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 You, On Defending True Spirituality And Taking The Word Back From Spiritually Bankrupt Fundamentalism, I 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.Faith As Guessing