ARCHIVES:

Posts in this section were archived prior to February 2010. For more recent posts, go to the HOME PAGE.

12/09/2007                                                                                       View Comments

What is faith?

By Psy-Cop

Since announcing my departure from Christianity, I have been barraged with some well meaning friends and family. There have been some not so well meaning but they have cut me off for being a traitor. I am confronted with questions about my faith and what happened to it. Here are my thoughts on faith.

The question of faith has come up repeatedly in my conversations with Christians. Most conversations start fairly civilly with we both are using good evidence and reasons for our beliefs. When things start getting rocky for believers or they run out of arguments, they have an easy out, “you just need to have faith.” As Romans 1:17 says, “The righteous will live by faith.”

What is faith? The biblical definition given in Hebrews 11:1 says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Dictionary.com gives the definition of faith as “belief that is not based on proof.”

To put it simply, I do not have faith in anything. None. Zip, Zero and Nada.

I have trust in many things but I do not have faith. What is the difference? Back to Dictionary.com, Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, etc., of a person or thing. Each of these requires a prior demonstration. I love my wife more than anything but I do not have blind faith in her. In the years I have known her I have come to trust her because of her demonstrated integrity, strength and ability. The day I find her putting arsenic in my food, my trust will need to be re-evaluated.

Back to religion. A perfect example of biblical trust is described in Exodus 14:30-31 (New International Version)

30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

The people did not have blind faith in God, according to the story, they saw a demonstration and put there trust in what they had seen.

Jesus discussed trust as he closed a parable in Luke 16:10 (New International Version) "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

When I looked back on my Christian life, it was faith that kept me from asking hard questions and when I did, it allowed me to accept insufficient answers. I remember lessons about the “armor of God as discussed in Ephesians. In Ephesians 6:16 (New International Version) we read, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” How does one use a shield, you hide behind it. That is exactly how faith is used as a place to hide from anything, even the truth, which may challenge a belief.

This is how the Church is able to ignore Biblical scholarship which shows with considerable evidence that the scriptures, have been changed hundreds if not thousands of times since they were first written from the oral traditions. By faith, many churches still preach that the Bibles in their pews are the inspirered and infallible word of God.

Faith is not a virtue. Faith is a sin against the intellect. If our minds were created by a designing God, then faith is an insult to the gift. Faith takes you nowhere. It is a journey with no beginning or end, it is the train that never leaves the station. Faith is the ultimate enemy of truth because when a question that challenges your beliefs, faith will allow you to ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Here is the example of faith vs trust. Did Jesus exist? Most of my Christian readers have probably stopped reading at this simple question. I agree with my Christian readers that he probably really did exist in roughly the approximate time and place as reported by the Gospel accounts. However the way I came to this conclusion is completely different. It was a matter of reviewing the available evidence for his existence and the evidence against then coming to a tentative decision. This conclusions is open to new or better evidence. This has nothing to do with faith.

Not all Christians hide their heads in the sand when facing the hard questions and I do not wish for it to be seen that I am painting all Christians with the same brush. Many of the greatest intellects I have known are people of faith. Some are Christians, some are Muslims, some have faith in new-thought.

For believers of great faith, what I say here will have no impact on you because you have faith in your beliefs is higher than the value of the truth. For those of you who put truth above everything, let go of your faith, learn what you can trust and seek the truth.

So what do I trust. I trust that the people I love will continue to love me despite my heresies. I trust that letting go of our emotional need to believe will get us closer to the truth in any subject.

26 comments:

John of Indiana said...

I can't remember who said it, but "Faith is belief in what your rational mind knows to be utter bullshit".

Works for me.

Jamie said...

This fits in (a bit) with a conversation I had with my (almost ex-)wife this morning. She asked me what took me so long getting our Tim Horton's coffee this morning, and I said that I parked in the parking a lot a bit to read.

"He's NOT a delusion, you know" she said. Clearly, she'd noticed the Richard Dawkins book in my van.

"I've only read the first couple chapters" I said, avoiding the conversation. She told me the other chapters wouldn't make a difference.

I steered the conversation toward 'safer' material and told her that the other book I had been reading is one that could be more beneficial to people from varying faith backgrounds, and that is "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris. I had to send it back to the Library before I finished it, but I told her I thought the idea he presented, that FAITH should be held up to the same standard of REASON that everything else in our life is, is a good message for everyone.

"Of course," she said, "that's what people who have true faith do".

I find that our conversations about religion our ending more quickly than they used to, because I don't see any point in them. She and I speak different languages when it comes to religion.

I did ask her if she wanted to read the Dawkins book. "I saw it in the bookstore earlier," she said, "and I thought about it, but decided that with all the stuff I have already to read and with how busy I am, that I didn't want to fill my mind with that when I already know it isn't true."

Of course. That was just the answer I expected.

Shadowwalker said...

It is hard talking with Christians when you choose to walk away because of seeing all the inconsistancies in the church, and belives too many talk of this blind faith yet they do not have it becuase they have no clue they only do what others are doing, for me the last straw was when I left my ex because I could not hand all the bs, the people in the church showed me the true meaning of shunning and christian love do not belive like us we wont talk to you... sad very child like, I still belive in something just not the church Chritian thing,

Anonymous said...

Jamie,

I sure can relate. Wish you well.

M

AtheistToothFairy said...

Jamie said...
Jamie's Wife: "He's NOT a delusion, you know" she said.

Clearly, she'd noticed the Richard Dawkins book in my van.
-------
Jamie,
I have a few 'anti-god' and skeptic books about the house, but I have yet to see my very xtian wife even pick one up to see beyond their covers.

