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.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)