The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (It’s almost certainly not Paul the Apostle, as Christians generally assume: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Epistle_to_the_Hebrews), in Chapter 11 Vs. 1 describes faith as follows:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we
do not see.”
I personally agree. When a believer in any religion talks about
faith in their God or Gods, it seems to me, they mean something very
close to what is defined above, and give it an almost mystical quality
that is taboo to attack. It is as if when someone claims his or her
beliefs to be matter of faith, they expect to be immune from criticism
in polite society no matter how stupid or insane the belief is.
Personally I think faith is a horrible thing to value and to hold
Another term for faith or “being sure of what you hope for” is
“wishful thinking”. People behaving as though they are “sure of what I
hope for” are likely to spend money they do not have, as if it their
bank account is constantly being replenished. They are likely to try
any strange new intoxicants offered to them, have promiscuous sex with
many anonymous partners, drive recklessly without fear of legal
punishment or accident, quit their jobs, start fights, and behave as
though they lived in a consequence free world.
Obviously, such behavior would be disastrous for the vast majority of
people, since the things we hope for regarding these matters are often
obviously not true. Our actions do have consequences, our money supply
is finite and strange intoxicants will do us great harm, (as will
actions when influenced by them). Anonymous sex will likely end in
disease and unwanted pregnancy. Quiting our jobs will impoverish us,
driving recklesslywill lead to death or injury, and randomly getting
into fights will do the same.
My point with all this is that our uncertainty of what is hoped for
is an important tool for our survival and well being. It is nice to
hope for the best, but live as though the best is guaranteed is a sure
recipe for the worst kind of self destruction, not to mention a good way
of consistently being wrong about things. That is why, rather than
going through life believing that the best possible outcome is bound to
happen, I refrain from believing anything until I have a good amount of
tangible evidence that an outcome is likely.
Most religious people do this too, in most areas of life except for
their religious beliefs. Most religions demand you accept their claims
on faith, because they lack the tangible evidence needed to convince
anyone with a shred of critical thinking ability that they are true.
This disturbs me a great deal, since believing based on evidence has
been a major, if not primary, factor in our survival as a species, as
well as the development of the technologies that we enjoy today.
Believing things without evidence is the surest way to guarantee one’s
actions will have the opposite of the intended impact.
That a supposed God wants us to set aside our ability to use logic
and practice skepticism, and instead engage in pure wishful thinking is a
huge red-flag to me!! To be clear, faith is a horrible tool for
determining fact from fantasy and is the most over-rated of all human
virtues. When a religious person tells me their beliefs are based on
faith, the game for me is up. They are essentially saying they have no
good reason to believe what they believe, but they hope that it is true,
so will continue to believe it anyway. This the epitome of
intellectual dishonesty and cowardice.
With this, the believer may point out that even if they are wrong,
following their wishful thinking about their God and their after life
will not lead to the physical harm, death, sickness, and poverty that
the wishful thinking I’ve described above will. Generally speaking this
may be correct for most religious people. However, there are countless
examples of all these things caused by religious faith. These include
the September 11th attacks, the inquisition, religiously justified
slavery, incidents where children die due to their religious parents
praying or seeking faith healers instead of actual medical care, and the
decent into a 1,500 year dark age brought about by Christianity. To be
fair the wishful thinking of most believers will not cause all this
harm, but here in America it is likely to cost you: Your Sunday
mornings, a 10th of your income, your human dignity (since the biggest
religions hold humans in very low regard), your appreciation for the
women in your life, your ability to appreciate the findings of science,
your time and energy, and most of all the only life you will be sure you
will ever have (which will have been wasted pursuing an after life that
is probably not there).
With that I reject faith and choose to deal with reality on it’s own