Faith Defined

Faith Defined September 19, 2020

I have noticed that every logical fallacy has been used as an argument for God and that every argument for God is a logical fallacy, meaning an argument that is fundamentally flawed, illogical, and thus invalid. For example, the fallacy of equivocation is using two different definitions interchangeably for deceptive effect. For instance, if you Google the word, “faith”, you’ll see it defined in two very different contexts.

1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

The first context is as just a colloquial synonym of the word, “trust”. The second definition is for the religious context, belief that is “based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof”. The religious context is not simply a synonym of trust. It requires both a prefix and a suffix to turn trust into faith. Because faith is [complete] ‘trust’ [that is not based on evidence]. Apologists often equivocate between the two, pretending that I have faith that my wife loves me, based on the evidence of her commitment. Or that whenever I board an airplane, I have faith that it won’t crash; as if this trust in the evidence that I have is no different than them believing in their scriptures without any evidence at all and regardless of evidence to the contrary.

However, if faith is defined as an unsupported conviction, then they have it and I don’t. Because I can show the truth of my position where they can’t. If faith is defined as a secure confidence in the truth, value, or reliability of a given position, then I have it and they don’t, according to the behaviors I typically see when debating such people—like when they ignore all my questions and won’t acknowledge my answers either, being unwilling or unable to ever admit when they’re wrong. So there are two distinctly different contexts here, and we are definitely talking about a religious context, not my estimation of evident probabilities when boarding an airplane.

Another common logical fallacy is the straw-man, setting up an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument. Religious apologists typically straw-man my position in various ways in every debate, while also falsely accusing me of straw-manning their position with regard to the definition of faith. As if I’m wrong when I say that religious faith is adopted and defended independent of evidence.

Of course, when I say “evidence”, I’m talking about empirical, scientific evidence, a “fact that indicates”. That means it must be both factual [objectively verifiable data] and positively indicative of, and/or exclusively concordant with only one available hypothesis over any other. There is no other treatment of evidence that would make sense in this case.

Some believers complain that I’m limiting my interpretation of evidence, and that I don’t allow for metaphysical evidence. I would, but we don’t have metaphysical evidence anyway, so that’s irrelevant.

Some have argued that God could only be indicated by metaphysical evidence, and that there is no way to test for anything supernatural, but that’s not true either. If magical miracles or miraculous magic was really real, then there would eventually be someone like Obiwan, Hermione, Gandalf or Spock who could demonstrate that reliably enough. Then even if science couldn’t explain it, we could still confirm that at least there’s a THERE there. We wouldn’t need faith to believe-in it; we could still verify it even with no faith at all, and accept it even if we didn’t want to believe it.

One apologist, a professor of philosophy at a theological seminary, told me he has evidence, but he had to redefine everything, such that his evidence is not evident, because facts are not factual, because nothing can ever be objectively verified, because reality is only an opinion. Ironically, he redefined all these terms while falsely accusing me of redefining faith.

Another apologist told me that I should correct my definition of faith being in lieu of scientific evidence, by admitting that he has “subjective evidence”. However, by definition, subjective evidence is only evidence to that person, not to me or anyone else either. So I can’t admit anything other than my definition was already and still is correct. I can’t say that either of these apologists have evidence, because all they really has is another logical fallacy; they’re just begging the question.

The Question-Begging fallacy is virtually ubiquitous throughout religious apologetics. It’s a circular argument routing back to an assumed conclusion. For example, many Christians cite the Bible as evidence of itself, saying that our evidence that the Bible is true comes from what the Bible says. Muslims do the same thing, arguing that they know the Qur’an is true because it says so right there in the Holy Qur’an. They don’t understand that the claim is not evidence of itself. Nor would either group accept the Bhagavad Gita as evidence of Lord Krishna. So they’re using a double standard too, which is another fallacy. We could accept the claim on its own only when there is something else to support it and nothing else to contest it. However, in this case, even if we had eyewitnesses (which we don’t) there is whole lot of evidence standing against scriptural claims and none at all for them.

Some logical fallacies are used in conjunction. For example, the god-of-the-gaps fallacy is a combination of Question-Begging with two other fallacies, arguments from ignorance and incredulity, as if your inability to understand something counts as evidence against it. It also works with other fallacies, like shifting the burden of proof, as if the religious position is true by default. This is the wholly erroneous assumption that if science can’t explain something, then whatever is “unexplained” becomes evidence for God. There are lots of things we didn’t know hundreds of years ago that we now understand, and none of those discoveries provided any support for our prior assumptions of mysticism.

