March 26, 2012

Is Faith A Poison?

I received this comment to my St. Patrick's Day post last week:
"Faith: No one word personifies the absolute worst and most wicked policies of religion better than that. Faith is mind-rot -- it's a poison that destroys critical thinking, undermines evidence, and leads people into lives dedicated to absurdity. It's a parasite that's regarded as a virtue. I speak as a representative of the scientific faction of atheism here -- it's one thing we simply cannot compromise on. Faith is wrong, and at the same time faith is a central tenet of just about every religion on the planet. We can't ignore that-- that's the thing we are interested in fighting."-P.Z. Myers (comment left by truthoverfaith)
I didn't post it because I have a rule against leaving comments that have nothing to do with the topic, and this had very little to do with images celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Technically the rule states that I'll wait 10 days but A) I've been thinking of getting rid of that in the rule and B) a hit and run comment like this which so blatantly ignores the rule doesn't really deserve that level of consideration.

However, I felt the quote was worth responding to. 'Faith' is a very abused term in our culture. Often it refers to religious belief in general, but more specifically we generally understand 'faith' to be the belief in something despite evidence. This is clearly the definition which Mr. Myers is using here.

However, in the Bible 'faith' does not have this meaning. The biblical understanding of faith is that of trust. We have faith in God because we trust Him to be good and honest with us. When it comes to the acquisition of truth, what this means is that when God says something is true, we believe Him. But that doesn't mean we close our eyes. We no more abandon reason than Mr. Myers does when he trusts a particular study by an established scientist. He trusts in that scientist's credentials. That is faith.

A rejection of faith as a general concept then is not only foolish, but also the epitome of hubris. Just due to our nature, we, as individuals, lack the perspective to completely comprehend the full volume of evidence pertaining to the universe. We need the assistance of others to disseminate it.

Faith isn't a cancer; it isn't a poison. It is the backbone of society: the capacity to go beyond oneself and rely on the power and understanding of others. It is one thing to have a different understanding of the nature of the world then others, but to attack abstract concepts like 'faith', especially without fully understanding what they are, is simply pretentious and intellectually lazy. It is a way of ostentatiously avoiding the real issues, and quite frankly, it does not impress me.


bethyada said...

Same comment at my blog, again out of context.

Faith can several meanings as you say, trust and belief are synonyms. I think the concept of faithfulness is also helpful for understanding faith. We have faith in those who have shown themselves faithful. This is useful because faithfulness comes from proving oneself reliable over time, ie. it is based on evidence.

Jc_Freak: said...

Another word which I think is really important is fidelity. Fidelity is based off of the Latin word fide which every good historically knowledgable Protestant knows means faith.