[I've been doing lots of posts on religion lately, but it's sort of a coincidence. This blog isn't going to devolve into a tirade on religion. I guess I've just had a few thoughts running through my head on this topic and it turns out that it's really easy to fill a post since thinking about this topic is pretty easy for me. If you're getting sick of the religion-based posts, hang in there. I'll be writing about other things again soon - like tomorrow.
Also, I added a post script to yesterday's post, since it really kind of sucked.
Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.]
To the best of what I can tell, “Faith” is a word people employ when they want to believe something that is so crazy that they can’t even dupe themselves into rationalization. People rationalize all the time and, while it’s a mental habit that a smart person ought to try to refrain from, it’s understandable. “Faith” seems to be the license people use to allow themselves to continue believing something when reason and rationalization fail.
I find that when having discussions with religious people, they tend to start with reasons and then, when reasons fail, they say, “Well, it’s all about faith anyway.” This is the position I don’t understand: Many religious people claim that there are tons of good reasons to believe in their specific god, but they then say that religion is about faith. Which is it. Faith or evidence? Can you even have both at the same time? If there is sufficient evidence to believe that Mount Fuji exists, where does faith come in? I don’t want any discussion on this to devolve into a debate about what faith is, but a short definition would be nice. Also, I don’t care about what it says in the dictionary for two reasons; One, there are several different dictionaries and most of them have multiple definitions for most words. Two, the dictionary definition isn’t necessarily what people use and words mean what people who use them mean. For an example of what I’m talking about, look up “theory” in the dictionary and then see how most people use the word. One of the definitions is right, but most people use the word incorrectly.
The following quote comes from Sam Harris:
“Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with ﬁre for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”
It seems that, whatever faith is, it’s encapsulated in the second example. If someone had demonstrable proof that yogurt made people invisible, then they wouldn’t need to accept the proposition on faith. At the same time, if someone didn’t need to see evidence before claiming to accept this, then I think that is the definition of faith. Some people, (like the author of this page) make the case that faith is a kind of trust. If that’s the case, then I don’t think most religious people are using the word ‘faith’ correctly. Trust is what you have when you accept the answer your calculator gives you. And friends earn your faith/trust, so you have evidence. That’s a different kind of faith. It’s not the same thing as having faith about the specific tenants of a specific religion, like that Jesus was born of a virgin or that God hates fags.
Trust is what people have then they have good reasons to believe something, but don’t check it themselves. In a way, trust is verifiable. I trust my calculator when it tells me that 42 to the 8th power is 9,682,651,996,416. In principal, I could check this and verify it, but my calculator is so seldom wrong that this isn’t necessary. Belief in deities is not like this. You have to more or less just accept that Zeus really is sitting atop Mount Olympus, even if you can’t go visit him.
I’m not sure if I’ve had writer’s block for an hour while trying to wrap this post up because I feel like I left something unsaid or what, but I think it’s good to go. Leave comments and if I think of anything I’ll update this or follow up with it. Thanks for reading!
Wait, I remembered one more thing I meant to touch on. People do not “have faith” in science or the scientific consensus. Science makes testable predictions and if it was based off of faith we wouldn’t have put footprints on the moon. Also, accepting the scientific consensus isn’t faith either. For details, see this post.