Faith is a nice sounding word for a very ugly and evil concept. In this article, we will first examine what faith is, and then look at the devastating consequences it can have for the well-being of humanity. We will see that religious faith, rather than uniting people, instead serves to set up unresolvable differences between them.
To begin with, let us examine how the religious define faith. Hebrews 11.1 says “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Does this definition point to anything outside of the believer’s own mind? Clearly, it does not. Instead, it simply states that whatever is wished for is assuredly true. According to this “definition”, any subjective wish or hope, no matter how contrary to objective evidence it might be, automatically becomes true. In other words, a dream can create reality. Faith is, therefore, utterly subjective in nature and content; there is no existential reality that the believer can point to in order to objectively prove his/her case.
In other words, if you wish for something, or deeply desire it, your dream will come true. Clearly, faith in god, faith in Jesus, or any other kind of faith is, objectively speaking, nothing more than a childish fantasy game.
Faith is never resorted to when objective evidence is available. Here, faith in the religious context must not be confused with the more benign and secondary secular definition of the word. For example, we may state that we have faith that the sun will rise in the morning, but this “faith” is based on solid objective evidence: we have all seen countless sunrises and, notwithstanding the extremely remote possibility of some sort of global disaster before tomorrow morning, we may confidently assume that sunrises will continue into the indefinite future. In this context, faith certainly does not violate common sense.
But religious faith is something altogether different: believers, unable to point to any kind of objective reality to justify their fantasies, will inevitably bring up the faith notion, as if faith somehow justifies defying the evidence against them. The utter silliness and anti-rational nature of faith can be exposed with one simple question: Can faith make an untrue statement true? Think about this: if the believer answers yes, then they are entering into the world of total subjectivity, where anything they want to claim to be true can therefore be true simply because they have “faith” that it is. Invisible purple unicorns can exist, by this standard, simply because one can claim to have faith that they do; if you want them to exist, they do. The best way of dealing with people so immersed in their fantasy world is to leave them to it and walk away.
However, if the believer says that faith cannot make an untrue statement true, they are admitting what the atheist contends: that reason, and reason alone, determines the validity of any given truth claim. Either way, faith is inadmissible into the argument. Convincing yourself that something is true does not make it so; the truth or falsehood of any given proposition must be ascertained exclusively by the use of our reason. Faith is a smokescreen and a cop-out.
At this point, we must examine the mindset of religious believers who profess faith. It is not merely that they are unable to offer anything concrete in justification of their beliefs; more fundamentally, they are unable to even coherently describe exactly what it is they believe in. The most obvious example concerns their god. No logically consistent definition of what a god exactly is has ever been offered, meaning that there can be no objective proof of its existence. Believers will usually “describe” their god in terms of what he has allegedly done, such as creating the heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1). But note that this is not a definition of what god is but rather of what he allegedly does, or has done. But this is putting the cart before the horse: before he can do anything, god must first besomething. Believers who insist to the contrary are committing the fallacy of special pleading, meaning that they refuse to play by the rules of logic.
This is why so many believers become enraged when their beliefs are questioned in any way. In America, religious and philosophical diversity are the hallmarks of contemporary life. Most people today are tolerant of the beliefs of others. However religious fundamentalists are uncomfortable not only with modernity but also with the very notion of multiculturalism and seek to control others and force them to conform to their notions of an ideal society. The absolutist nature of religious conviction, propped up by the false crutch which is faith, renders compromise impossible: god wants it that way, and we, his servants, will insist upon it!
These anti-rationalists are a ubiquitous presence on the American scene. Although they constitute a small percentage of the general population (estimated at around fifteen to twenty percent), they have taken over the Republican party. No serious presidential candidate can ignore them. To cite but one example, in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, all the candidates present expressed hostility, or at least disbelief, toward biological evolution. This fact alone illustrates just how out of touch with reality the Republican party has become. Creationism, or intelligent design is one of the core components of the Religious Right’s faith. No matter that the overwhelming majority of scientists accept evolution as being as much a fact as is gravity; the fundamentalists recognize that, if true, it leaves their god out of the equation. And that, since it contradicts their holy book, is unacceptable to them.
It should come as no surprise that hostility toward science, and toward modernity in general, is central to the fundamentalist mindset. Misology, or the hatred of reason, is a pristine fact in every Western religious text. For example, Paul in the New Testament states “If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1 Corinthians 3 18-19). Nowhere is the religious mindset against reason more obvious, or more clearly stated. Those biblical apologists who insist that there is no contradiction between faith and reason are either ignorant of their own bible, or else intellectually dishonest.
Most ominously, faith is presented as virtuous, while logic and reason are either downplayed or else outright attacked. Believing in god is considered by the devout to be fundamental to morality. The New Testament does not tell us to believe in Jesus because it is true, but rather because it is moral. By Christian standards, one is not free to investigate this religion’s truth claims objectively; instead we are to accept them as true without any objective evidence whatever. The facts can always be molded to support the theory. This is the very essence of what constitutes a cult. The devotion of over a billion people to Jesus does not obviate that fact. Anyone who dares to investigate the claims of Christianity is therefore considered by Christian fundamentalists to be anti-Christian. And how should they be dealt with? The lessons of history are crystal clear on this point. Go to any museum and look at the exhibits from the Christian Dark Ages. Notice the exquisite instruments of torture that were then in use and remember that this was a time period that was dominated by religious faith, specifically Christian faith. Then remember that these various devices were used in the name of morality. The connection is obvious. The Vatican today still possesses similar instruments of torture and, were they granted the power to use them, no doubt would unhesitatingly do so. As Ayn Rand pointed out, faith and force are the two destroyers of modern civilization.
Given religion’s horrific historical track record, it is amazing that anyone should be at all surprised when the devout of any religion act in horrific ways: 9/11 was nothing more than religious faith acted out, in the same way that the Inquisition and witch burnings were perpetrated by people acting on their faith. Totalitarianism is not the opposite of religious faith; it is central to it.
Modernity, progress, logic, science, diversity, equality, democracy and humanity are the defining traits of humanistic reason. Hatred, misogyny, superstition, ignorance, totalitarianism, terror and death are the manifestations of religious faith. Of course, not all god-believers are a direct threat to the survival of civilization. But, by their unquestioning faith in the anti-rational, coupled with their general reluctance to condemn the extremists of their religion they are, at a very basic level, giving their acquiescence to the religious haters among us. Until they recognize this and put reality before fantasy, the world will remain in a state of perpetual fear. Religious faith is nothing less than a threat to our survival as a species.
You have a choice: reason or faith? You cannot have both.
By: Jon Nelson