While she tells me she loves science, she has yet to not fall asleep while we are watching a science type show on TV (Xtian self-preservation perhaps ???)

Any logical anti-god/anti-bible argument from me is met with statements like:

1. You just don't 'get it'.
2. If you had faith you would understand.
3. Your understanding of god is all twisted up.
4. I know in my heart that one day you'll realize that god is there.
5. I'll keep praying for god to make you see him.
6. You are so closed minded....if you would just open your heart to god etc..
7. I know god is real because I can feel him.
8. God has to be real because: Insert here any spooky feeling coincidence from your life that you can claim was a 'god-did-it' event.
9. The evolution theory is full of holes and you know it, but you need some way to account for us, outside of god's plan.

And last but not least.....

10. Why are you so ANGRY at god?

This one is interesting because when I get very frustrated during a debate about god with her, instead of understanding my increasing emotions are a product of her stubborn blindness to the issue at hand, my emotions are seen by her as my being angry at her god himself.

This misconception is quite common, as we see it here on this site.
To the devout xtian, it is impossible for their god not to exist, so therefore if we show anger when dealing with their overly narrow view of the world, it "must be" because we actually are "angry at their god" and not they themselves.

They just can't seem to even imagine a world without their god being around.
To them it's just plainly impossible that anyone could deny such an obvious entity.
Therefore, the only possible reason that could exist for us to get emotional when trying to show them the errors of their thinking, is that something in our lives made us angry at god and that is why we now try and disprove his existence etc..

To a die-hard xtian, it is just not conceivable that any human who once "knew god", could ever truly believe he just never existed in the first place. Surely then, the only explanation left to a xtian, is that something went wrong in our lives and we just chose to take-it-out on their god to make ourselves feel better.

To these xtians, it just is not possible that any counter evidence would ever add up to their god not being real. Such evidence is a hoax, was planted by the devil, a conspiracy, and surely some new evidence in the future will be found that will show that god was real all along.


There are many other remarks like these, but it all boils down to this.
If one wishes to believe in anything mystical and one only needs FAITH as evidence, then nothing from logic or critical thinking will make a dent in that belief.

Demonstrating any 'problem' of the bible to my wife is merely met with a shrugging of her shoulders. In her mind, just because she can't understand why such biblical problems exist, doesn't mean there isn't an answer for those problems. It only means that she doesn't YET know the answers. At this point I'm told that when I get to heaven I can ask god myself for the answers, if they are so important for me to know about etc..

If one has a primary premise in life that say's "god exists" and the bible is his words, then no amount of shown errancy, no amount of human reasoning, no amount of modern science, will ever enable that person to see the other side of the god problem.

Also, as we are very well aware of, xtians will do anything to justify and maintain their faith, but nothing can beat a good set of old fashioned blinders.


ATF (who also has heard that feelings for god take priority over intelligence)

AtheistToothFairy said...

Psy-Cop

Faith is a sin against the intellect. If our minds were created by a designing God, then faith is an insult to the gift

Psy,
What you said about faith here is a powerful statement and a most welcome one.
It never made sense to me why a real god would ever desire to obtain his flock by playing a hide&seek GAME with them. This is quite childish and I doubt that a infinitely old creator god would still act like a kid emotionally.

Of course, the bible does indeed portray him as both childish and quite emotional indeed, but don't let our xtians know that little revelation.
They can't realize that a god who can see the total distant future, would never get emotional about such events as they were occurring.

Did Jesus exist? Most of my Christian readers have probably stopped reading at this simple question. I agree with my Christian readers that he probably really did exist in roughly the approximate time and place as reported by the Gospel accounts
However the way I came to this conclusion is completely different. It was a matter of reviewing the available evidence for his existence and the evidence against then coming to a tentative decision


Psy, I'm most curious as to how what evidence you found that would support an historical jesus, especially if we are talking about one who was more than human and tricked his audience with magic tricks.

The minuscule evidence from history that makes mention of this jesus, was either hearsay (gossip) or was intentionally inserted into the works of known historians of that era, at a later date.

After reading through many articles on many websites, I'm quite doubtful that any significant character named jesus even existed during that time period.
Even the name jesus was much like the name John today, as far as being so common, so it's no wonder such a common name was chosen by those who spread the rumors and/or wrote the gospels.

If you ask yourself how ANY significant human in history could evade historians taking notice of them, then you have to wonder MUCH why this very popular jesus could escape such widespread historical writings.
Either saviours who had many followers and could do magic tricks were very common back then and jesus was just one of the bunch, or god erased 99% of the historical records about jesus from those days. Perhaps it was yet another way to ensure god/jesus could carry on this game of hide&seek with us into the future.

I've watched quite a few shows on the history channel and it's quite clear that these ancient societies just loved to make some sort of representation of the humans that were important to them, along with whatever god(s) they believed in.
The talent and means to make statues and drawings have been around long before christ lived, so if jesus was so vastly popular then why didn't anyone make a sculpture of him; a drawing at least?
If so many saw him as a prophet or god, then why wasn't anything that belonged to jesus, or was built by jesus, saved and put into a shrine of sorts, whereby his followers could continue to remember his time as a human on earth.

Why isn't it very clear where his tomb was?
Why isn't it known where his mother and step-father lived?
What about the other Mary in his life that seemed to be important to him. Surely she had a family and her stories would also have been passed down though the generations of this great jesus.

