. From the perspective of emotional health, certainly enough studies have shown that a sense of spiritual faith is a predictor of psychological and emotional health (see work by Seligman, Keyes among others). Furthermore, faith-based social support is also an excellent way to recover from depression or prevent an onset. Perhaps you simply don’t believe there IS a God, again using any definition. At this point it essentially degenerates into two faith-based camps, as per Pascal’s Wager: both atheists and theists are waging based on faith, neither able to prove their position. I have yet to see any evidence that there ISN’T a God, and in point of actual fact it would be literally impossible to prove something does not exist.
So, both you and the religious faithful live lives of faith (trust) in each other, in our society, in our views of the world. It just so happens that faith in God also leads to a sense of meaning and purpose, as empirical evidenced.
Having faith/trust in a lie is better than not? You sure you want to use that argument?
Either way it’s incredibly cynical to say that some people just need God let alone everyone.
I don’t actually understand your second comment. I never said anyone NEEDED God, and even if they did I don’t see how that’s cynical.
In any case my point is that to say God is true/a lie are both acts of faith, and that every human being lives a life of faith. My point was a defense and exploration of the nature and role of faith, not to prove that God exists.
Certainly, though, I have not argued on behalf of a lie, although if you can present empirical evidence that it is a lie than I will gladly accept it.
You’re trying to use examples in everyday life to demonstrate that faith is both common and good. I’ll give you an example to demonstrate why belief in God is useless. There is a bird like creature that watches out for all of us. It created the Milky Way Galaxy along with his bird brothers and sisters who created all the rest. You can’t see this bird or touch him. This bird will take me in his beak when I die and I will become part of the atoms he uses to create more stars and ultimately life. This makes me very happy as it gives purpose to my life.
Do you in everyday life believe in this bird? Any sane person would say no, and anyone who said yes and justifies it with faith need not be looked upon with understanding. I’m sure you know the God comparisons to Unicorns and tea pots.
If given the tools no one on this planet should need to believe in something that can’t be demonstrated to feel important and loved. The foundation of their belief system should be honest and empirical, because what happens if that belief is shattered?
It may be that belief in GOD, specifically, is a lie, but this point is tangential. My comment addressed faith as an aspect of life, and the preceding comment addressed God not at all in any way whatsoever, but rather disparaged faith as a whole. The two comments addressed faith, withouth applying it to God.
If you would like to have a debate upon the existence of God, that is a completely separate topic. While I’m game for having it, I would like to note that my response to a critique of faith was to defend the role of faith as a foundation for the functioning of society and many avowed atheist artists, businessmen and the like.
In any case, I present two arguments to your comment.
The first is that a belief in God is not “useless”, as it leads to greater emotional well-being. I will HAPPILY provide references to support this conclusion, from my own published research and the research of others.
The second is that your disbelief of God is just as faith-based as belief of God, if we accept that premise that faith is trust without evidence.
Your playing with words. All of your examples deal with the possible. Faith that your business will succeed. Faith that your actions will have impact down the road. Faith in God requires an actual leap of faith as many hear would understand it. A leap into the supernatural and/or entirely unknown/impossible.
I have no doubt that for some people belief in a God provides happiness, but as I said before there are secular alternatives. We don’t need to build this foundation with unsupported ideas.
But many of these acts of faith that you describe have proven themselves–one can perhaps be more confident in the faith because acts of faith of theirs or like theirs have been fruitful in the past.
Business may require faith, but it is not a complete shot in the dark–previous successful business and the non-collapsing of society suggest that the odds are decent.
I’ve not had my information stolen (yet), and thus am a little more supported in my faith that continuing to use the internet. I know the odds can be rough, and ways to manipulate them slightly, so my faith may or may not not be well-placed.
In the event that act of faith fails, it is not necessarily the end of the trust. It certainly adjusts the odds and tempers the faith (hopefully). A business may fail, information stolen, research flunk–but that such similar actions have before succeed suggests that adjustment of the odds and another toss of the dice can result in success.
My point here is that religious faith, in contrast to a kind of everyday faith (my floor will there when I awake, my vehicle will not explode, my house will not be burgled), has not been, in a sense, successful, ever. It is a faith in something that has been thus far shown to not exist or not work (faith itself may be inspiring, and prayer may be therapeutic, but God is thus far superfluous and prayer fails).
