The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics
For the past three weeks, I have attended a Bible study hosted by the Baptist Student Union at the University of Missouri. Two weeks ago, we spent a good portion of the time talking about faith. The following week at the study, I asked a friend if they wanted to meet up later, and someone else said, “So you have faith that they will meet you later.” At these Bible studies I tend to stay pretty quiet because I know the Christians came to have an honest Bible study and not to argue with a non-believer.
Merriam-Webster defines faith as, “Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” It seems reasonable that many Christians would agree on this definition considering even Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as, “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The only reason I believe in anything is because of the evidence that supports it. I did not have faith that my friend would meet me later. What I did have is a working knowledge of past events and experiences with my friend. I had trust, which was earned. Trusting a friend to meet you later at a specific place for a specific reason does not require faith because there is evidence to believe in your friend. If I asked someone on the street who I never met before to meet me later for no reason, and they said they would, that would require faith because there is no evidence to support the idea that I would see them again.
The whole point of critical thinking skills is to learn how to question what we know and seek the best evidence for why we believe the things we do. The whole point of faith is to believe things without requiring any evidence. Therefore, the process of critical thinking is directly in contradiction with the idea of faith. I value critical thinking skills more than faith simply because I value the idea of questioning a belief more than the idea of believing something that is not justified through evidence.
A problem with religion is that it endorses and promotes faith. Does this have to be a bad thing? Of course not. Many of the people that play the lottery have faith they will win. Eventually one person will. For that one person, I have no problem saying that their faith that they would win did them wonders. Like most things, faith can be used for good, but I think it does more harm than good at the end of the day. The amazing thing about many Christians is that they will leave faith for critical thinking on almost all aspects of their day to day lives, but when it comes to the most important question they resort to faith. Sam Harris writes:
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.
Evidence is the only reason for belief in anything. Regardless of what is being believed is religious or not. I don’t have faith because it directly contradicts the philosophy of using evidence to justify a belief. In the words of Matt Dillahunty, “If you can find something I believe that I don’t have evidence for, I’m going to stop believing in it.”
Author Jeremy Locke is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s in biology. He is currently taking a year off from school and plans to attend graduate school in the field of evolutionary biology.