4. Is Faith Epistemologically Valid?

 

Having faith that something is true doesn’t make it so.

“If one had sufficient evidence to warrant belief in a particular claim, then one wouldn’t believe the claim on the basis of faith. “Faith” is the word one uses when one does not have enough evidence to justify holding a belief, but when one just goes ahead and believes anyway.”

― Peter Boghossian,

Religious faith works like a master of psychological deception, a hypnosis. A person agrees to believe something supernatural, for which no proof is available (otherwise faith wouldn’t be necessary), based on the word of others that have also agreed to believe the same thing without proof.

And the idea behind faith is to agree to believe so firmly in its truth that no evidence that contradicts said belief can be accepted, and is deemed automatically wrong. Faith, thereby, automatically rejects critical thinking, reason, logic, facts, or otherwise contrary evidence.

Even worse: The indoctrinators of faith treat the subsequent self-deception of faith as a virtue.

Of course the faithful deny this. They say you are allowed to question. And this may be true, but one is not allowed to come to a different conclusion, or social and perhaps punitive consequences follow. And they are not good.

A former Muslim, for example, who loses his faith and denies Islam or by accepting, say, another faith, Christianity, for example, is considered Apostate. And the penalty for that is death.

I believe this is one of the reasons that Islam finds itself difficult to integrate with world culture, except by exterminating or assimilating said cultures through force of violence. Any pretense to freedom of thought or a contrary fact is rewarded with punishment, often public and often brutal.

How can anything advance if it is violently resistant to change, improvement, or new knowledge? This is why beheading, stoning, honor killing, sexual genital mutilation, the mistreatment and deprecation of women, and so forth, seem so archaic and evil by today’s secular standards of civility.

I met a Jehovah’s Witness who was being shunned, not only by his congregation but by his immediate family as well, for having serious doubts about his religion. And on a forum, the same was happening to a life-long Mormon. Challenging one’s faith can be socially traumatic.

 

The Efficacy of Faith

I have actually spoken at length to certain Christians who take the bible so seriously that they honestly believe that the earth is no more than ten thousand years old, and that the cosmos was created after the earth, because that’s how it’s described in the bible. They call themselves Young Earth Creationists.

And though not one solitary fact can confirm their views, they believe anyway because “the bible tells them so.” Faith stifles mental and intellectual development by denying the real world in exchange for an imaginary one. Such believers are of the idea that as long as they “keep the faith” they will be rewarded by an invisible creature, because maintaining the belief is what faith is all about.

There have been countless children denied medical treatment because their faithful parents believed what Jesus says in the bible about praying for God’s help in Jesus’ name, in faith. Only recently are parents finally being routinely prosecuted for faith-based negligent deaths.

In Africa, there is an epidemic of child tortures, even by Christian congregations, on the grounds that certain children are inhabited by demons, or the Devil himself.[i] And needless to say, most religious violence is faith based.

Many of us believe 9-11 was more faith based than political. And many of us also believe that Muslim terrorism is more faith based than political. But let us not forget the centuries of Catholic inquisitions and crusades, along with their instruments of torture. Faith has a very long history of violence, usually in the name of some god.

 

But is faith inherently wrong?

In the words of Jesus, just before he ascended from earth into heaven:

And he said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Mark 16:15-18 (KJV)

Why must a person be damned on the basis belief? Might a righteous and good person be dammed, while a believing scoundrel be heaven bound? Belief and baptism, even according to Jesus, are the divine requirements that determine if a person is worth saving. The character of the person is not even mentioned.

 

Where Faith Meets Reality

Can any faithful person demonstrate the gift of healing as told by Jesus in the bible? There are plenty enough charlatans ready to take money from the gullible with faith healings, but how about in a scientifically controlled environment, where observation is objective and cheating is not possible? The answer is: there has never been a single one.

And should anyone contest this, one only need take a visit to the children’s cancer ward with faith healer in tow.

But what about what Jesus said? If you believe the bible is the word of God and Jesus is God (or his son), and you’re faithful, can you drink any deadly thing without harm? You see, there is a difference between faith in the form of hope, and the supernatural faith of religion. If Jesus is God (or his son) and he says you can drink poison without harm, what excuse prevents you (or anyone) from giving the demonstration?

If there was an actual God and he came down and told you personally, “You could drink poison and no harm will come to you,” you would be able to do it, wouldn’t you? Therefore I ask you, is the bible the actual word of God? Are you willing to give the demonstration? Will any pastor, father, Cardinal or priest? Pretending that this book is the word of God doesn’t make it so, does it?

Faith is pretending. And it has just been proved.

It is clear that religious faith is in fact wrong when it aids in the harm of others, through actions like torture, negligence, violence, or when harm will result when substituted for reality, like believing it’s safe to drink poison, or voting to condemn life-saving medical research.  Faith is simply an agreement to believe; it has nothing whatever to do with what is true.

 

Is Faith Epistemologically Valid?

It is easily demonstrated that faith cannot distinguish between a true and a false proposition. This accounts for why some, in faith, believe in Islam, or in Judaism, or Christianity, or Mormonism, or a host of other religious beliefs. None offer facts of God, but only holy stories of miracles and divinity that asks you to believe on the basis of faith.

And in order to be accepted by the social group doing the asking, one capitulates, (usually as a child who has no choice in the matter and lacks critical thinking), and makes the agreement. It is simply a decision to believe. From there it is pure indoctrination designed to enforce the agreement.

Indoctrination can be in the form of small obligations, or in the form of an entire institution complete with elaborate rituals designed for strengthening that commitment. One is made to act-out as-if the belief is true.

But unfortunately, faith is epistemologically invalid. This is because faith has no means of determining truth. Even worse is that religious faith has no commitment to truth. Upon the discovery of a fact that contradicts the faith, the faithful are to maintain the faith in spite of the fact. Faith has no self-correcting mechanism. Faith is not concerned with what is true; faith is concerned with maintaining belief.

But I ask you, what good is maintaining a belief in that which is false? The outcome can only be mistake and ignorance.

Centuries of religious violence, the suppression of science, and cultural deformities (like: honor killings, male and female genital mutilation, prejudice and hatred, etc.) have been cancers upon this earth since man beseeched the invisible for favor.

Truth is not faith based. But faith accommodates falsehood without question.

Such is how, and why, an otherwise decent person can be made to suicide-bomb a bus full of innocent children – and how that person’s family can feel proud, even honored, that their son (or daughter) is now automatically granted entry into heaven for the deed.

I shudder at what kind of heaven this might be, that bestows entry into the land of love a murderer of the innocent. What kind of God this must be also, that fits the description of a devil?

What kind of god would support this, especially in his name, is beyond the rational mind. But such murders have been going on for centuries. You can read about God ordering such massacres, even genocide, in the biblical Old Testament; and, you can read about centuries of Inquisitions and Crusades under varying Popes throughout history. It is perfectly clear…

Faith cannot distinguish a true proposition from a false one. It therefore cannot be a means of knowledge, worldly or spiritual.

You may supply an answer to this question, and/or others, by clicking on this sentence. 

 

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/18/african-children-denounce_n_324943.html