Religious faith, for any benefits it may present, is unfounded/misguided. The (perhaps relative) judgement then, I think, is that this unfounded nature of religious faith outweighs any benefits that faith may present (and which some argue are not unique to religious/spiritual faith)
I have not found a reference to God in the comment that preceded mine, and only a minority of my comment addressed God. I will, however, address a number of limitations in your comment.
As to whether or not faith is God is successful, success relies upon the meeting of a standard of effectiveness. For instance, if I have faith that God will bless me such that I survive when in a war zone or disease, it’s hard to argue that this faith wasn’t supported. The correct argument then is not that faith in God “has not been, in a sense, successful, ever” but rather that the standards by which we evaluate the presence of God have thus far been lax.
As to the cost/benefit analysis of the value of faith, I would tip my hat to the brillance of Albert Camus, atheist founder of Absurdism who posited that the ultimate question in life is whether we should commit suicide. If we choose to life, it necessitates the creation of a value system. If we chose not to live, we accept that there are no meaningful values for which to live. Life is the foundation of philosophy and meaning. I would say, therefore, that if faith in God allows one to persevere in the face of major depressive disorder, PTSD, or any circumstances in which he feels compelled to commit suicide, than for that individual faith in God has outweighed the potential for that belief proving false.
I don’t see how you’ve addressed any limitations. God also doesn’t feature prominently in my comment, either. I’m in agreement that the effectiveness of religious faith is judged depends on the system and criteria, etc..
My main objection was against the lumping together of all faith. Living according to proven faith can be very different than living according to unproven faith (whether that be in deities, aliens, or anything else).
For some, it may be more reasonable to live only to probable faiths, rather than to “persist in delusion”.
to your final example: I suppose I’m happy an individual perseveres–though I’m disappointed that the real world wasn’t enough.
Hmmm…now my brain can’t help but move the secular argument of (unfounded) faith being fine until it moves beyond the self.
It may be great that a circle of people make it through troubles together; but if they also all believe in a soon-to-be psychic union with the Great Masters beneath the Earth, and choose public policy on that, well, then it’s not so great, I don’t think.
I will grant you that, as with theory, there are different meanings of the word faith. I have faith society will not crumble tomorrow -unless zombies come- but that is not blind religious faith. It is inductive reasoning.
Now, yes, there’s a sense that induction relies on “faith” that past experience can provide a guide to potential future experience.
- I will wake up tomorrow morning because I have woken up every morning for years –
there will come a day when that is not true and is never true again (or will there? the idea that I will die is based on similar inductive reasoning – all living creatures in the past have eventually died)
Like Brian said, expecting the floor to still be there can *technically* be defined as a form of faith.
But not the type that I meant.
I did not mention god, but I did mention “in the absence of evidence.” The floor has a *great* track record. It’s been “answering my prayer” – please hold me and my furniture up – for years!
One should be in general, though, parsimonious in wielding faith. If you start a business, it is advisable to have a business plan. If you jump out of an airplane, it is wise to have previously checked your chute. If you ask someone to marry you, you will find that such things work out better if you had previously dated. If you believe in God, it is better if your beliefs are more moderate and less rigidly defined. How do I know these things? I guess I accept them on faith . Or perhaps it is based on my personal temperament. Some say hell-fire awaits me because of my parsimonious faith. I say they rely too heavily on their faith.
“That is not, in fact, what faith means”
It is in fact what faith means, within the context of god belief. Since,
near the end of your comment you acknowledge the context of the
conversation, I find it disingenuous of you to attempt to widen the
applicable meaning of faith for the paragraphs preceding it. However,
since you did make the attempt, I will try to address it.
There is a sense of the word ‘faith’ that aligns itself with trust. When
I make a transaction ‘in good faith’, it really does mean that I am
trusting that the aspects of the transaction not under my control will
go off as expected. The point you fail to acknowledge is that this faith
is conditional to continued good experience.
You mention the number of fatal car accidents without mentioning that
there are billions spent each year on car safety measures, driver
education and road repair, or the fact that the vast majority of drives
don’t result in a car accident, and a large part of the danger of the
road is controlled by the driver themselves.
A sober view of the credit card system can show a similar structure. You
can in fact take care that your credit card details are not stolen, and
take care that, if they are, you can block them as soon as possible.
You can choose to do business with credit companies that offer credit
protection, which minimizes any risk you have to almost negligible
Every business has to deal with the spectre of theft, but most of them
actually use preventative measures. closed circuit cameras, accounting
oversight, security guards are ubiquitous these days.
My computer has an up-to-date antivirus and my data is backed up
regularly with multiple redundancies. Any misstep I have had online has
most of the time only cost me the time to re-setup my system.