If you look closely and understand human nature and how it has caused humans to behave in our history, then one has to greatly wonder why after jesus went back to heaven, the memories of his life before his personal 3 year crusade, were erased from history.

Take a look Psy, at history and just try and find any significant evidence that this jesus did all the things the bible claims.
Ask yourself why so LITTLE is known about his human existence, as a child and as a young man.

Ask yourself why jesus never wrote a single word down and didn't bother to get his followers to do it either. Why did it take decades after jesus left earth, for anyone to think it was important enough to document a piece of his latter life?

For all these reasons and more, I cannot see how it was possible for a 'hero' jesus to have lived in that era. If there was a jesus that the bible story is based upon, he was nothing more than a common man and died as one, unnoticed by most.


ATF (who knows nothing I just said will phase a single xtian, as their faith doesn't give a damn about any lack of evidence when it comes to their hero jesus)

Jamie said...

AtheistToothFairy,

Your list of 10 statements really hit home. I've heard all of them. Especially the coincidence one.

I don't know if THIS was a coincidence or if someone was going to extreme lengths to bring me back into the fold, but at my father-in-law's funeral a few weeks back, for the "memories" section, someone stood up and read a sermon he had written about how Satan goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and how even people who have gone to church all their lives and who were educated in the church school system can still be at risk. The piece then went on to talk about a 'friend' in this situation who just posted a blog about now being agnostic. The 'friend' was actually me, and yes, it made me squirm considerably in the middle of the funeral. I guess they were going to make damn sure I couldn't argue back (it's not like I'm so insensitive as to even mention it at a funeral) The piece went on to say he wouldn't debate me as I am better with words and he'd probably lose. So instead he listed a series of three or four coincidences that proved God existed.

I was angry for a few moments that someone chose this time and place to grind this particular ax. But then I realized that from their point of view they were only being loving and using whatever means possible to bring me back (including hitting me at a time when I would be most emotional).

Maybe it had nothing to do with me...maybe it was all coincidence...but I have trouble believing that.

AtheistToothFairy said...

Jamie wrote:
AtheistToothFairy,
Your list of 10 statements really hit home. I've heard all of them. Especially the coincidence one


Hi Jamie,
Yeah, I had a feeling you'd recognize at least a few of those statements.
I swear they must teach xtians to use them in church on sunday, because they seem like they've been parroted from a common xtian apologist list to use on us.


I don't know if THIS was a coincidence or if someone was going to extreme lengths to bring me back into the fold, but at my father-in-law's funeral a few weeks back, for the "memories" section, someone stood up and read a sermon he had written about how Satan goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and how even people who have gone to church all their lives and who were educated in the church school system can still be at risk. The piece then went on to talk about a 'friend' in this situation who just posted a blog about now being agnostic

I highly suspect that someone **heard** you were online on SOME anti-god blog etc., but they probably had no idea what blog.
Does your wife know you write on a ex-xtian blog perhaps and let someone know you are doing that?
While not impossible, I doubt a local xtian at the funeral would have been HERE and recognized it was you and then chose to speak out about you.
Unless of course, if you have your own blog and under your own name, then all bets are off here?

Satan as a Roaring Lion:
Yes, I've been talking about this in other post here.
The devil is suppose to be so blatant and powerful and in-your-face, yet at the same time he keeps just as hidden as god is when it comes to actually letting us know for sure he exists.

Not for nothing, but if the devil and his demons are roaming the earth, tempting us humans like xtians say they are, wouldn't these devil demons perhaps at least take the form of some THING supernatural that we couldn't explain away, but at the same time fool us into thinking they were not of the devil.
If I was the devil, why wouldn't I pretend to be the very god some seek to find?
Does god draw the line and if the devil tries that trick, he instantly stops him cold.
Talk about trying to make sense of a 'twisted' fable...LOL.

The one thing I'm confused about is how would a sermon about the devil stealing souls be appropriate at a funeral?


instead he listed a series of three or four coincidences that proved God existed.

Oh, I bet not even one of these coincidences proved a darn thing, right?
Of course, not one person disputed these great 'proofs' but once again, swallowed them whole as even more FACTUAL proof of their god being real.
Heck, I bet some even re-told the stories later on as being factual, just like urban legends get repeated as factual.


But then I realized that from their point of view they were only being loving and using whatever means possible to bring me back (including hitting me at a time when I would be most emotional).

I think I want to disagree here with the idea that they were being 'loving' towards you.
Most folks who do something from LOVE wouldn't stoop so low as to pull a stunt like these xtians did on you.
It's more like they wanted to see you squirm and give you a reason to feel shame in front of the group of them.

Xtians as I've said before, will use ANY means to repopulate their dwindling flock.
I'm actually surprised they didn't go as far as to cite you by name at that funeral.

Isn't it odd, that they think our reasoning is twisted and yet it's all so clear that we have the big picture of the world and can look into their world with ease to understand how they operate, yet the reverse is never true of xtians.
They can't even grasp the concept of what the world is like without a god at the helm.
Oh, but doesn't the world and it's workings make so much more sense when you remove the god factor from it?


ATF (Who wonders why so many xtians lack wisdom or are mean spirited; or both)

Jamie said...

Unless of course, if you have your own blog and under your own name, then all bets are off here?

Yes, that's the case, and my father-in-law reads it. The post in question is here. There are also hints of it in later blogs that I wrote. My site is definitely not an ex-christian site. In fact, if one were to go back to the earliest blogs, they'd see pieces from a christian slant, since I started it before deconverting.