Once upon a time, our ancestors believed that thunder, lightning, and volcanoes were gods in action, that comets were an omen, that the stars and planets had human characteristics, that sickness was a curse of witchcraft, and that epilepsy was demonic possession; all because that’s what religion would have us believe. In each case, the real truth might never have been discovered had we been satisfied by those lies. And in each case, the reality was a revelation of whole new fields of study previously unimagined, and vastly more complex than the simple excuses we made up in our ignorance. No doubt that pattern will continue, such that if we ever do discover the cause of the Big Bang, or some better explanation for the origin of life, the universe, and everything, it too will be a wealth of new information with practical application, and so advanced that our previous assumptions of the supernatural will be exposed as laughably silly by comparison.

God magic is not the default answer; the default is the null hypothesis, that the new proposition is not true unless indicated by logic or evidence. If both sides already accept that we have a natural world of material energy, then mystics arguing for the addition of supernatural entities or elements are making a positive claim, bearing the burden of proof against the null hypothesis. Whereas unsupported assertions have no more credence than claims that have already been proven wrong, especially when those claims haven’t established that there is even a possibility there, much less probability.

Another fallacy commonly employed by religious apologists is false equivalence (often described as comparing apples and oranges) in which flawed reasoning presents two completely opposing arguments as if they were logically equivalent, when in fact they are not. In this case, the flawed reasoning is projection, a psychological phenomenon where someone either denies their own flaw and “projects” it onto others instead, or tries to share that fault with someone who is not guilty of it. I call this phenomenon “the pot calling the silverware black”.

The result is a collection of erroneous claims such as:

• Atheism/evolution is a religion;

• Science relies on faith, just like religion does;

• Science is biased just like religion is;

• There is no evidence for evolution, the Big Bang, abiogenesis, etc.;

• There is evidence for creation, Noah’s flood, God, etc.;

• Religion is reasonable just like science is;

• Religion can be confirmed empirically and experimentally just like science;

• Creationism is scientific

All of these are lies attempting to level the playing field, unable to even admit what the difference is between those who do or don’t believe in mysticism. We either base our beliefs on evidence or we base them on faith. This usually takes the form of an erroneous assumption of authority, as if that authority both replaces and overrides evidence. But the fact is that, being a rational and reasonable skeptic as contrasted with mystics, I don’t have faith and they don’t have evidence.

No one has absolute knowledge of all things, but we all have beliefs, in the sense that we all have positions that we think are mostly true, most likely true, or at least closest to the truth. That’s what I mean when I say “I believe” something. But believers define it differently, as if belief is an act of will, of mind over matter, the power of positive thought, to convince yourself of something rather than let yourself be convinced otherwise. That’s why they often say that they “choose to believe” whatever they want to believe, and reject any and all evident realities against that. Whatever I believe depends entirely on my understanding of what the facts indicate. I can’t deny that and choose to believe something else instead. My “belief” will also obligately change according to new information. I have no choice in the matter. Believers do, or they claim to. Most often they’re culturally inculcated, raised indoctrinated and conditioned never to question their own position critically, the way I have to.

The truth is what the facts are, what we can show to be true, not whatever else we might rather believe instead. There is no truth to any religion, but there are a whole lotta lies in all of them. Fervent believers even lie to themselves. When a believer says they believe, they sometimes mean that they make-believe. There are some, maybe even a majority, who were innocently duped into religion, and don’t realize how they’ve been deceived, but the rest are literally pretending. They were not compelled to their position because of evidence, because there isn’t any evidence pointing that way, not any legitimate facts that bear critical analysis. They will not be dissuaded by evidence either. Several times, believers have even admitted they neither have nor want evidence, that “these may be what the facts are, but I prefer to believe this”. Some have asked why it matters whether what they believe is really true, admitting a preference to still believe even if they know it’s not true.

Evangelist Frank Turek even wrote a book called “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”. Wherein he pretends there is no evidence of evolution and that atheism is consequently a belief based on faith instead. He doesn’t understand evolution, or what the evidence for that is, but at least he understands that faith is a belief that is not based on evidence. So it is laughable how often other religious believers allege that I have defined faith incorrectly.

