by Marcus Loane
"Nothing causes as much
destruction, misery, and death as obsession with a truth believed absolute.
Every crime in history is the product of some fanaticism. Every massacre is
performed in the name of virtue; in the name of legitimate nationalism, a true
religion, a just ideology, the fight against Satan."
- French molecular biologist François Jacob, 1988
I define faith as belief in something for which there is no evidence.
Faith is belief in something just because. Now how could that be a good idea? Faith is like a guess but often not even an educated guess. The probability of a belief based only on faith being correct, is small.
The world has many religions and many beliefs based on faith. Many of these beliefs contradict each other so that tells us that most of them are wrong. Most of them cannot be tested for validity. It is this that lets them survive. The testable beliefs like the 6000 year old earth belief have had to be abandoned - the evidence said otherwise.
Faith is a recipe for believing falsehoods.
The fact that a belief system requires faith means it cannot be shown to be true. If there were evidence that the beliefs were true then faith would not be needed. If a belief system were true it would be able to stand up to sceptical enquiry and would have no need to promote faith. Scientists do not tell us to believe anything on faith. (They rarely tell us to believe anything.) They provide evidence. Anyone can, in principle, repeat their experiments.
Promoting faith is a way to soften up potential converts so that they just accept anything else they are told. Faith can be used to justify absolutely anything. It has been used to justify the most horrendous atrocities. It still is. Parents have refused life saving blood transfusions for their children because of faith based beliefs. Other parents have directly murdered their children because of faith. A recent example is the killing of a daughter for marrying outside her parents religion. Faith can be very dangerous and often lethal. Attempts at "faith healing" are sometimes used instead of conventional medicine often with fatal results.
Faith can also be comforting and this might help explain its appeal.
Now why is faith still regarded as virtuous? Why is most of society complicit in exalting or at least respecting faith. The devout and even the secular general public, have been conditioned to get a warm dreamy feeling at the mention of the word. Why does the faith idea persist? The faith idea can spread because it has a self referential quality. Once it is believed it self protects. The faith idea discourages scepticism and scepticism might make people question the validity of faith.
It is time for more public discourse and early education on the dangers of faith. We can respect faith's followers as fellow human beings but we should not respect any thinking that relies on faith.