My father-in-law apparently had written and read this piece at his church sometime in the past year. It's possible, I suppose, that the lady reading it just happened to like it and ask for a copy from my mother-in-law or my wife (who would be the only one who knew how to operate his computer). Or maybe she asked him for a copy at the time and kept it. It's one of those things I'll never know for sure, because I refuse to stoop to ask.

As far as them being loving from their point of view, I think they are. I was Seventh-day Adventist, so luckily I don't have to fry forever for my sins...but I still have to fry for them until I'm dead, and I still don't get eternal life, and so saving me from eternal death would be loving, right?

I can't be too hard on my wife, really. She married a fundamentalist christian and instead she wound up with a gay atheist. It's a lot to come to grips with all at once. Unfortunately, instead of seeing the role religion played in the mess I've made by trying to be straight when I'm not, she simply sees the problem as my refusal to surrender the gay to God. So she's really just reaching out to whatever she can to try and retrieve some normalcy in her life. In some ways, her faith may indeed be giving her strength to carry on. But in other ways, it's making it so it's not only the marriage that's ending, but possibly any hope of friendship as well.

We'll see.

As far as demons and devils go, there is a great Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin asks, "Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?"

To which Hobbes replies, "I'm not sure man needs the help".

You can read it here.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. I do have a question about how you ended it. You stated that "So what do I trust. I trust that the people I love will continue to love me despite my heresies. I trust that letting go of our emotional need to believe will get us closer to the truth in any subject." Earlier on you distinguish faith from trust. You state that faith is "belief that is not based on proof" and that "Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, etc., of a person or thing. Each of these requires a prior demonstration." So the difference would be proof. Could you not argue that trust deals with prior demonstration and faith is simply the belief that what was demonstrated will continue into the future? I trust that my kitchen chairs will hold me when I sit down because they have done so before, but I do not have proof that they will continue to do so. I have faith that they will continue to do so. If this is all taken as correct, then wouldn't you technically have faith that your friends will continue to love you because you believe that their benevolence will continue although you have no proof that it will or will not continue. So, if the Bible is true and God has demonstrated his power and honesty in the past, is it not called "faith" that one would believe he would continue to act in the same way in which he had previously demonstrated? If that were so would faith not be based on evidence of sorts? Just a question.

sconnor said...

Faith is believing what you know ain't so -- Mark Twain

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. In my previous post I made a major mistake. My approach is flawed when I stated that the Bible is true and God has demonstrated his power and honesty in the past. I realize this is not proven and only an assumption on my part. Can't blame me for trying though.

AtheistToothFairy said...

To Anonymous, on faith and kitchen chairs,

Anon said:
I trust that my kitchen chairs will hold me when I sit down because they have done so before, but I do not have proof that they will continue to do so. I have faith that they will continue to do so

Anon,
First, could you please explain to us why so many of you anon folks can't be bothered to type in a psuedo-name for yourselves here??

In your chair example, some might say they have 'faith' the chair will continue to function for them, but I would actually use the word 'trust' in that case.

That trust might land up being misplaced, if at some point the chair does break, but I would still consider it 'trusting' the chair, based on my past history of sitting on it.

To myself, the word "Faith" would be more suitable for a flimsy looking chair that I never sat in before; that it wouldn't break.

Having faith that the bible is true and that god exists, is more a blind faith, for one has no experience to judge a god by, to know if he's both real and trustworthy to believe in etc..
I wouldn't consider it to be 'trust', because unless one has met god and seen him in action, then one has no personal history with this particular god-being to place trust in. Hence, to me, it would require a great amount of faith. Faith without any form of proof to back it up.

So I think that trusting a thing, comes with some valid reasons; while 'faith' tends to come with almost no history or reason to count on it being right.


ATF (who has neither trust or faith, in any god that humans have conjured up so far)

eel_shepherd said...

AtheistToothFairy wrote:
"...To the devout xtian, it is impossible for their god not to exist,..."

I wonder if anyone remembers being a witness to, or actually a participant in, a conversation with the last diehard kid who still believed Santa Claus was real. Not speaking rhetorically here; I mean the real conversation with a real kid.

I can remember being in a classroom in elementary school (kindergarten, Grade One, or Grade Two, I forget which) and watching/listening to an argument with the last couple of hold-outs for Santa being real, not just part of the Xmas experience. I thought that the ones who'd stopped believing in Santa were being unnecessarily harsh with the diehards, and that they were deriving some petty pleasure in disabusing the minority of their cherished fantasy, like they were getting even with the ones who had, in turn, burst their bubble earlier. Like now it was time to get something back on their own prior disillusionment. It was clear that they did not value whatever quality it was that Santa was bringing to the lives of the Santa believers. Kids are harsh, they take no prisoners. I wanted to say the kid equivalent of "it's not as good as Santa, but it's not as bad as these kids either," and let them go home and take leave of Santa in their own way and at their own pace. But, of course, I didn't.

Don't quite know what my point is, or even if I set out to make one. I've been nice to, and other times harsh to, the various Xtians that wander onto the pages of this discussion board as I saw fit at the time. Certainly it wouldn't do to humour the believers to the point of accompanying them down the wrong road they're on. But each of them is a person, and the span of our days is too short to gain any mastery of how to lift each individual person out of the muck of religious dogma as he has tailored it to fit his own circumstance.

Jim Arvo said...

eel_shepherd,

Those were some really interesting thoughts. I like the analogy with the "holdouts" for Santa. You are right that each believer is an individual, and what "works" or is appropriate for one is not necessarily so for another. And we can be as blunt and harsh as kids at times. (Okay, maybe most of the time.)

