The Problem with Faith

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.

 

2 thoughts on The Problem with Faith

  1. Your dog philosophy breeds secular contempt with no universal concrete solutions, either.
    Why be side-swiped by Atheism it has no ethical proven harmonious track record. only satisfies their tasteless sense of philosophical reality bluntly lacking righteousness or moral accountability to no higher power but only to themselves, defiant of the spirit. Big Difference, Atheist like the nazis cannot be trusted.
    Furthermore, Atheist use reverse philosophical psychology against scripture to justify their twisted secular fantasy.

    • Dear Danny (I’m assuming that is your name based on your email address),
      You use an awful lot of negative descriptors. It would be helpful for you to define the words and phrases you use. Please define the meaning of:
      1) “Dog Philosophy”
      2) “Secular contempt”
      3) What is “philosophical reality”
      4) Define righteousness
      5) What is a “secular fantasy”
      6) What is “reverse philosophical psychology”

      Please answer the following questions:
      1) Do you think it is possible to understand ethical truths that transcend time and culture? If so, how do you think this knowledge is obtainable?
      2) Do you believe people have free will?
      3) What is your religious tradition? How would you label yourself?

      I’m assuming you did not read this entire website. It’s a book laid out into bite sized parts. If you keep reading you will find a vey simple foundation for ethics, “I feel, therefore I know ethics.” If you can feel harm and feel emotional distress when treated unfairly, then you have the foundation for ethical knowledge. If you recognize other people and creatures have this capacity, then you can use this understanding (empathy) to figure out how to threat others as well. This is innate; it does not require teaching. Whether you think we are created by God or are a product of natural forces, we are born with the innate ability to feel. This innate ability is universal and present in most of the animal kingdom. It is the foundation which all ethical understanding is built.

      Atheism is not a philosophy or a religion. It is simply not a believe in god or gods. Atheist do not look to supernatural forces to explain the world around them. You really can’t generalize about an atheist beliefs because the only thing you can tell about an atheist is they do not believe in a God or gods; that’s it.

      Nazis have a whole series of beliefs and philosophies about the world. Nazis believe is a host of memes that alter the lens they view the world through. Any political or religious affiliation is one of a common set of beliefs about the world (memes) that a group of people agree on (typically loosely). Generalizations are typically more accurate in this regard because organized institutions of thought produce literature on their core beliefs that can be referenced.

      Let me see if I can restate your main concerns:
      It appears you feel atheist are not concerned with universal truths. I would argue that a world view without supernatural explanations is the only one where universal truths are possible.

      Secular explanations are not anti-religious, they simply do not require religious explanations. Science does not seek knowledge of various religious traditions; it simply asks questions about the world and seeks to prove hypothesis through observation, testing, and repeated trails till an idea is fully flushed out. Secular thought is not contemptuous, it is largely unbiased; liberated from ideology, it’s a “just the facts” approach to the world. There are no sacred thoughts or ideas per se beyond that nothing is above question or reproach.

      Moral accountablity is only possible with a universal foundation of ethics. Religions are culturally based; they are learned memes and ethically relative. The only way to find common ground between cultures is to get to a foundation of knowledge that transcends culture, something more fundamental; innate knowledge. EthicsDefined.org is a resource to help bend the world toward that goal.

      An appeal to innate knowledge is not an appeal to oneself, quite the opposite. It’s an appeal to everyone. It is knowledge that can be tested by anyone via introspection and good questions; such as, “How would I like it if that was done to me?” Again, no religious knowledge is required to answer these questions and regardless of your religious beliefs, you should be able to acknowledge the benefit of being able to communicate on this level to people of different cultural backgrounds to your own.

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