Orlando is just the most recent example of religious terrorism in a long, sad stream of similar events. The root cause is faith.
Faith is the acceptance of knowledge claims founded in desire rather than evidence. Based in emotion, faith is not a reliable method for determining truth. Satisfying a need for deep emotional comfort and meaning, faith can easily overwhelm evidence, logic, and reason. Believers offer all sorts of rationalizations for their particular faith, but the need for faith ceases to exist if it’s claims can be validated by evidence. No one needs faith when they have evidence.
The impact of faith can be dangerous due to the wide variety of specific and contradictory faith claims that arise from the individual personalities of each believer, and the culture from which they identify. In addition to being evidence that faith claims cannot reliably arrive at any universal truth, these contradictory faith claims create conflict. People can die when believers, motivated by a strong emotional attachment to their faith, carry out their illogical beliefs to their logical conclusions.
Besides being dangerous, faith is harmful. It leaves people vulnerable to manipulation by others. It devalues evidence and reason. Decisions are made with emotional prejudice rather than careful thought and understanding. Faith can lead to insanity.
It is truly unfortunate that faith, a cognitive sickness, is perceived as a virtue. This must change, or we must continue to accept the consequences. Evidence, logic, reason, hope, and wonder are true virtues , and the world would a better place if they replaced faith entirely.
Neal Cary is a long time activist with American Atheists and is currently the Chair of the American Atheists Board of Directors.
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