I've personally tried many different approaches to engaging visiting Christians. What I find remarkable is how nearly impossible it is to find even the smallest patch of common ground. It's as though we are different life forms. (Oddly, I think many Christians would agree with that.) One thing I've noticed is just how hard it is to inject any humor into these discussions. Sure, we make jokes among ourselves, but it's as rare as hen's teeth to find anything that we can ALL laugh at, believers and nonbelievers alike. That's another indication of just how far apart we are. It's sad, really.

Jamie said...

Jim, I've found the same thing with the 'common ground' problem. There just doesn't seem to much if any.

I'm not harsh with Christians, though. I'll ask tough questions if the subject comes up. But if someone is trying to convert me, then I think tough questions are fair game. Other than that, though, I usually simply remain silent when around church people (which is a lot still). I just don't engage the question of whether or not there is a God when for them there is no question to engage.

Cousin Ricky said...

ATF wrote: “Even the name jesus was much like the name John today, as far as being so common, so it's no wonder such a common name was chosen by those who spread the rumors and/or wrote the gospels.”

“Jesus,” or Yeshua, derives from the name Yehoshua (Joshua) which means “Yahweh saves.” Jesus Christ, therefore, means “anointed savior.” It’s all so very logical, even if the Midrashic hagiographies (“gospels”) told about him aren’t.

boomSLANG said...

Concerning the issue of "trust" vs "Faith", Anonymous asks... Could you not argue that trust deals with prior demonstration and faith is simply the belief that what was demonstrated will continue into the future?

You erroneously make an assumption on behalf of those who employ "Faith". Remember, people of religious "Faith" have not witnessed, first-hand, any "prior demonstration"[bold added] of their respective deity's alleged feats of the supernatural---thus, they assume, have hope, or yes, have "Faith", that what was allegedly "demonstrated" is true, and will "continue in the future". But that goes beyond mere "trust".

Anony' continues...I trust that my kitchen chairs will hold me when I sit down because they have done so before, but I do not have proof that they will continue to do so.

Yes, you're right, in an absolute sense, you don't have that "proof". However, based not on hearsay; based not on revelation; based not intuition... but based on first-hand experience, one has available to them convincing evidence that chairs support people, and will "continue to do so". Further, we can test the reliability of "chairs", and the results are repeatable.

Anony' elaborates further...I have faith that they will continue to do so[that kitchen chairs will continue to support people].

This is where your comparison falls apart; this is where your analogy doesn't meet your premise. Again, "Faith" and "trust" are not mutually inclusive. You "trust" that your kitchen chairs will support you, but you don't put any extra thought into the act of sitting in them. Unless one has an obsessive/compulsive disorder, no person asks themselves, "Gee, I wonder if this chair will hold me up?", each and every time they perform the act of sitting. You simply trust it, based on the evidence; based on personal experience. "Faith", on the other hand, implies something extra---whether that be extra thought, extra contemplation, or in a religious context, extra devotion to believing what you have no way of knowing.

Anony' attempts...If this is all taken as correct..

It's not correct, however.

...then wouldn't you technically have faith that your friends will continue to love you because you believe that their benevolence will continue although you have no proof that it will or will not continue.

Fortunately, "love" is not only a noun, but a verb, as well. The "love" of a friend or significant other is demonstrable. If said "love" discontinues, or is questionable at any time, the indication would be due to your first-hand interaction with said individual.

Anony concludes...So, if the Bible is true and God has demonstrated his power and honesty in the past, is it not called "faith" that one would believe he would continue to act in the same way in which he had previously demonstrated? If that were so would faith not be based on evidence of sorts? Just a question.

Just an answer: You are hypothesizing that the bible is true, yet, the whole point is that we don't have convincing evidence that it is. In fact, the evidence points to it being just another fallacious man-made religion, just like all religions. Notwithstanding, if we had evidence that the bible's claims were true(as you hypothesize), then "Faith" would become obsolete.

Bloviator said...

To ATF and Jamie:

Boy, can I relate!! My wife is a believer, and as my faith has waned to nonexistence, hers seems to be waxing (sadly in a somewhat narrow evangelical way). She 'knows' something ain't right with me, but not the full extent. All discussions seem to take a 'god' turn sooner or later, and, coupled with 'how can any sane person be an atheist' commentary, I am convinced she is trying to subtly impress the 'need for god in our lives' sermon on me. There is absolutely no room for a rational discussion of religion or its inherent problems (history of the church, etc.) and if I tried to deconstruct the gospel passages -- which I believe is very easy to do -- her blood pressure would rise to a dangerous level. The saddest aspect of this is my wife is one of the smartest, most rational people I have ever known (in any and every other context). ATF, every one of those reasons you listed have been employed by my wife at one time or another. Now when she speaks of god, faith and spirit, I just remain silent. Interesting to note that the only time I relied on faith, as in the old 'leap of faith' definition, was when, acting on an intuitive hunch, I decided to inspect the pillars of my god-belief, which, finding them wanting, chucked the whole thing over.

I am of the opinion that we, as humans, are still more wedded to emotion than to reason, and there is no greater emotional appeal than the promise of eternal life in heaven, or the fear of eternal torment in hell. Perhaps if we keep evolving as a species, this will change for the better.

psy-cop said...

Thank you all for the kind comments. This essay was posted on my blog http://OnTheStreetAndInMyHead.blogspot.com/ as a open letter to friends and family. My closing "So what do I trust. I trust that the people I love will continue to love me despite my heresies," was a challenge for those people who were the target of message.