All of these elements are not element of faith, they are elements of
doubt, and the actions they describe show a person who is doing all that
is reasonably possible reduce risk. While you may state that the
existence of even some uncertainty makes these faith positions, it
ignores the facts of the case, that are that people making rational
choices based on facts that they know, not on intuitions about what they
Now lets go to the issue of god belief. Here we have a different use of
faith. Here, we have believers claiming ‘faith’ to be why they
hold certain beliefs in the absence or even in contradiction to reason
Quoting apologist philosopher William Lane Craig: “If my reason turned against Christ, I’d still believe. My faith is too real”
Lets transpose this use of faith to the above examples:
A person with this type of faith in their ability to drive, can enter a car with no air bag, without
having had driving lessons, without wearing a seat belt, and without actually looking at the road, begin to roll.
A person with this type of faith in the safety of their credit card safety could
velcro his credit card on his sleeve for convenience, or post the number on his facebook page.
A company with this type of faith in their customers will leave the doors open and the lights on at night when they leave.
A person with this type of faith in their computer safety will install
any program a stranger on the internet sends them, without an antivirus
program, and eventually be on a first name basis with several Nigerian
In every example above, the use of faith as described by Dr. Craig above
would be described by almost everyone as from naive gullibility, to
dangerous stupidity. It is only in religious settings that this type of
faith is lauded and considered a reliable source of knowledge.
Faith in the first sense is a necessary acknowledgement of our ignorance.
Faith in the second sense is an abhorrent embrace of ignorance.
It is quite frankly an insult to your own intelligence to conflate the
two uses of ‘faith’ by pretending they mean the same thing.
Your statement about faith-based lives is interesting. In any case, your
argument here is that faith (in the second sense, as using faith in the
first sense is nonsensical) gives a person purpose. Whats interesting
about it is that it doesn’t necessitate the truth of the purpose, just
the belief in its truth, which I suppose is what led to the accusation
of cynicism. Yet there are perfectly secular purposes a man can have,
to educate, to pass on wisdom, to serve as a foal point in extended
families, as well as other actions in the community. Indeed several of
these roles are often fulfilled through churches, but they do not
require a religious setting, nor do they require belief in gods. To
address another comment you made, belief in god is not useless, but it
is, in my opinion superfluous.
In your final paragraph you bring up a version of Pascal’s wager,
putting two different faiths against each other, like two equal and
counter-opposing forces that negate each other. As I have shown however,
the two ‘faiths’ in question are not the same thing at all.
The atheist position is a tentative position of disbelief, based on the
sum of the empirical data at their disposal, and a faith (in the first
sense) that our observations are valid, that we are not in fact living
in the Matrix, or as a brain in a jar, or in some god’s dream, or any
other non-falsifiable claim. The theist position is one with similar
faith in the first sense that their observations are valid, but in
addition, faith in the second sense, that their subjective
non-falsifiable beliefs about the universe are true, regardless of any
other empirical data at their disposal.
This is the conflict posed by atheists. It is true that not all theists
fall into the same camp, or don’t fall in it to the same degree, but as
my quote of Dr. Craig shows, this is not a fringe position. It does not
help matters to try and equivocate between senses of the word ‘faith’ to
try and define the problem out of existence.
I apologize for the wonky formating, I don’t know how to fix it.
They should have included British soccer fans, now that is a dangerous lot.
Not really – hasn’t been for about twenty years – although the stereotype lives on. When it comes to dangerous football supporters you ought to look elsewhere – Italy, for example, is (and arguably always has been) far more dangerous.
i’ll admit i’m a who nut lol
you made me think of this its from when westboro protested comic con
here is the image didn’t know you couldn’t paste into comments
Okay, this literally made me laugh out loud.
I have actually thought before about the fact that, while we fandom people fight over our interpretations of the books we love, we don’t star wars over them.
“Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything—anything—be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.” (Sam Harris, End of Faith, Ch 1, p. 35-6)Seriously, though, I wonder if people in various fandoms (The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, etc.) know more about their source material/canon than most religious people do about their holy books. I wonder this, because if I had never read the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies, I would not claim to be a fan, since it would seem weird for me to say I liked a book I’d never read, but people say they agree with the Bible, Qur’an, etc. all the time even if they haven’t read it.
I know more about Harry Potter than most religious people know about the Bible…
Then again, I have read the complete book series several times, most religious people haven’t read the Bible once.