Just to prove that I am right about this, we need some citations:

According to a consensus of every authoritative or definitive source available anywhere—including dictionaries, scriptures, hymns, sermons of theologians past and present—faith in the context of religion can be accurately defined as a stoic, unwavering conviction—a positive belief which is not dependent on evidence, and will not change because of evidence. Believers usually want to argue this point trying to conceal the fact. So to prove it here, I’ll cite several dictionaries just to establish consensus:

Faith:

“Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing, that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”
—Dictionary.com

1. Complete trust or confidence.
2. Strong belief in a religion.
3. A system of religious belief.
—AskOxford

Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting solely and implicitly on his authority and veracity; reliance on testimony.”
—Accurate and Reliable Dictionary

Belief, the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence.
—Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

A firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”
—Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

The assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition or sentiment for which there is not complete evidence.
—Wordnik

“Belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.”
—Encarta

Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual convinction rather than proof.
—Lexico

Belief in something that has not been proved or is not capable of being proved.
—Wordsmyth

“For quite a lot of people, faith or the lack thereof, is an important part of their identities. E.G. a person will identify him or herself as a Muslim or a skeptic. Many religious rationalists, as well as nonreligious people, criticize implicit faith as being irrational. In this view, belief should be restricted to what is directly supportable by logic or evidence.”
—Wikipedia

If I were arguing scientific terms, I would have to cite peer-reviewed studies. Since faith is a religious term, I’ll have to turn to religious authorities. For example,  Sūrah 2:2-3 of the Qur’an says “This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God, who believe in the unseen.” . Similarly, in the Hindu’s Bhagavad Gita 12:2, Lord Krishna says “Of those who are endowed with firm faith of a special kind beyond material conceptions; fixing the minds on Me, always engaged exclusively worshipping Me. They are considered by me the most superior of all.” Demanding “firm faith of a special kind beyond material conceptions” obviously also refers to believe that is not based on material evidence. Some Christian apologists have argued that in their New Testament, “pistis” (the word for faith) meant something different in koine Greek. But I’ve already had two scholars fluent in koine Greek confirm that I got it right.

The Bible describes faith the same way as other religions do, the same way I do.

• John 20:29: “blessed are they who have not seen but yet believe.”

• Romans 1:20: “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood from the things that are made.”

• Romans 14:22: “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction”

• 2 Corinthians 4:18: “We look not at things seen, but at things not seen.”

• 2 Corinthians 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

• Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Here we have things hoped for but not seen, looking at things that are not seen, not seeing what is seen, and begging the question again. Note that we are expected to see what is not there. Not only that, but we are blessed if we make ourselves see what cannot be seen. This is not a reasonable request, and these are not reasoned responses.

Faith is the very opposite of reason. We are expected to believe without reason; in fact, we are blessed if we readily believe the most outrageous illogical, inconsistent, and contradictory claims from even the most credulous and questionable people without any evidence at all. For example, consider the words of Martin Luther, founder of Protestant Christianity, in the following excerpts from his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians:

“What makes matters worse is that one-half of ourselves, our own reason, stands against us. . . . To turn one’s eyes away from Jesus means to turn them to the Law. . . . When the conscience is disturbed, do not seek advice from reason or from the Law, but rest your conscience in the grace of God and in His Word, and proceed as if you had never heard of the Law. . . . The person who can rightly divide Law and Gospel has reason to thank God. He is a true theologian. I must confess that in times of temptation I do not always know how to do it. To divide Law and Gospel means to place the Gospel in heaven, and to keep the Law on earth; to call the righteousness of the Gospel heavenly, and the righteousness of the Law earthly; to put as much difference between the righteousness of the Gospel and that of the Law, as there is difference between day and night. If it is a question of faith or conscience, ignore the Law entirely. . . . We have two propositions: To live unto the Law, is to die unto God. To die unto the Law, is to live unto God. These two propositions go against reason. . . . When we pay attention to reason, God seems to propose impossible matters in the Christian Creed. To reason it seems absurd that Christ should offer His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper; that Baptism should be the washing of regeneration; that the dead shall rise; that Christ the Son of God was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, etc. Reason shouts that all this is preposterous. Are you surprised that reason thinks little of faith? Reason thinks it ludicrous that faith should be the foremost service any person can render unto God. . . . Let your faith supplant reason. Abraham mastered reason by faith in the Word of God. Not as though reason ever yields meekly. It put up a fight against the faith of Abraham. Reason protested that it was absurd to think that Sarah, who was ninety years old and barren by nature, should give birth to a son. But faith won the victory and routed reason, that ugly beast and enemy of God. Everyone who by faith slays reason, the world’s biggest monster, renders God a real service, a better service than the religions of all races and all the drudgery of meritorious monks can render. Do not consult that Quackdoctor, Reason. Believe in Christ.”