I also mentioned my opinion about the existence of an actual Jesus. I am really agnostic however if I can only choose between he did or didn't exist, I think the most likely explanation is that there was a remarkable wandering rabbi with many followers. His teachings were changed and adapted to suit the needs of those seeking power. However, I am always willing to re-think my opinion in light of new evidence.

Again my thanks to the community of ex-Christians, you don't know how much your writings have meant to me.

Psy-cop

AtheistToothFairy said...

For Jamie and Bloviator

Jamie wrote:
ATF:Unless of course, if you have your own blog and under your own name, then all bets are off here?

Jamie:Yes, that's the case, and my father-in-law reads it. The post in question is here. There are also hints of it in later blogs that I wrote. My site is definitely not an ex-christian site. In fact, if one were to go back to the earliest blogs, they'd see pieces from a christian slant, since I started it before deconverting.

---
Jamie,

The link to your blog requires a membership, so we can't get in.

I keep asking myself how you went from xtian to atheist on your blog musings, all the while knowing your father-in-law was reading it?
You surely must have known that would ummm, bite you in the ass one day, yes?

One also has to 'love' how the xtians in your life believe one can change their sexual preferences/desires, just by giving the problem to this god of theirs.
I MIGHT be able to somewhat comprehend how one could make a trade of libido for the worshipping of a god, as that's more like just refocusing one's mind on something else, to the point of not thinking about one's libido.
I suppose many catholic priest and nuns do this.....well, or perhaps not.....LOL.

However, for the life of me I can't see how any devotion to any god, would rid oneself of only a part of one's sexual repertoire and leave the balance still functional.
It sure would seem one's sexual likings are inseparable from one's functioning libido.
If the libido is working, then whatever our sexual interest might be, will also be 'online' as well.
So it's ridiculous to me that the xtians in your life can conclude that this god can rid you of one sexual desire and not "throw the baby out with the bath water".

---------------
Bloviator wrote:

>Boy, can I relate!! My wife is a believer, and as my faith has waned to nonexistence, hers seems to be waxing (sadly in a somewhat narrow evangelical way). She 'knows' something ain't right with me, but not the full extent. All discussions seem to take a 'god' turn sooner or later, and, coupled with 'how can any sane person be an atheist' commentary,
----------
Blov',
It took many years for me to take the last step in my de-conversion.
It was far easier to toss out my beliefs in the xtian god/jesus; as well as things supernatural in general, then it was to finally admit to myself that any form of a creator god taking care of us humans, was just not from reality.

For awhile I kept hoping that if there was a god up there, that he could see I was losing my belief in him and would surely come along with some huge 'sign' that he was real and watching me etc..
So that last hope went down the tubes as I refocused my debunking of things supernatural, to researching evidence pro/con for any type of great god that might be real.

My wife already knew for many years that I had no interest in church, but it wasn't until not so long ago that I made it clear that I had become not only a skeptic but an atheist as well.
Like your wife, she is continually baffled as to how I can dismiss her god 'so easily'.


>The saddest aspect of this is my wife is one of the smartest, most rational people I have ever known (in any and every other context).

Mike Shermer (skeptic) explains this problem quite well.
I don't recall the full quote, but it goes something like this:
--Smart people believe dumb things for smart reasons--
He expands on this idea in his book, "Why people believe weird things"

I've also learned that many xtians have TWO brains of sorts.

The first brain is quite rational and is used for earthly dealings.
The second brain is the "god brain" and this brain functions totally different than the first one.

What would seem ridiculous to the first brain, is totally accepted by the god brain, with ease.
The god brain is programmed to believe that god-must-exist, and any incoming data contrary to that programming is seen by the god brain as un-meaningful etc..

If your wife is like mine, then she can be pretty rational while watching a movie on tv and seeing the flaws in the plot, even when such a movie contains an element of some OTHER 'god' belief the characters portray.
Ahh, but when these same type of flaws are directed at her own faith, they are easily dismissed as being erroneous.
Sound familiar to you at all???


>ATF, every one of those reasons you listed have been employed by my wife at one time or another. Now when she speaks of god, faith and spirit, I just remain silent. Interesting to note that the only time I relied on faith, as in the old 'leap of faith' definition, was when, acting on an intuitive hunch, I decided to inspect the pillars of my god-belief, which, finding them wanting, chucked the whole thing over.

I find it ironic that your leap of faith is the very thing that destroyed your god faith.

There are places where I will not discuss my disbelief in god.

For the FEW times I'm required to attend some function in a church, I'm not about to make waves with these believers. I sure won't change their minds on-the-spot and would only create problems for my family.

Unless a coworker brings up the topic, I'm not about to 'preach' my atheism to anyone I work with. Doing so can mess up one's reputation, for surely some will object to your opinions on a touchy topic.
As the saying goes, one shouldn't discuss politics and religion amongst... 'friends and coworkers'.
I think that is a wise old saying.

However, discussing such thing here on the net is part of the reason we have the net, right.

>I am of the opinion that we, as humans, are still more wedded to emotion than to reason, and there is no greater emotional appeal than the promise of eternal life in heaven, or the fear of eternal torment in hell. Perhaps if we keep evolving as a species, this will change for the better.

I totally agree with your idea of 'wedded to emotion'.
It seems that most of us have no problem using reason, unless it conflicts with our emotional side.
The idea of accepting things like, no afterlife and no god, are just too much for the majority to cope with.

