Someone who has faith in god holds the concept of god to be true despite the fact that you can not prove the existence or non-existence of god. Your ‘lucky’ rabbits foot, lucky shirt, etc fall into the sphere of irrational thought; although these latter examples can be proven to be false due to the positive attributes given to them. The god of the agnostic, which is the corner all people of faith retreat when questioned, is defined as being undefinable. Without attributes, god is not only untestable, it is undefinable , making it completely irrational.
Are irrational thoughts and beliefs (faith) bad? No… well not necessarily. If you have an irrational belief that causes no harm and provides you with some comfort, than by all means, have faith in whatever you want. If however, your faith compels you or others to behave in an unethical manner, then your irrational belief can and should be judged based on the ethical conditions it raises.
In theory, many articles of faith, say the agnostic belief in a higher, undefined being, which we will call “God” is perfectly acceptable as an irrational belief/article of faith. There maybe good rational reasons for irrational belief; mainly it may provide a sense of emotional comfort…. OK so far.
Ethics as defined in this blog, is compatible with a faith in God. I may say Ethical knowledge is natural, you may say it is “God given”; I am OK with that. So in theory, faith (irrational beliefs) and ethics are not at odds. So long as you can accept Ethics is knowable without reference to religious dogma, then there is no conflict.
If you rationally think about it, “Free Will”, a requirement for moral behavior and a requirement for religious conversion, and many other tenants of religion – requires that you have a “God given” or natural ability to know right from wrong; i.e. a basic knowledge and understanding of ethics.
How could you be a sinner or a saint without free will?… without a knowledge of ethics? How could you choose the “correct religion”, or come to “realize the true word of God” without free will? Note – we are all born atheist (non-believers in God – religion is learned). Therefore free will necessities an innate knowledge of ethics. You do not need to have faith in that, it is philosophically and scientifically verifiable.
Do not let the word atheism scare you, as Richard Dawkins keenly notes, “We are all atheist, some of us just go one god further”.
In reality, I think Sam Harris, author of “The End of Faith” is more right than wrong. I think religion has become a greater cause for bad than for good.
If religion could morph into an entity that only concerned itself with addressing the irrational needs of people, it could remain relavent and co-exist with science and social institutions responsible for ethical justice. To do this, it would have to release its cultural connection to spheres of influence it once dominated involving matters of ethics and science.
Religion has changed tremendously over the years but its current fears of obsolescence has lead it to double down, become more fundamental and backwards looking, eager to blame others, making it less loving and more hateful. If religion is to stay relavent and useful, it will require major reform. It will have to ceed power (influence over many of its historical spheres of influence) peacefully or else it will be the cause of our mutual destruction.
“Every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right” – Ani DiFranco. Religion has been a wonderful tool throughout history. While it has been utilized as a weapon many times throughout history, it has likely provided a net good…maybe. The historical benefits and costs aside; religion now is one of the largest hindrances to human progress.
Jared Diamond keenly notes, civilizations are usually undone by the very thing that made them successful in the past. With the world increasingly shrinking and cultures having to integrate at a rapid rate, a set of memes rooted in irrational thought – Religion, which by definition is ethically Relativistic, simply will not do as means for social adhesion.
The only competing idea that has proven more successul than religion is free and democratic social systems organized by States; ones with balanced powers which answers to the people. While there is clearly room for improvement in current State structures, secular democratic States have a much better ethical track record when compared to Theocracies.
Inorder for us to push through our current paradigm shift… which started in the Enlightenment and appears to have recently regressed a bit… we will have to accept Ethics as the baseline foundation for all societies, and religion will have to be relegated to addressing our irrational emotional needs… which is not an insignificant task.