As you can see, where faith is encouraged, reason is discouraged. They’re opposites. This is not just my interpretation, but the common understanding of scholars and philosophers.

For example, St Augustine wrote an article called “Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen”, wherein he opens with the admission that Christianity commands belief in what is not seen, just like it says in Hebrews 1:11. Augustine is just one more of many sources to prove I got the definition of faith right. He mentions “proof” in that article, but only in an excuse for why we should believe without proof. He also again confirms what I said in so many of my videos, that the only evidence he can cite for his faith in scripture is scripture itself, and not any external fact to substantiate or confirm that assumption. In another treatise, “On the Profit of Believing”, Augustine said that the religion set before him from childhood by his parents commanded that he have “faith before reason”. In another article, called “Of Faith and the Creed”, Augustine again confirmed his circular reasoning—assuming scriptural authority instead of seeking evidence—when he explains that the only “proofs” backing the religious “opinion” (as he put it) are interpretations of scripture.

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” —St Augustine of Hippo

“Faith is believing things when common sense tells you not to.” —George Seaton, playwright

“I dislike the veneration of ignorance, the glorification of idiocy, the wild-eyed hatred of progress and the fear of education, which send the faithful shrieking vampire-like from the light of knowledge.” —Alikhat

“The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which is there is no empirical evidence.” —Bruce Bartlett, historian

“Faith is defined as believing something without evidence, which is by definition, irrational.” —Brian Sapient

“That is unreasonable and it’s unscientific. That is the definition of blind faith; I believe something even though there is no evidence to support it.” —Kirk Cameron, Way Of The Master ministries; Debate: Is there a god?

“To use the term blind faith, is to use an adjective needlessly.” —Julian Ruck, novelist

“The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason.” —Benjamin Franklin

“Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge about things without parallel.” —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

“Is a court to engage in the epistemological inquiry as to the acquisition of knowledge and belief through proof or through faith? Faith is the antithesis of proof. It is a belief which is firmly held even though demonstrable proof may be lacking.” —Edward Greenfield, Supreme Court Justice, Pando v Fernandez (1984)

“By definition, you have faith. You are choosing to believe in the absence of evidence.” —Johann Hari, journalist

“Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin.” —Thomas Huxley

“The most pernicious of absurdities is that weak, blind, stupid faith is better than the constant practice of every human virtue.” —Water Savage Landor, poet

“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” —H. L. Mencken

“Faith is an absolutely marvelous tool. With faith there is no question too big for even the smallest mind.” —Rev. Donald Morgan, First Church of Christ

“To rest one’s case on faith means to concede that reason is on the side of one’s enemies–that one has no rational arguments to offer.” —Ayn Rand

“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” —James (the amazing) Randi

“Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.” —Kurt Vonnegut

“That mind is perfect which, through faith in supreme ignorance supremely knows the supremely unknowable.” —Saint Maximus the Confessor, Eastern Orthodox theologian

“Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight, and wish to know nothing but the word of God.” —Reverend Martin Luther, Father of Protestant Christianity

“Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits.” —Dan Barker, “Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist

“Where there is evidence, no one speaks of faith. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.” —Bertrand Russell

“Faith is not something that goes against the evidence, it goes beyond it.” —Theologian, Alister McGrath

“For ages, a deadly conflict has been waged between a few brave men and women of thought and genius upon the one side, and the great ignorant religious mass on the other. This is the war between Science and Faith. The few have appealed to reason, to honor, to law, to freedom, to the known, and to happiness here in this world. The many have appealed to prejudice, to fear, to miracle, to slavery, to the unknown, and to misery hereafter. The few have said “Think” The many have said “Believe!” —Robert Ingersoll, (Gods)

“No theory is too false, no fable too absurd, no superstition too degrading for acceptance when it has become embedded in common belief. Men will submit themselves to torture and to death, mothers will immolate [burn] their children at the bidding of beliefs they thus accept.” —Henry George, economist

“The division between faith and reason is a half-measure, till it is frankly admitted that faith has to do with fiction, and reason with fact.” —Sir Leslie Stephen, historian

