The Problem with Faith

Why do I get so upset when people believe in something like ID? Faith is important in many peoples' lives, so why can't we just live and let live? This is a question that was recently asked by a friend of mine who is generally smarter than I am. It's been bothering me for a while now, so I feel I have to get out an answer.

Let me try to explain the problem I have with faith. Faith is belief without proof. Religions teach people from an early age that faith is a virtue and doubting is a sin. This is one of my biggest issues with religion. Faith is NOT a virtue. Blind belief should not be something that people respect. I understand that faith in some things makes sense, but faith in and of itself is not a good thing. Respecting faith because it's faith is akin to tolerating intolerance.

Faith is what empowers suicide bombers. Faith is what keeps stem cell research from its potential. Faith is what encourages people with AIDS to not use contraception. And in any of those three previous statements I could have used a different word: Ignorance.

If there were a god and He were truly wise and just, I find it impossible to believe he would not reward intelligent skepticism more than blind faith. On the subject of ID, this same friend said that many rational people believe in ID to some extent. If there really are plenty of rational people who believe in ID, then there really are only two explanations. The first is that they don't really know what ID is. I explained previously that it is creationism re-branded. I was not exaggerating. If they know that and still believe it then they might as well believe the world is flat because I don't know how to talk someone out of that much crazy. The second explanation is that they believe in a creator of some sort that had a hand in designing us. A belief in god is not something I'm going to attack in this post, but denial of evolution is just ignorant. I see the options as a few categories.

1. The person believes in creationism. The earth is only a few thousand years old, etc.
2. The person believes that there is a god or designer who designed all that exists. The person denies evolution for the most part or totally.
3. The person believes there is a god or designer who may have had a hand in evolution. The person does not deny evolution, but thinks god helps it along with some greater purpose (humans ... or perhaps bananas).
4. The person believes evolution has happened without the need of any divine intervention.

I believe anyone in the 1 and 2 category is severely deluded. The rational people my friend spoke of must be those of group 3. I think that those in this category suffer from a earth-is-the-center-of-the-universe complex and a lack of education in genetics and evolution, but certainly these people are rational and just a few books and perhaps a bonk on the head will land them in category 4. Basically, if you deny evolution in favor of a biblical explanation, you are not rational.



Joe said...

Well said Mike.

We've had discussions about this in the past so you know I'm in general agreement with you.

Blind faith is what has caused many of the problems and wars in the world. You're right, faith is what empowers suicide bombers, prevents homosexual marriage and many other travesties. But isn't faith also what allows many people to continue fighting terminal disease? Doesn't faith allow many people to cope with death and uncertainty in life?

The faithful have found their answers in the world, and the non-faithful have found theirs.

Those that are in 3 are people that have struggled to come to terms with two conflicting ideologies of the day. Science helps answer many questions, but it's also completely inadequate for answering other questions that people struggle with such as: Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? What is right or wrong?

If only people could learn to respect other people and their beliefs, the world could be a much better place. Unfortunately it's usually the faithful we see trying to impose their beliefs upon others instead of allowing them their own choice.

P.S. Matt and I are thinking about heading out to Japan in mid-late march unless we get tickets to a Euro 2008 game or two.

Erik said...

I'll play devil's advocate. Belief without proof is actually extremely useful. I don't have time to wait for everything to be proved to me before I will believe it. I believe fire will burn me even though I have never been burned or even seen anyone else get burned. I believe stars are extremely far away even though I've never measured the red-shift in their light. I have to take on faith the idea that light from burning hydrogen in stars in other galaxies has the same fourier spectrum as that from our own sun otherwise measuring red-shift would be meaningless. Can you prove that carbon-14 decays at the same rate now as it did thousands of years ago? It turns out most of my beliefs are not based on proof. You might want to drop the word "proof" altogether since not much is ever proved outside of mathematics. Even if I get burned by fire today that doesn't prove I'll get burned next time. Proof is hard.

You might be tempted to change your argument and say the real problem is when you believe in things that are untestable. Unfortunately we all do that too. Even my hydrogen example above is untestable, until we can travel to other stars.

If these arguments were easy it would all be settled by now. :-)

Michael said...

Perhaps I should have said 'evidence'. All the examples you listed have large amounts of evidence from scientists. I don't need to personally verify each thing because scientists peer review and constantly try to prove each other wrong. Meanwhile other things like ID have zero evidence for them and mountains of evidence to the contrary. For example, there is no evidence to suggest carbon decay rates have ever changed.

The only reason I used the word proof was the particular dictionary definition of 'faith' I think evidence works just as well when talking about scientific things. I appreciate you playing devils advocate but I think you're missing my point or trying to change it.

CresceNet said...
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