Faith is a decision to indulge

faith

I just read this ridiculous article where atheists are not only falsely vilified for the age old religious charge of “lacking” the capacity for faith, but we’re essentially compared to psychopaths and sociopaths. I’ve tried to address this “lacking” issue before, but religious arguments never die no matter how much you dismantle them. Much like their religious belief itself, the religious, or I should say the faith indulgers, cling desperately to the belief that these arguments are valid and what they argue is true. It’s sad and almost worthy of pity if not for the real harm that results from their faith indulgence and what they’ll do to both keep indulging and make that indulgence respectable. In response to the article…

Faith has nothing to do with love or empathy. Faith is a decision to believe something either without evidence or in spite of contrary evidence. Perhaps what you meant to say is you have difficulty understanding love or empathy, much like how many religious people have difficulty understanding things like evolution, so you base your opinions of such things on faith. It’s unfortunately a common human trait to rely on faith in the face of ignorance, however making no effort to address such ignorance, in other words to be willfully ignorant, is something that I’d call “fundamentally wrong”.

I suggest you cease being willfully ignorant and actually educate yourself about such things as empathy, social interaction, and of course atheism because to simply declare “I have an idea” and subsequently misrepresent and insult atheists based on your imagination of what’s what is both ridiculous and embarrassing. Atheism is not some faith based or personal choice like preferring red or blue, it is (for most) a logical, rational response to claims that a god or gods exist. Such claims, as you admit, are faith based and faith is not a path to knowledge. Faith is an indulgence, a personal choice to indulge in a belief that’s unwarranted.

This suggestion that atheists “lack” the capacity to feel faith is like saying most people lack the blood lust of a serial killer. How could we claim we understand a serial killer’s motivations if we have “no innate capacity to feel it”? Likewise, I wouldn’t say I “lack” the “innate capacity to feel” the pleasure of addiction to alcohol, nicotine, gambling, or a host of other things. In short, what I’m saying is the predilection to indulge in faith is not a superior characteristic, it’s one that humans should be embarrassed to admit they indulge in. I’m quite happy that I don’t feel drawn to such an indulgence. I’m not lacking faith, or the capacity to believe things on faith. It’s the faith indulger who is lacking the capacity to resist the temptation of faith. The faith indulger lacks the capacity to understand things, or at least lacks the desire to study and investigate things and instead lazily indulges in faith to form an opinion or belief about a given subject.

Unlike your claim that atheists hopelessly lack a capacity you value, I’d say faith indulgers don’t hopelessly lack the capacity for rationalism. I base such an opinion on the fact that they rely on rationalism, on observation and evidence, to form the majority of their daily decisions. For instance, even the most religious person doesn’t close their eyes and rely on faith to decide when it’s safe to cross the street. The capacity is there, yet they cheat to varying degrees here and there and indulge in faith.

The desire to indulge is no doubt innate as I think it’s very human to want to expend as little energy as possible, and indulging in faith is far easier than either trying to educate yourself or to accept that an answer may not be, or never will be available. That, however, neither excuses nor validates indulging in faith, and it certainly doesn’t make those who resist such an indulgence “lacking”.

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12 Responses to “Faith is a decision to indulge”

  1. Faith – definition 1) Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.

    I don't lack the ability to have faith, I merely am much more intelligent about the things I choose to put my faith in. I put my faith (confident belief in the truth and trustworthiness) in things like numbers and theoretical ideas that make sense, and I do so based on things like evidence (which I believe in as well, although religious believers are scared to place their faith in evidence because they know it will disprove their religious beliefs).

    Religious believers tend to put their faith in the ambiguous statements of authority figures and modern interpretations (and there are many different interpretations and translated versions that all differ from each other) of ancient religious texts. That is perfectly alright as far as I'm concerned, so long as they have the integrity to admit their faith is wrong and then to reformulate their own beliefs when it fails them, as religious faith often does (my own faith that I put into science, logic, and causality tends to serve me quite well though, it hasn't let me down yet, lol, I haven't ever had a day where I got out of bed and accidentally fell upwards or anything like that).

  2. Humanity really needs to stop believing that "faith is a virtue". Call it what it is – a vice – one that millions of people are hooked on, and cannot get off without some serious brain adjustments.

    I think the key word in QF's definition is "confident". Yes, we all have the capacity to have faith, (some of us call it trust) as long as it's a confident belief. Where do we get our confidence? From facts, logic and evidence. Where do theists get their confidence? They'd be hard pressed to tell you, but they know they have it.

    Like that example in the main article, where the atheist said he has faith that the car next to him won't slam into him. Obviously, on occasion, it's a misplaced faith, but most of the time it's justified. What does he base his "faith" on? Numerous things, like the sense of self preservation all drivers have to avoid accidents, the licensing system that requires training and experience before one is given a license, the fact that the roads are constructed to maximize multiple car driving, the experience of thousands of miles of similar driving where cars don't slam into you, etc, etc. etc. These all are real world facts on which to base confidence.