“The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it. It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society; it is belief.” —George Bernard Shaw

“The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.” —George Orwell

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” —Philip K. Dick

“You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.” —Carl Sagan

“God is by definition the holder of all possible knowledge, it would be impossible for him to have faith in anything. Faith, then, is built upon ignorance and hope.” —Steve Allen

“Faith is belief without evidence and reason; coincidentally that’s also the definition of delusion.” —Richard Dawkins

“Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.” —William Lane Craig

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect that core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit with the core belief.” —Frantz Fanon, psychiatrist

“Reason is non-negotiable. Try to argue against it, or to exclude it from some realm of knowledge, and you’ve already lost the argument, because you’re using reason to make your case. And no, this isn’t having “faith” in reason (in the same way that some people have faith in miracles), because we don’t “believe” in reason; we use reason.” —Steven Pinker

“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” —H. L. Mencken

“How many things we held yesterday as articles of faith which today we tell as fables.” —Michel de Montaigne

“What is faith? If you believe something because you have evidence for it, or rational argument, that is not faith. So faith seems to be believing something despite the absence of evidence or rational argument for it.” —Peter Singer, philosopher

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” —Voltaire

“Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them.” —Blaise Pascal

“Faith, we’re told, is required for belief in God (at least for the God of Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Faith, by definition, is not rational, but is faith irrational? The supernatural objects of faith are not subject to scientific analysis, but can belief in them still be justified or warranted? Alternatively, is faith an excuse for absence of evidence?” —Closer-to-Truth/Faith-rational-or-rationalization?

Faith requires that we presume, presuppose, and pretend; that we ignore what we really do see, and imagine something is there when it apparently isn’t. It means that we lie to ourselves and fool ourselves. Worse than that, faith requires that we believe the unbelievable. This is reflected in the hymns of Michael Card, especially the appropriately titled “That’s What Faith Must Be”:

To see with my heart,
to see with my soul,
to be guided by a hand I cannot see,
that’s what faith must be.

So we follow God’s own fool,
for only a fool can tell.
Believe the unbelievable,
and come be a fool as well.

This isn’t just willful ignorance; this is dementia, a deliberately induced delusion. A few years ago, the National Alliance on Mental Illness defined “delusion” as “a persistent false belief that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary, to falsely claim something even when there is evidence otherwise. What makes these beliefs delusional is that they don’t change when the person is presented with conflicting information—the beliefs remain fixed even when the facts contradict them”. By this definition, religion is definitely delusion. For that reason, NAMI changed their definition, saying that it is not a delusion if the belief is shared throughout the community. But that still shows that the old adage was right, that “when one person has a delusion, it’s called insanity, but when many people have a delusion, it’s called religion”.

There was a creationist propaganda documentary called “Questioning Darwin” that exclusively interviewed believers and was intended to promote creationism. One of the people interviewed said that any scientific fact that contradicts the Bible must be false, because the Bible can’t be wrong. This prompts me to ask, what do educated expert specialists really know compared to the ignorant superstitious primitives who wrote the scriptures?

Another person in that same show admitted that if the Bible said that 2+2=5, he wouldn’t question it; he would find some way to believe it. And of course, he’s not the only one like that. So it doesn’t matter whether you prove that it’s wrong, nor how easily or obviously or eloquently you do that; once people have been thoroughly indoctrinated, their logical centers selectively shut down, and it’s almost impossible to reason with them ever again where that subject is concerned. Fantasy is adopted as reality, and truth is dismissed as irrelevant.

Faith is often a belief in things that are impossible according to everything we know about anything at all. The belief is sacred, meaning that it is never to be questioned or critically examined but must be believed no matter what. You just gotta be-LEEVE! Skeptical inquiry is strictly forbidden, and apologetics exists only to obligately rationalize away any criticisms so that they may be dismissed without consideration. In other words, faith assumes its own conclusions, believes impossible nonsense for no good reason, and defends those beliefs against all reason to the contrary. It can’t help but be wrong to some degree to start with, and any errors will never even be acknowledged, much less sought out or corrected, so that situation can never improve. However wrong it already is is however wrong it will forever be. Faith offers no way to discover the real truth about anything, but it’s a great way to stay wrong forever and never admit it—even to yourself.