As we see all the time, god believers may conclude that there is a 1% chance of their faith being right, but that is enough for them to behave as if the chances were 99%.
It's almost the same mentality that gamblers use at the casino, where they can easily ignore the fact that the stakes are greatly against them, but believe some 'force' in life will make them the big winner anyway.

I do hope you're right that as we evolve, our emotions will not rule our intellect, but unless something in our very nature changes, I doubt that day will be anytime soon.

As we see over and over in the fundies here, there just is no method to make them use their own reasoning powers when it comes to matters of faith.
I think most of our fundies here have a great fear of living in a godless world and can never face that fear, so they bury their heads in god-sand instead.

They will grasp at ANY straw that will confirm their faith, and never look close enough to see it's nothing but a lie.
It's really something that many of them truly think they are justified in their beliefs, just from vague unsupported evidence alone.
That is FEAR making their decisions for them, and not their cognitive minds.


ATF (who thinks that xtians... "Can't see the forest, for the tree's")

Bloviator said...

ATF:

Thanks for the response. I am very grateful for sites such as this where I have a venue to air my feelings without fear of antagonizing my listeners (I don't know too many non-believers in, to use the old 90's phrase, my 'bricks and mortar' world, with the odd exception of my mother-in-law, daughter of a prominent Methodist minister of the early/mid 20th century who had the good sense to become an atheist back in the 1940s.) I still attend church to keep my kids from asking too many questions, and I am a firm believer in the old social gospel which has me volunteering to aid the sick and aged, but I ain't doing it for any eternal reward, rather because it is a good way for me to give back to the community. Anyway, good to hear I am not alone in dealing with a still-believing family who, I will admit, I am in no mood to drag into the daylight of non-belief. I would rather let them find their own path.

Jamie said...

ATF wrote: "I keep asking myself how you went from xtian to atheist on your blog musings, all the while knowing your father-in-law was reading it?
You surely must have known that would ummm, bite you in the ass one day, yes?"


I expected some sort of response to ME...while he was ALIVE. I was a bit taken aback by the response from the grave, so to speak.

I didn't realize that I had the blog set for my network only...I guess I had the good sense to keep my old aunts from reading it anyway. But just so people who tried to click on the link will know what I wrote, I'll cut and paste it below. This was written on May 16, and so it may not completely reflect where I am today, though most of it probably still does. I should really post this as a separate blog...as my own anti-testimony...but I don't know how.

So here it is:

THE AGNOSTIC GOSPEL

"Can you feel the mountains tremble" someone sings from the stereo in my daughters' room. Last week I made them a new CD for Friday nights full of what has come to be known as "praise" music (a genre which is fine for singing in church, but difficult to listen to on the car stereo). It was difficult to make the CD this time. I picked songs that have always appealed to me one way or another. But this time it was different. This time I was doing it with the full realization that I have never felt the mountains tremble.

Sure, it sounds good in a song. And being someone who places himself in the role of main character when reading stories, watching movies, or listening to music, I think I managed to fool myself into believing that I have had such experiences outside of my imagination. But I've realized in the real world I've never really felt any mountains tremble. I've been in a short earthquake that shook the china cabinet for a few seconds. But I didn't get the sense that God was shaking anything.

The past year has been a journey of self discovery on many levels. I've been trying to be more real. In doing so, I've come to believe that I have no evidence for the things I somehow convinced myself were most real. They occupy the same space as the mountains trembling, that is, they are things that I wish were real and true, but things I realize I have only experienced in my head. I am left with a rush of feelings--loneliness, hope, grief, fear, excitement, anger, happiness, sadness--all coming at once.

The loneliness is the hardest. It's like starting life over. I look around at people who mean so much to me and find I am no longer part of their world. Yes, I'm still physically present. But it's as if I can no longer partake in the conversation. And the hardest part is that all of these people want me to take part in the conversation. I don't for a moment doubt my wantedness. But it's just not my conversation anymore. And so it feels like the circle has closed with me on the outside.

And then there is the grief and sadness. Everything I once thought mattered now rings false. Music is the salt in this particular wound. What do I do with the songs I love, or the songs I've written, when the meaning has drained out of them? Music used to be my door to God. The door is still there, it just would appear there is nothing behind it. The room turned out to be empty. I'm having to start from scratch defining what spirituality even is anymore.

I have to wonder, is it just me? Is God simply hiding his face? It isn't that I haven't been searching. I know there are those out there who will think I simply must not have "truly" sought, but no one seems to tell me what the "truly" part of that is that doesn't sound like something I've already done. I could try reading the bible more, but when I do it only serves to show me that the all-powerful, unconditional loving God that I want to believe in simply isn't shown in those pages. Sure, there is love and power, but I can't reconcile it with what often seems like a barbaric god concerned more with revenge and cruelty. I've stopped even trying and for now will leave those pages thousands of years in the past where they came from. Maybe I'll pick them up again when I'm in a better place.

If God is going to show himself, he is going to have to do it in a way more tangible than coincidence and statistical oddity. I've had the debate about why God can't just lay his cards on the table, let us see him, and leave no room for doubt. "But then we wouldn't need faith." is the answer (with apologies to my friend with whom I have this argument regularly). To me, this doesn't answer anything. I want my children to love me, but I don't go about it by disappearing, leaving no hard evidence of my very existence, and then punishing them for not "having faith".

