Tag Archives: anti-intellectualism

Faith is not reasonable

Faith is commonly regarded as a virtue. But is it really a good thing? What exactly is faith, anyway? Let’s look as some definitions.

Faith: Complete trust or confidence in something. Believing something without question. Firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Faith can also mean an obligation of loyalty, and if we’re still talking about beliefs, that would mean being devoted to sticking to a particular belief (which goes along with believing something firmly and without question).

“Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.” —Bill Maher

So then, faith means you decide to believe a particular idea even though there’s no evidence for it, and then you completely refuse to ever question it or consider changing your mind about it, disregarding all evidence to the contrary. Faith means being gullible regarding some ideas, and closed-minded to others. Faith means abandoning reason, willfully ignoring the evidence, breaking the connection between your beliefs and reality.

“There is no virtue in accepting something on faith, since it may very well be false, and it is clearly not virtuous to believe the false.” —Charlotte Schnook

Clearly this is an unbelievably bad way to form your beliefs. Considering what faith actually is, I don’t see how anyone could possibly think it was a good thing. There’s absolutely nothing good or reasonable about it. Having faith is just like having a delusion, except you’re doing it on purpose. If you want to have true beliefs and avoid having false beliefs, having faith is probably the most counterproductive thing you could possibly do.

Unlike reason and evidence, faith provides no way to determine which things you should believe. Any belief can be “justified” by faith just as well as any other. If you have faith in one religion, why not have faith in another religion? Why not believe that you are a six-legged zebra from the planet Japan? Why not accept on faith that you should give me all your money right now?

You can probably think of some reasons not to accept those things, but why do you suddenly think you need to have reasons for what you believe? If I tell you that Ahura Mazda is the real God, or that you are a six-legged zebra from the planet Japan, or that you need to give me all your money, why do you question it? You don’t need a reason to believe; you just need to have faith, right?

“If something can be used as a justification for everything, then it shouldn’t be used as a justification for anything.” —Matt Dillahunty

When the inherent irrationality of faith is pointed out, religious people will sometimes protest that their faith is based on evidence. Well, if you’re trying to base your beliefs on reason and evidence, that’s great. You’re more reasonable than some religious people. But letting evidence shape your beliefs is not what faith is, and it’s not what the Bible tells you to do. The unreasonable way of thinking I described above is exactly the kind of thinking that the Bible encourages, and describes as faith.

The Bible on faith

The Bible says faith means confidently believing in something you hope is true, but that you don’t actually see any evidence for. To live by faith is to live blindly.

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The Story of the Tower of Babel
Babble Babble Babble

When Noah’s flood had reduced the world population to 8, and while the population was recovering for a while after that, everyone in the world spoke the same language. People who had moved to the East started to build a great, unifying city with a huge tower that would reach to the heavens.

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Babble Babble Babble
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Should people be wise or foolish?

People should be wise.

Those who are foolish need to become wise. Kings should be wise, and people should listen to their kings so they can become wise too. Speaking with wisdom is what righteous people do; foolish talk is inappropriate. So get wisdom and understanding, even if it costs everything you have, and don’t let them out of you sight. Foolishness may be more fun, but you need understanding to keep you on the right track. Even ants possess wisdom; you could learn a few things from them.

Wisdom is better than strength, and much more valuable than silver and gold and rubies. Those who find wisdom are blessed with happiness and prosperity. Wisdom will keep you safe from wicked men and women, and enable you to live longer and save other people’s lives. Wisdom makes you inclined to do good deeds. Only wise people will be rewarded with everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven. Wisdom even makes you look nicer.

Wisdom is better than folly in every way. Wisdom brings honor, but foolishness brings shame. If you are wise, your parents will be happy with you, but if you are foolish, they will be disappointed in you. Wisdom brings rewards, but foolishness brings punishment and suffering. Even the companions of fools are in danger of harm, so you should hang out with wise people instead. Listen to the constructive criticism of the wise, not the mindless songs and shouts of fools.

Fools deserve to be beaten, because they are not upright. Fools will come to ruin; they will be cursed and die, because they are envious and resentful, and because they just don’t have the sense to preserve their own lives. It’s better to be poor than foolish.

Paul wanted his followers to live wisely and not be foolish. He asked God to fill them with wisdom and understanding so they would be better able to please God. He encouraged them to instruct each other with wisdom and to deal with outsiders wisely. He thought it was shameful that there seemed to be no one in the Corinthian church wise enough to judge their own disputes.

God wants his people to obey his laws in order to show the world how wise and understanding they are. God is disappointed to see that his people don’t have the sense to obey him, and he wishes they were wiser. Fools give God no pleasure.

Eliphaz said God is no friend of the wise and likes to foil their plans, but God said Eliphaz did not speak the truth about him.1 God actually thinks highly of the wise.

God gives people wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. He wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t good for people to be wise, would he? Anyone who lacks wisdom should ask God for it, and they will receive it. God offered to give Solomon whatever he asked for, and when Solomon chose to be given wisdom and knowledge, God was so pleased that he gave him bonus gifts as well. God is also incredibly wise himself. We should follow his perfect example and seek to be wise like him.

People should be foolish.

Wisdom is nothing to boast about. Not relying on wisdom is what’s worth boasting about. Wisdom and knowledge will lead you astray. Wisdom inevitably leads people to reject God, and he will punish them for it. The king of Tyre was full of wisdom and understanding, and he knew it, which led to his ruin.

Solomon wisely advises us2 not to rely on our own understanding and not to think too deeply. He had more wisdom and knowledge than anyone else, but that only made him more miserable. If you want to be happy (which you should!), you’ll have to abandon wisdom. Being foolish and senseless can bring you great joy!

God clearly doesn’t want people to be wise. He thinks human wisdom is foolishness. When God created humans, the first thing he told them they must not do was to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge, which would give them wisdom. When people become wise and learned, God makes fools of them. God wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t good for people to be foolish, would he?

Wisdom is scarce among Christians because God prefers to choose the foolish of the world to put the wise to shame. The gospel has no power to save people unless it’s preached in a foolish way, without wisdom.

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The Story of Adam and Eve
The Garden of Eden

In the beginning, there was nothing but a perfect God. Everything that existed was perfect. So God decided to create the world, which he knew1 would turn out to be imperfect. Now everything is no longer perfect. Good job, God.

Continue reading The Story of Adam and Eve
The Garden of Eden
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