Science is completely opposite in every respect. Religious apologists are like litigators who must keep defending their clients and pretending they’re innocent, even when they know they’re guilty. But scientists are investigators. They’re often forced to reconsider their own initial perceptions, and are free to follow the facts wherever they may lead.

This is probably the most important distinction between faith and science. Religious dissension is punished as heresy, considered a deadly serious offense. And when they can’t suppress dissension and enforce conformity, the result is another in an endless series of heretical cults. That is why “free thought” is the opposite of religion. The freedom to think what we will is one of the most fundamental of all human rights. Yet religion denies us even that.

Science acts exactly opposite. Yes, there is a status quo, but the best way to become famous as a scientist is to challenge that, and you may be richly rewarded if you do, assuming you live long enough. Deep-seated positions are harder to dislodge, so minds don’t always change quickly.

Most the apologists I argue with fancy themselves as philosophers. They love to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and their favorite source is usually the Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy. So let’s check and see how that source defines faith:

Faith and reason: the epistemology of faith

‘I have … found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith’ (Kant 1787/1933, 29). …Note that Plantinga originally expressed his defence of ‘properly basic’ theistic belief in terms of the rationality of believing in God ‘without any evidence or argument at all’ On an externalist account, that is, one might lack independent evidence sufficient to confirm that one has knowledge that God exists while in fact possessing that very knowledge. And one might thus refute an objector who claims that without adequate evidence one cannot genuinely know. But this consideration is still insufficient to secure entitlement to theistic faith—if, as may be argued, that entitlement requires that one has evidence adequate to justify commitment to the truth that God exists. For, one has such evidence only conditionally on God’s existence

Faith and reason

reasonable faith arguably needs to conform to an evidentialist principle, generally thought essential to rationality, requiring belief commitments to accord with the extent of the support for their truth given by one’s total available evidence. Faith’s venturesomeness is thus in tension with its reasonableness, and models of faith differ in the way they negotiate this tension by taking a particular stance on ‘faith and reason’.

Faith as doxastic venture

faith as practical commitment beyond the evidence to one’s belief that God exists. Given the existence of the God of unchanging love, one trusts in ultimately perfect safety. But the venture of actually entrusting oneself to God seems to begin with the challenge of being able to accept that, indeed, there is such a God. While some affirm that many people have sufficient evidence to justify this claim, others, as already noted, hold that everyone has to confront the evidential ambiguity of foundational theistic claims.

Faith as trust

Accordingly, it seems sensible to hold that one should trust only with good reason. But if, as is plausible, good reason to trust requires sufficient evidence of the trustee’s trustworthiness, reasonable trust appears both to have its venturesomeness diminished and, at the same time, to become more difficult to achieve than we normally suppose. For we often lack adequate—or even, any—evidence of a trustee’s trustworthiness in advance of our venture, yet in many such cases we suppose that our trust is reasonable. But, if adequate evidence of trustworthiness is not required for reasonable trust, how is reasonable trust different from ‘blind’ trust?

Faith as belief

“although they differ on the question whether the firm beliefs of faith count as knowledge, both Aquinas and Calvin understand faith as essentially involving accepting the truth of propositions as revealed through willingly receiving God’s gracious gift of that very revelation. The question remains how accepting this gift could be epistemically rational. …Aquinas holds that faith is ‘midway between knowledge and opinion’ (Summa Theologiae 2a2ae 1, 2 (O’Brien 1974, 11)).

Faith as sub- or non-doxastic venture

Faith is not an attempt to will something into existence but rather treating hoped for and unseen things as if they were real and then acting accordingly (Tennant 1943/1989 p.104).

Faith and hope

Some philosophers have suggested that the epistemological challenges faced by accounts of faith as involving belief beyond the evidence may be avoided by construing theist commitment as hope. … and some philosophers identify faith with hoping that the claims of faith are true (Pojman 1986; 2003).

Faith as a virtue

On models of faith as a (special) kind of knowledge, or as firmly held belief, it may seem puzzling how faith could be a virtue—unless some implicit practical component emerges when such models are further explicated, or, alternatively, a case may be made for the claim that what is involuntary may nevertheless be praiseworthy, with theistic faith as a case in point

Faith as knowledge

‘Reformed’ epistemologists have appealed to an externalist epistemology in order to maintain that theistic belief may be justified even though its truth is no more than basically evident to the believer—that is, its truth is not rationally inferable from other, more basic, beliefs, but is found to be immediately evident in the believer’s experience.