There is light in the darkness, though. I thought that without God, life would have no meaning. But there are times when I'm driving in my car and I realize that this might be it--this moment might be all I have. And so I watch my hands on the steering wheel and breath in the life giving air all around me. I watch the road speed beneath my wheels, and look around at all I can see on this side of our sphere. I drink in the moment realizing that even if it's not my last, the end will come soon enough. And so I cherish the now. Somewhere in the back of my mind it occurs to me that if God exists, and if he is my creator, then I have been created to experience life moment by moment anyway. Somehow storing up treasures for the next world seems to take away from this one...making it less important.

I have also found a certain oneness with the world. I can look around and see that the world is truly beautiful, but it's also truly a mess. It occurs to me that this mess is mine. I am in this with the rest of the people on the planet, and I realize that we have to make this work somehow. Building up walls around our version of the truth is not going to help us here. And acting as if there are no walls around our version of truth won't make those walls go away either. But with all of our walls--Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist--we still all have to learn to get along, and to do it without forcing others into our beliefs. And since I am part of this mess, I have to do my part to change it. While being saved from it at some unspecified date might be nice--and I wouldn't refuse the saving--I'm not sure that counting on it is going to be of much help for me.

Though negative emotions follow from losing my faith, I am also left with a sense of liberation. Who knew agnosticism could be a born again experience? I am free now to think, and to ask the questions that I stopped short of asking before. I can create meaning in my life without having it handed to me, pre-formed, by an institution. It's not that I didn't think before, and I am certainly not trying to imply that people who haven't lost faith are un-thinking. I know too many deep thinkers of faith to believe such a thing.

But for me, I always stopped short with my questions. If what the bible said didn't make sense, I would simply chalk it up to my own lack of understanding, never letting myself think that maybe, just maybe, it didn't makes sense because it really doesn't make sense. I no longer have to wonder why the sermons of an all-loving God didn't jive with the murderous deity of the old testament (whose murderous tendencies indeed show up in the new testament, albeit a whole lot less).

I know this will come as a shock to some, probably most, who know me. I am supposed to be the good church boy who never left the flock, who did what he was supposed to do all his life. I was the one who didn't rebel against my upbringing, who stayed in church despite my doubts and misgivings, and who only liked to rock the boat insomuch as I knew it wouldn't tip. Late adolescence and early adulthood is the time traditionally used for finding oneself. I skipped that part, settling instead for the image of me that I thought would please others. Part of that image was one of The Believer, and some of that was truthful for a time. I was a believer, but I accepted those beliefs as they were handed to me. Now that I am examining my beliefs, I find that they have changed, significantly, from what they used to be.

My teachers confidently told me that the beliefs they taught me would stand up to scrutiny. I guess I believed them, because I didn't scrutinize. When I did finally scrutinize them, I lost them in such a way that I don't think I can get them back. And that's okay. It means I have a lot to re-think and a lot to process. I am looking forward to this leg of my journey.

I hope there is a God. I really do. And I hope that he is truly loving. Not the kind of loving that means frying me into oblivion for not believing when he won't provide proof in the first place. But the kind of loving that shows up...not in misinterpretable signs and coincidences...but really shows up in an undeniably miraculous way, and says "now that you KNOW, come with me". Until then, I see no other option than to remain agnostic.

eel_shepherd said...

Jamie wrote:
"...Somewhere in the back of my mind it occurs to me that if God exists, and if he is my creator, then I have been created to experience life moment by moment anyway. Somehow storing up treasures for the next world seems to take away from this one..."

Yes, that would be like storing up pictures of treasures.

Great essay, Jamie. In recent months Sam Harris has been giving some of his fellow atheists some nervous moments when he doesn't discount the validity of non-dogma-freighted mysticism experience. We need to remind ourselves (although not as often as we need to remind the stream of gate-crashing Xtians that come buzzing through the wide-mesh screen door) that this is an ex-Christian, ex-biblegod, site, and that anyone who's taken the life stance of "whatever it is, if it's real bring it on" has a place here.

Cousin Ricky said...

eel_shepherd wrote: “In recent months Sam Harris has been giving some of his fellow atheists some nervous moments when he doesn't discount the validity of non-dogma-freighted mysticism experience.”

Why should atheists have nervous moments because of Mr. Harris? Atheists of the skeptical variety don’t take beliefs on Sam’s authority, and are open to whatever reality holds, as revealed by objective evidence. When Mr. Harris coughs up some objective evidence, we will evaluate it. Until then, we should treat his musings as the philosophy that they are. (I’m sure Mr. Harris knows as well as anyone whether his musings are worth a big check from James Randi.)

eel_shepherd said...

Cousin Ricky, maybe I was a bit lazy in my presentation of the word "mysticism." By mysticism, in the Sam Harris context, I didn't mean to convey any hint of "paranormal". Nick Oliva ran into the same type of difficulty, that I've created for myself here, in his use of the word "miracle", another word (such as "paradox", which in some contexts can simply mean "ultra counterintuive phenomenon", rather than strictly allowing of two contradictory conclusions) that can give rise to conflict based on confounding, when one person hears dictionary definition 1 when what was intended was dictionary definition 2.

By mysticism, I intended it in the sense of the experience of transcendence/connectedness which comes to various people at various times, quite without regard to whatever milieu of doctrinary orthodoxy they've had the misfortune to be born into/raised in. Sometimes referred to as "nonduality".

Harris, a serious student of neuroscience, is referring to this very down to earth experience, which I carelessly referred to as mysticism without further clarifying, but necessary, details, when he points to, for instance, the Dalai Lama's comfort level with this phenomenon or mode of experience being the subject of labratory and clinical experimentation.

Words are the only things that are harder to shepherd than eels and cats.