What I Think About Faith And Religion

What I Think About Faith And Religion September 2, 2011

Yesterday, I wrote a post to orient readers to my views on how values can be matters of fact. This afternoon I wrote 6 more such posts, delineating my positions on a number of other key topics which can serve as introductions and reference guides (with links) to my thinking. They are on the topics of the relationships between philosophy, science, and faith, the nature of my atheism and my views on the debates about gods’ existences, my views on how to relate to liberal and moderate religious people, my views on the importance of atheist activism, and my defense of actively trying to persuade people of atheism.  Below is a brief clarification about my opposition to faith and optimism about the possibilities for faithless religion and a list of posts in my “Disambiguating Faith” series which debunks one by one numerous good things which are equivocated with “faith” when apologists try to defend it. They try to get you to agree that mental or social habit x is good and sometimes called “faith”, so therefore all the other things called faith are also analogously good. I painstakingly throughout the series address each of these equivocations as I come across them.

Now, on with the most basic clarifications:

I am anti-faith.

I define faith specifically and narrowly as the willful explicit or implicit willingness to believe propositions that the believer perceives to be either unsupported by scientific, historical and/or philosophical evidence and argumentation or has good reason to suspect are undermined by such evidence and argumentation. I think this is a form of intellectual vice. When one’s faith-based beliefs and faith-based practices are chosen out of deference to an authority who offers no independently verifiable reasons or evidence, this is a deeply irresponsible authoritarianism of thought and practice. Religions, insofar as they cultivate and depend upon such irrationalistic and anti-rationalistic vices are authoritarian institutions which threaten to stagnate or outright regress moral and intellectual progress.

Faith poisons religion but I hold out hope for non-faith-based religiosity.

“Religion” is a word for many interrelated but distinguishable and separable practices. Rituals, myths, symbols, communal identities, narratives about meaning, discussion of ethics, traditions, disciplines for personal cultivation, meditations, festivals, songs, worship, prayer, gods, metaphysical speculation, and faith are just some of the many things it encompasses. Many of these things could be put to good use and in service of truths about ethics, truths about reality, truths about objective attainment of meaning and fulfillment, truths about how to reach rich mental states people call “spiritual”.

But religions are often dragged down by faith—the commitment to believing what is not likely to be true at all. Purified of faith and purified of the deference to authoritarianism which it inculcates and reinforces in people, I hope that rationalists will be able to develop open-ended pluralities of religions through which people can gain the benefits of traditions and rituals and communities built around ethics, meaning, and (rationally understood) “spiritual” practices. I think there are empirical and philosophically robust, truth-based narratives about all these things that can be advanced and there can be rituals through which the young learn not the ossifying and surpassed values of primitive peoples but the values of autonomy, flourishing, the interconnectedness of all people, etc.

For my views on how to constructively approach religion and spirituality beyond faith, see my posts True Religion?,  Towards Atheistic Religions (Or Away From Them, Depending On How YouOn Defending True Spirituality And Taking The Word Back From Spiritually Bankrupt FundamentalismI Am Interviewed About My Personal (Atheistic) Religiosity/Spirituality, and Is It A Waste Of Time For Atheists To Care About Spirituality?

For more on faith, read any post in my “Disambiguating Faith” series.  It is unnecessary to read all its posts to understand any given one.

Trustworthiness, Loyalty, And Honesty

Faith As Loyally Trusting Those Insufficiently Proven To Be Trustworthy

Faith As Tradition

Blind Faith: How Faith Traditions Turn Trust Without Warrant Into A Test Of Loyalty

The Threatening Abomination Of The Faithless

Rational Beliefs, Rational Actions, And When It Is Rational To Act On What You Don’t Think Is True

Faith As Guessing

Are True Gut Feelings And Epiphanies Beliefs Justified By Faith?

Faith Is Neither Brainstorming, Hypothesizing, Nor Simply Reasoning Counter-Intuitively

Faith In The Sub-, Pre-, Or Un-conscious

Can Rationality Overcome Faith?

Faith As A Form Of Rationalization Unique To Religion

Faith As Deliberate Commitment To Rationalization

Heart Over Reason

Faith As Corruption Of Children’s Intellectual Judgment

Faith As Subjectivity Which Claims Objectivity

Faith Is Preconditioned By Doubt, But Precludes Serious Doubting

Soul Searching With Clergy Guy

Faith As Admirable Infinite Commitment For Finite Reasons

Maximal Self-Realization In Self-Obliteration: The Existential Paradox of Heroic Self-Sacrifice

How A Lack Of Belief In God May Differ From Various Kinds Of Beliefs That Gods Do Not Exist

Why Faith Is Unethical (Or “In Defense Of The Ethical Obligation To Always Proportion Belief To Evidence”

Not All Beliefs Held Without Certainty Are Faith Beliefs

Defending My Definition Of Faith As “Belief Or Trust Beyond Rational Warrant”

Implicit Faith

Agnostics Or Apistics?

The Evidence-Impervious Agnostic Theists

Faith Which Exploits Infinitesimal Probabilities As Openings For Strong Affirmations

Why You Cannot Prove Inductive Reasoning Is Faith-Based Reasoning But Instead Only Assert That By Faith

How Just Opposing Faith, In Principle, Means You Actually Don’t Have Faith, In Practice

Naturalism, Materialism, Empiricism, And Wrong, Weak, And Unsupported Beliefs Are All Not Necessarily Faith Positions

How Faith Poisons Religion

What About the Good Things People Call “Faith” (Or “Why I Take Such A Strong Semantic Stand Against The Word Faith”)

Your Thoughts?

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