Thursday, February 24, 2011

Faith, Reason, and other mutually exclusive terms

It never ceases to amaze me how much believers want to convince me that they are not “blind followers”, that they have come to their religious beliefs through reason, just like me. No, I’m not going to refute the claim that atheism is a religion here. That will have to be another blog. What I want to address here is that people want me to believe that they have used reason, not “blind faith”, to come to religion. They say that they use logic and find Christ.

Now, I should start by defining my terms. Faith is believing in something without evidence, or in spite of contrasting evidence. If you have evidence, there is no need for faith. No faith is required to believe that if I drop a rock, it will fall. There is evidence that suggests a very reasonable expectation that the rock should fall. If, however, in the unlikely event the rock does NOT fall, that does not mean gravity is no longer valid. Further investigation is required to discover what caused the expected outcome to differ from the actual outcome. Faith requires no evidence. Again, if there is evidence, there is no room for faith. If faith only exists without evidence, then it is unreasonable. It is not reasonable to think that the sun will rise in the west tomorrow. There is no evidence that would support such a claim. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest otherwise. To say that the belief is based on faith does not make the claim more rational. It simply states why someone would have chosen to believe it.

Invariably, if I ask a believer why they think there is evidence to support the belief in god or gods, they fall to the usual arguments: the first-cause, the cosmological, and the argument from complexity, etc. They seem unaware these have been refuted over and over again. This is what they consider to be evidence. But if I press further, none of these are actually the reason they believe. They are reasons they still believe after having questioned their faith in the past. That is why they say they have come to faith from reason. They questioned faith at one point, learned of these arguments, and were satisfied with the answers provided. Some, most even, seem surprised the arguments have been refuted ever.

When I go over the standard rebuttals to their standard arguments, they go back to faith. This is where they like to attack me. A few have realized mid-step the circular nature of this, and stopped. But a few have actually stopped to think about why these arguments fail. They go back to faith anyway, but at that point I feel like I’ve succeeded.

There is no virtue in faith, and even the believer recognizes this. If they really thought faith WAS a virtue, they would not try to defend faith with reason. They would not try to use science to “prove” design. They would not try to “prove” jesus actually walked the earth or did anything reported in the bible. They’d just admit it’s all blind faith. But that makes them sound unreasonable, even to themselves. So they further delude themselves into thinking there are reasons to believe.

Those are two more mutually exclusive terms: virtuous faith.

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