Christopher Hitchens once said, “Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.
Faith imprisons the mind, hindering its fullest potential. It forces its victims to accept information blindly, without hesitation. We have the ability to be skeptical, to ask for good evidence, but faith convinces us, conveniently, that good evidence not only isn’t necessary, but it should be abandoned immediately. Are we not better than this? Can we not speak louder than an ancient thought process that has held so many minds captive? I believe we are and we can do so in an effective way. Many have walked away from faith in hopes of finding clarity where it wasn’t once promised. Evaluating and restructuring our beliefs in an evidence-based manner brings about the clarity many seek. Faith is in direct violation of this, making it one of the most absurd and perverse ideas ever conceived by mankind.
Recently, I discussed the existence of God with a local non-denominational Christian pastor. He was writing a sermon on creation and asked if I could lend my thoughts on naturalism since I am an atheist author. I obliged, regrettably. Almost immediately, we found ourselves in disagreement. Of course, initially we came from opposing positions, but it was the definition of faith that threatened to cease the conversation entirely. He claimed his faith was nothing more than an elevated form of trust, but failed to say how it was that he rationalized that trust. I stated that faith was nothing more than the unreasonable foundation for any particular belief; a foundation made of hope, not fact. He then gave me this definition:
“And faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
In consideration of this definition, faith certainly is nothing more than wishful thinking, which gives the hope that “things not seen” exist. We seemed to agree, though I could not get him to admit that. Perhaps it was the way in which we atheists phrase the definition, or perhaps it’s our human reluctance to admit ignorance. Like this pastor, many will put forth unsubstantiated religious claims as good evidence used to justify their belief, like personal experiences, miracles, and the “truth” of scripture; these, of course, deviate from what we should consider good evidence. These religious claims are subjective, misinterpreted observations meant to pad a deep-seated belief; which any rational person should consider as bad evidence. Faith is the basis of belief supported by problematic evidences.
Why It Must Go
Faith disparages the thinking capabilities of those it inflicts. It is amazing that something of such little worth has such power in the mind of the willing. Faith tells one it’s alright to pillage the villages of your country’s enemy, to fit oneself with home-fashioned explosive devices and detonate the contraption in a crowded building, to cast their homosexual child from the family home, and so on and so forth; wherever those of faith feel their God tells them to throw their ignorance. As Stephen Weinberg once said, “With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
But not all inspired religious individuals commit acts of atrocity on behalf of their faith – physical atrocities, I should say. Faith, by itself, is an intellectual atrocity. It forces our minds to conform to fantasy rather than reality. It asks of us to sacrifice the very thing that make us one of the greatest apes to have ever lived; what truly separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. It does nothing to further our existence and better humanity. Armed with unsubstantiated information, has human life ever prospered? No. Progress comes from those who objectively reason when confronted with issues.
When Faith Dies, Reason Thrives
Stepping away from this absurdity could be the greatest of achievements. This means one has reclaimed his/her right to think for themselves; to ask without the fear of condemnation from the tyranny on high. I’m not going to go so far as to say life is always better when you leave faith behind. I will say this, though: Understanding reality is preferable to living a delusion. Faith attempts to blend both of these, but separating the two isn’t difficult to do. Ask questions, study the arguments, and go where the good and objective evidences point. The beauty of our existence is much better when left untouched by the hands of fantasy.