Aug 27

Why is faith valued?

People follow general rules of logic and science in almost every aspect of their daily lives. When they see an incredulous story on the cover of a magazine, they look at it with doubt. When they want a method to arrive at work, they get a vehicle, rather than attempt astral travel. You see my point, I hope. In general, people find no reason to question rational, even critical, thinking and praise scientific discovery and analysis. There is one area of exception– religion.

Why is faith valued, and even praised as a virtue? Benjamin Franklin (a Christian) once said something like “Faith is what happens when reason closes its eyes.” Here you have an intelligent, scientific man who recognizes the topic of my discussion and believes it is a good thing. This is perplexing and frustrating to me. It is exactly as he described – closing your eyes at the scary parts. And that is how I view the phenomenon. The reason for faith is that religion is in direct conflict with reason. This threatens religion, and people hold these beliefs very dearly. So, just ignore it – not for every other area because you would starve or die in some other way, but for the area in which you wish to remain blissfully ignorant. Faith is an invention, a hiding place, to avoid admitting irrationality. Or, in the case of considering faith a virtue, people actually embrace the irrationality; they are competing for who can have the most faith.

I should address that some will rebut that non-believers also have faith; this argument is usually wrought toward science (Side Note: when did science become the villain?). They may say one of the following, or some variation:

  • Don’t you have faith in evolution?
  • Don’t you have faith in the Big Bang?
  • Do you believe in the wind even though you can’t see it?

This is preying upon the term having multiple meanings. Yes, it is true that in common parlance people say they have faith in x or y, but there is a nuance being missed if you lump those things in with religious faith. When it comes to scientific things, there is an element of testability. That doesn’t mean it is true, it means there are ways to determine its truth. Religion does not offer that. The claims are either not testable or the believers still won’t admit they are falsified if the tests are not in their favor. With things like evolution or the Big Bang, I am actually quite indifferent to whether they are true. They seem to be plausible explanations given the evidence so far, but there is an excellent chance one or both will be proven wrong. And people are attempting to do that every single day.

Religious claims, for the most part, are also subject to test in that they are making a claim about something in the world being affected. This is an excellent start for any test. So, you say there is a yeti roaming the wild? Let’s search for him. There is poison in the victim’s body? Let’s do an autopsy. The bread and wine transform into flesh and blood? Ok, let’s test it. Of course, the tests never (and I mean never because this would be big news – front page stuff) produce affirmations of religious claims. That is the faith with which I take issue.

I challenge someone to tell me why faith is a good thing. Further, if it is good, then why does it not manifest itself in other areas of our lives?

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