That’s an interesting point, and it points out a fundamental difference between religious faith and being a nerd/fan. The key requirement for being of a religion is the acceptance of its core claims, with a detailed understanding of them being much less important. If you believe that Jesus was the son of God (or God incarnate) who was sacrificed for the sins of man, you are a Christian, even if you believe, like half of American teenagers, that Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
Being a nerd does not require faith in the truth of Star Trek/LOTR/WoW/ext., so your level of dedication is exclusively defined by how much you know and how much time you dedicate to it. In fact, nerd-cred is entirely knowledge based, even if that knowledge is largely about imaginary facts like Uruk hai being the cross of orcs with men.
“we don’t star wars over them”
I see what you did there.
I swear that was an honest mistake! I didn’t even realize it before, but now it’s making me laugh.
Damn that was funny.
Though I do have to say, if I had the choice between living under Fundie Command or Starfleet Command I’m going with the Federation; holodecks, replicators, and beam me up Scotty FTW!!! :-)
Hmmm, I wonder if my old Starfleet outfit still fits? lol
PS: Kirk vs Picard, screw that! Captain Spock all the way. :-D
The Federation has the special advantage of being what essentially amounts to a technologically advanced humanist society, closely matching Rodenberry’s own ideals. You’ll notice that in TNG, religion almost inevitably shows up being limiting, if not outright destructive, and there are some pretty impressive rants against it. This is not a coincidence but was quite deliberate on Rodenberry’s part.
And this concludes me proving College Humor’s point for them.
altho Avery was the shit on DS9, too.
Yeah, I liked Janeway too. I honestly never got why people have such a “hate on” for Voyager. Sure, some of the episodes were cheese central but then if you watch the original series with an open mind at lot of those were pretty much cheese central too.
That being said she’s no Spock.
To a little kid who was emotionally tormented by just about everyone because he was a little smarter and different than everyone else, the logical man who had amazing control of his emotions was a great role model.Pete…
PS: Totally 100% agree about Sisko.
Deep Space 9 and Voyager are awesome.
So is the problem that the religion nerds are louder than most nerds?
The problem is… politics. We need political leaders to start going after the Trek vote. (If not that, then make political leaders realize that pandering to the religious will not get them them the popular vote.)
The other difference: Even the biggest StarWars geek / Potter Fan knows that it’s not real.
“So is the problem that the religion nerds are louder than most nerds?” Kind of, I guess you’re right.
Yea… as much as I wish it were real, it’s not.
I… I am totally these people in before/after form.
As an arch nerd I resent this revelation…
I’m a little concerned about how closely I match the nerd-nerd archetype; I have a Firefly DVD in the mail for a friends birthday, would have played settlers of catan yesterday except there were too many of us, and have been known to prance around in cosplay gear. I accept this comparison exclusively because I know that the people at College Humor are über-nerds and hence they can say shit like this.
I have been known to spread the Good Word about “Firefly” too and lend my DVDs around. I made several converts
A common saying that all Browncoats have two DVD sets. One for themselves and one to lend to friends. I don’t fit that stereotype though
Settlers of Catan is a good game. Much prefer it to most of the newer ones.
Oh, wait, what was this blog post about again? :p
I freaking love Settlers. I purchased as a gift for my husband’s birthday, and most nights you can catch us makin’ it rain with sheep and wheat. ^_^
Religions, Worlds largest LAARPs
I wonder if it was just a coincidence that when people were starting to pray, the priest was suddenly surrounding by little boys.
thanks for this video, FA. i laughed out loud. as a proud Geek/Nerd, i completely confess that sometimes, arguing over the finer points of LOTR or DS9, i sound like a fundie. and it’s true, there have been times when i’ve been tempted to murder a fellow gamer, for a heretical interpretation of the meaning of some character in our common ‘history.’
But I like nerds.
I’ve though the same thing when I’ve come across people of various christian denominations arguing and throwing bible quotes at each other to prove their points.
As for the premarital sex line, I have a friend (no, seriously, it really is a friend and not me) who’s very into BDSM, and she tells me that the community is full of nerds. Just though I’d throw that out there.
For what it’s worth, Greta Christina has already pointed out the similaritiesbetween apologetics/theology and fanfic, or the way the fans of a series can rationalize every plot hole and inconsistency.
Give it a couple of centuries, a few apocalyptic wars to destroy civilization, and the next religions may have Dumbledore in Abraham’s place. (his track record with sacrifice is much better anyhow)
Patton Oswalt made the same connection, using just one example, not this many.
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