    Do theists have the same faith in the next door driver? Sure. Is it based on a belief that their god will protect them? Probably. Does god protect everyone that drives? Absolutely not. What can they point to (with confidence) that their god will protect them if he doesn't protect everyone? Nothing. Do theists factor that into their faith? Never.

    it all boils down to wishful thinking and hope that they've done all the right things and said the right things and paid the right amount of money to their church and prayed at all the right times so that god will favor them.

    That's the best example of self-delusion around.

  3. I don't accept definition #1 unless "confident belief" means absolute certainty. Definition #2 is much more applicable.

    There's a great, and I believe intentional, blurring of the lines between the words faith and trust. They are not the same. The distinction between trust and faith is trust would be a belief that DOES rest on evidence. The belief in what the other drivers will do on the road is an example of trust, not faith. I have reasons to believe the other drivers will not drive into me. I have no reason to believe there are any deities, ghosts, fairies or an afterlife. Those require faith for belief. The religious like to equivocate with these two words, and will claim atheists rely on faith (thereby making faith valid or the atheist's objection to faith invalid) when they expect to see the sun in the sky or the mail delivered tomorrow. That's not faith, it's trust. It would require faith to believe those things wouldn't happen.

  4. As Hitchens said, not long ago, "If I could change just one thing it would be to disassociate this idea that faith is a virtue".

    Not only is it NOT a virtue, it is a weakness (or "indulgence" as you call it) well worth our mockery.

  5. I agree that the word faith has been used in a squishy manner. We really need to define it strictly as a religious word, and stop using it in non-religious connotations. Like "sacrament' and "holy", only in religious contexts.

    Although the English language is flexible enough to handle all connotations, it's the theists who abuse it by insisting on calling anything and everything faith based. Atheism, science, etc, is all faith based for them, because they think faith is a virtue.

    feh.

  6. There are multiple weaknesses. There's intellectual laziness, the inability to handle unknowns, and of course the inability to deal with reality (there's perhaps more, but those seem to be the majors). To deal with those weaknesses, they indulge in faith, like any junky would indulge in alcohol, heroin, or what have you. The weaknesses prompt the indulgence.

  7. It's all about making their indulgence respectable. If they can make you think various respectable things are actually exercises of faith, then they've made faith respectable.

  8. In evangelical Christian circles, "sinners" are exhorted to "make a decision for Christ," or "choose Christ." So, even people like me who are immersed in highly religious environments from birth, do come to a point at which we decide whether to accept or reject the dogma that fills our heads. But, it's not quite that simple.

    When I was 16, I decided to stop resisting what I'd been told was god's will, etc. I had a "come to Jesus" moment and I "came to Jesus" – willingly, repentantly, etc. Had I not made that decision then, I would not have been rejecting the paradigm, I just would have been operating within it – on the wrong side – as a "rebel" rather than a "convert" or "believer." The only way I could conceive of leaving the Christian paradigm would have been to convert to another religion. But, I'd already rejected those as viable paradigms, per my indoctrination. Even atheism, which I didn't understand at all, had been rejected as a viable position. I just had no concept of what it would be like to not believe in god; the idea was beyond my ken. What I'm trying to say is that the decision to indulge, while real, may often be poorly informed. It was in my case. Still, we are responsible for the decisions we make, and no one ever has all the information we should have before deciding and acting. So, yes, I chose very poorly all those years ago and I've paid the price for it.

    Young people today have more information available than I did decades ago, which is probably a key reason why Christianity's grip on American children is slipping. A lot of people are still growing up with religion and sticking with it, but statistics show that more of them are leaving religion's clutches than used to be the case. I think easier access to information via the Internet, etc., is a key factor in religion's slow slippage from the dominance to which it has long been accustomed. Another factor is the visibility of prominent atheists via books, lectures, debates, etc. Atheism is much more visible than it was when I was a kid. That's a great thing.

  9. I wonder what the response would be from the author to people like you who had "the capacity for faith" but later rejected it. My guess for the religious response would be:
    a) you never REALLY had faith
    or
    b) you just traded one faith for another (asserting atheism is faith based).

  10. Definition #2 is what the religious authorities would have you believe, but why encourage that definition though, it's too narrow because it implies that only the religious can have faith in something.

    To me, faith merely implies a belief in the face of uncertainty, which is intrinsic in the world. I have faith, for instance, that Japan will recover from the horrific events that have recently unraveled (earthquakes, tsunamis, flood damage, deaths, nuclear meltdown, airport and airplanes damaged, damage to high speed trains, etc). I base my faith on the fact that the Japanese people are brilliant innovators and business folk, and therefore I conclude they will pull through on this one. However, time will only tell whether my faith is misplaced or not.

  11. No, #1 is what they would have you believe, but #2 is the actual definition.

    You've confused faith and trust. What you're exhibiting is trust, not faith. You're basing your belief on tangible facts. Faith would be that the tragedy is the result of a god's wrath, or perhaps that Godzilla is stirring.

  12. I don't trust anybody

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