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It’s a subject I hear in one form or another quite a bit.
“But what about faith?”
“Aren’t you forgetting about having faith?”
“That’s where faith comes in.”
“I just have faith.”
It seems like I can’t voice my Atheism or demand a good argument without at least one person popping up and, as if they were presenting a novel idea, asking me why I haven’t realized just how important faith is. To be fair, I think it is a decent question to ask someone why they don’t think faith is a good reason to believe in God; I say this merely because so very many people in our society do believe in God, due to faith, that it is of some importance why one would toss out (as I think they should) the epidemiological grounding of “faith.”
To me, it seems, there are several great reasons to dismiss any claim that stakes its ability to be taken seriously in your ability to “just have faith.” I’m now going to, as succinctly and respectfully as I can, outline what my top three reasons are.
Number One: Because it’s just plain stupid.
Imagine, that someone came up to me and informed me that they could, without mechanical assistance whatseover, fly. Just strait up fly.
Now what if I believed that person without any evidence? Without a video that wasn’t suspiciously susceptible to being doctored? Without eye witness reports that were definitively genuine and consistent with the facts in addition to being consistent in regards to how they describe the flying man?
You would, justifiably, call me a fool. Now what if I based my life upon the notion that this person could actually fly? What if I justified my every action and vote based on what I thought the flying-person would want? What if I hated, loved, empowered, and oppressed based on what I thought the flying-person would like? What if I did all this still without good, genuine evidence of their powers, and when you asked about it just told you “I simply have faith!”
Yep, you’d call me stupid. And that’s okay! It would be honest. It might not be polite or sensitive…..but meh, fuck it, at least it would be honest. And really, can you be more respectful towards someone than when you are totally honest with them? That’s why I don’t shy away from telling my Christian friends that I think faith is a silly, shitty reason for believing anything. It is sad but true that honesty hurts sometimes.
Number Two: Most believers even tacitly admit that it’s stupid.
The thing is, most Theists will confess that faith is a poor excuse for belief in a very round about way. When someone from another religion (or some silly new age spiritualism group) claims that they “just have faith” most God fearing, Bible revering Christians (for example) will try to argue with them and reason with them to follow the Bible’s claims instead. In so doing, they are de facto admitting that reason and evidence ought to trump someone’s faith.
Or what about those times when Theists boldly assert “Atheism isn’t a logical position; it’s based on faith as much as any religion!” Claims like this are normally followed by a list of arguments and evidences (however lame) as to why that particular Theist’s favorite dogma is true. Inherent in this claim/argument setup is the notion that faith isn’t as good as reason and evidence.
Indeed, it seems the rule that for most Theists that the faith defense is only trotted out when their backs are against the wall and it’s clear that they’ve not a single good, well reasoned, logical argument on their side.
Number Three: It’s damned insulting.
I’ll probably wind up writing a separate post about this single subject later on; I simply feel that passionately about it. I personally find faith to be fundamentally insulting to myself, my Christian friends who rely on it, and the human species as a whole. I used to be deeply indoctrinated in the Christian faith; a real fundamentalist. I was steeped in the personal crisis/redemption subculture and my faith in God was absolute, unquestionable, and crucial to my life.
However, steeped in the faith though I was, I fought. I struggled and clawed my way out, bit by painful bit, via reasoning and acknowledgment of evidence. It was a hard won fight, and in the end my faith was gone and I’d gained new respect for my mind and its abilities. But damn it was difficult…
Nowadays, when people tell me I ought to go back to just having faith, I get incensed. My mind, such as it is, will never be the absolute best around. Bigger fish in the sea, blah blah blah. Still, with nothing but my grey matter, I figured out huge holes in the faith I was taught to revere (holes which were later confirmed by my reading up on these sorts of things). The point is I’m damn proud of my mind, and I’d hate to see it muddied by the sloppy non-reasoning that is faith.
And, on that point, I’m also irked to see my Theistic friends, who are good people, waste their minds on faith as well. It’s an insult to their inner potential, as it is an insult to the potential of the human species and the powerhouse of a brain we’ve been dealt by nature; a brain that could be put to better use solving the world’s problems and finding beauty and joy in the one life which we know that we have.
Faith is just such a damned waste.
So there we are. The top three reasons I despise “just have faith,” and other such slogans. It is stupid, those espousing it usually tacitly admit that it is stupid, and it is just plain insulting.
We’re done here.
SASHA blog guest contributor Brandon Christen, a former Church of Christ preacher-turned-atheist, was born and raised in Missouri. He grew up in a religious family, and joined a far-right conservative church when he was a senior in college. For almost six years, the church dominated all facets of his life and thinking until, in early 2010, he began to openly question its steadfast rejection of science and philosophy. After a protracted struggle with his convictions, Brandon became an atheist in September of that year. These days Brandon remains intensely interested in religion, focusing on religious versus secular moral and ethical issues. Brandon frequently engages in conversations with as many religious individuals as he can in a “grass roots” effort to spread awareness about secular morality. He also acts as a strong voice in the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Central Missouri. While he sees debunking religious falsehoods as important, Brandon’s ultimate focus is on becoming a professional philosopher and emphasizing in ethics so as to lend his voice to the attempt to heal the moral divide between believers and non-believers.
and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!