This article is for those who think that faith is a virtue. I would like to propose that it is not.
Over the centuries, the religious have extolled faith as a virtue, as a valid method of seeing reality, and that idea has taken such a deep root in our culture. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life declares that faith is “trusting God in spite of unanswered questions and unresolved doubts” and this sounds so deep and comforting but it’s really just a another way of saying, “I don’t understand anything that’s happening and I can’t do anything about it but I’m hoping for the best.” What does “trusting God” even mean when people can’t even agree what “God” means?
Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, defines faith as “pretending to know things you don’t know” and that seems like a very flippant way to put it. But if you happen to be a person of faith and are offended by that, my request is that you forgive the offense for a couple of minutes (forgiveness is also a virtue) and think about it.
In all those instances that you claim faith, isn’t it true that those are instances that you don’t really know but instead simply choose to believe? Because if there were proof and evidence in the first place, then you wouldn’t need to invoke faith. You simply point to the evidence. Take gravity, for example. It would be absurd to talk about having faith in gravity because there is overwhelming evidence for it. In other words we know gravity.
However, when we talk about something like Noah’s Ark and the global flood story – even amidst all the evidence and experts’ opinions pointing out its improbability – a sizeable number of people still choose “by faith” to believe that it’s true, even if they don’t really know whether it happened or not. In fact, they refuse to know. They rarely have the drive to do research and read contrary opinions – perhaps they are afraid that their faith may be shaken and they will no longer be on the list of “good and faithful servants” who never gave up their beliefs, who were foolish enough to test their faith. After all, didn’t God say, “Do not put the Lord God to the test (Leviticus 6:16)?”
So think of all the things you accept “by faith” (like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity) and honestly see if it isn’t true that you are simply pretending to know things you don’t really know.
Faith is not a very good way to live. It kills wonder, inquiry and research. It is not a virtue. And nobody really lives by faith all the time in all aspects of life.
Think about this:
If faith is so commendable, why don’t you simply have faith and pray when you get sick? Why do you go to the doctor? Why do you take medicine?
Why do you work hard to earn money to survive and feed your family? Why not have faith that God will provide? Didn’t Jesus say that all you have to do is to “seek his kingdom” and he will provide food, drink and clothing just as he provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:25-33)?
For students, why do you study hard for exams? Why not have enough faith that God will provide the right answers at the right time?
Why do you wash your hands before you eat? Or brush your teeth before you sleep? Why not have faith that God will kill those pesky germs and protect you from disease?
Now, I’m sure you have rational and sensible answers for each of these questions and that’s just the point. If you apply reason and rationality to these aspects of your life, doesn’t it make sense to apply it to ALL aspects of your life?
Why do you use reason for practical living yet cling to faith for aspects of your life that are unsure and unknown? If faith were such a virtue, then you would apply it to every facet of your life, not just as a stopgap to fill in the holes in your knowledge and understanding, which is exactly what primitive people did. When they encountered something they did not understand, they would attribute it to either a god or goddess, spirits, angels or demons.
But it is now the 21st century. Reason, science, and logic have been proven to work time and again. When you build an airplane based on scientific principles, it flies. When you use mathematics to put a satellite in orbit, it stays there. When you put medicine through double-blind placebo-controlled tests, you have better assurance that it will cure what it needs to cure.
Now I will admit that there are still many things we do not understand and many things we do not know – but the proven and tested way to gain more knowledge and understanding is not faith, but by applying reason, science and logic.
That is my Holy Trinity.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
This article also appears in Filipino Freethinkers.
Andy Uyboco is the Meetup Director of Filipino Freethinkers Davao Chapter and is inviting Davao residents to join their next meetup on January 25, 2014 (Saturday) at 7:30 PM Cafe Demitasse, F. Torres St., Davao City. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.