My faithful critics complained when I said that faith is pretending to know things no one even can know, but that is demonstrably true even according to Christians themselves.

“How did the idea that faith is “belief in something for which there is no proof” enter into the Christian culture in the first place? The actual historical process is long and tedious, but the concept is simple. The Church asked people to trust doctrines that were neither logical nor clearly backed up by Scripture. For example, the doctrine that the “host” (bread) and wine that are used in Roman Catholic Mass become the body and blood of Christ is not logical (for example, it still looks and tastes like bread and wine, not meat and blood), and it is not backed by solid Scriptural exegesis. Priests know this, and so they ask people to “take it by faith.” —TruthOrTradition.com,”How is faith defined Biblically?”

“All knowledge that comes to the natural man is through the five senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. All of these senses connect us to the natural realm of this world. Accepting the conditions which we see as fact, instead of what the Word says will hinder faith.” —Hebrew_Roots/The_Original_Foundation/Faith

“For Christians, believing is not seeing. Our life is built on the knowledge that God came to earth, died on a cross, rose again on the third day, and then ascended back into heaven. Why do we believe, because the Bible tells us so. We were not there when Jesus was crucified, yet we believe. We were not there when Jesus rose again, yet we believe.” —AllAboutReligion/Definition-of-faith

Despite all of this, some believers still pretend that the definition of faith as “belief that is not based on evidence” is somehow my own personal definition, and that it’s wrong; that their faith is based on evidence and my science is based on faith. Of course if you ask what evidence it was that convinced them, they’ll never provide anything outside of their confidence in frauds, falsehoods and fallacies.

Some have tried to defend the idea that faith is based on evidence by saying that the Bible allows for skepticism, which it absolutely does not. Yeah, at one point, the Bible says “Come now, and let us reason together”, but it’s God talking there, and it’s clearly not about skepticism or how to test evidence.

“But” the apologists say, “Thomas demanded evidence and Jesus provided it”. But what they leave out is that (1) Jesus put a spell on his disciples and on his mother so that they wouldn’t recognize him (Luke 24:13-16 & 31). And (2) Jesus criticized Thomas for that, saying “you believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have NOT seen and yet believed”. The stress implies that believing without seeing is required in order to receive the blessing.

This part of the Jesus story was, I think, made up in an attempt to satisfy those who were skeptical about the rest of it. But in this editorial insertion, Jesus made it pretty clear that you’re not supposed to ask for evidence, and don’t fact check anything either. Because in Matthew 4:7, “Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.” All-caps are in the original text! Meaning that scientific inquiry is a damnable sin, where only blind credulity leads to salvation.

“The implication here seems to be that anyone can be a believer given sufficient evidence and proof. But the authentic faith persists in the absence of evidence, the lack of proof. This is not the way we typically treat knowledge at all. In fact, if someone were to persist in claiming to know something to be true even when the evidence and proof failed to materialize, we would likely say “They are acting on faith”. —Great Philosophers, Augustine’s Analysis on Faith

Finally, there is a quote that is often attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the first Buddha:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

The problem with this beautiful sentiment is that the Buddha didn’t really say that. But if he had, that would have been an endorsement of rational skepticism permitting scientific inquiry. More importantly, Jesus never said anything like this either. Nowhere does the Bible ever say or imply or even allow anything like this. In Christianity as in Islam, there is no tolerance for “unbelievers”. You are required to believe no matter what, and you’ll be damned if you don’t. Neither the Bible nor the Qur’an allows unbelievers any chance to be forgiven. In fact, it doesn’t matter how evil you are, all may be forgiven if you but believe. But if you don’t believe, then it doesn’t matter how good you are, because the only sin that will not be forgiven is the sin of disbelief (Matt 12:30-32, Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:8-10).

Premises: 

1. Salvation requires religious belief no matter what.

2. Unbelievers will never be forgiven, even if they had good reason to doubt.

3. Evidence is never encouraged, and skepticism, even reason itself is discouraged under threat of death.

4. There is no evidence indicative of anyone’s gods anyway.

5. The clergy demand that you believe what you’re told simply because you’re told to.

6. We are told to trust in [books pretending to speak for] God no matter what.

7. Heresy and apostasy are both historically capital crimes getting the death penalty.

8. Apologetics is the systematic invention of excuses devised to rationalize away any arguments or evidence that might challenge a sacred assumption.

Conclusion: Faith is a firm belief that is not dependent on evidence.

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