by Staks Rosch
Many people in the rational world seem to have serious issues with faith. They dislike the idea that people can believe in things without any evidence or reason for doing so. And while I agree with their position to some extent, I am skeptical of how the idea of faith is so casually thrown away without serious thought or consideration.
I disagree with the secular world's definition of faith. Is faith really belief without reason? Is such a thing even possible? According to modern psychology, all our actions and beliefs are caused by a combination of our genetics (nature) and our learned experiences (nurture). Sometimes this process is so complicated that the average person might not even realize it is taking place. Nevertheless, every decision we make and every belief we hold are reasoned ones. However, that doesn't necessarily mean they are reasoned well.
I recall the story of the little boy who kept trying to touch the hot stove. His father kept telling him not to touch the stove because it was hot. But the boy didn't really understand what that meant and continued to try to touch the hot stove. The father repeated his warning to his young son. Later that day, the little boy was able to sneak past his father and touch the hot stove. After burning his hand, he had learned his lesson. As a result, the little boy never touched a hot stove again... however, he never touched a cold stove again either. The moral of the story is that the little boy reasoned that touching a hot stove would burn his hand again. He also reasoned (incorrectly) that touching a cold stove would burn his hand again. In other words, the little boy had faith that if he touched the stove, his hand would burn. It's not that his faith isn't based on reason; it's just not based on good reason.
Many Atheists claim they have no faith, but this is just as problematic as the little boy's belief in the always-hot stove. One well-reasoned Atheist friend told me that he doesn't have faith, but rather he has "reasonable expectations." But isn't that just semantics? I contend that there are two kinds of faith, blind faith and reasonable faith, or reasonable expectations. The distinction between the two is the level of certainty in the object of faith by the faithful. Someone may have a reasonable faith in something and still be willing to lose that faith given enough evidence against their faithful belief. But the blind faithful have such certainty that, regardless of all reason, evidence, or common sense, they still hold blindly to the object of faith.
I have heard the phrase "people of faith" used to describe these most fundamental of Christians and to subtly place them on the pedestal of moral greatness. When I hear someone use that phrase, it almost always means that he or she is a person of blind faith. And as it turns out, those same people tend to only have faith in one thing... Radical Christianity. When it comes to trusting people and having faith in the ability of other people to determine their choices in life freely, these radical Christians have no faith at all. These people of blind faith are of the opinion that all humans are evil sinners who need the strict control of God and Government to force them to be moral and good. This view is one of the core dogmas of the Christian religion. In fact, it is because of this view that these radical Christians don't even have faith in themselves, and it is the lack of this particular faith that is the driving wedge between our two political parties.
Socrates said one ought to know thyself. Radical Christians not only don't know themselves, but they also have little faith in their own self-discipline and their ability to resist temptation and random impulses. They see this failing not only as a personal problem but also as a problem with everyone. Temptation is something no one can control?it is the natural state of being human or perhaps even the Devil's work. In order to gain the necessary discipline, self-control, and moral strength, these radical Christians need their God or Big Brother Government (the closest thing to God here on Earth) to enforce morality. "No God, No Justice," they say. Without this ultimate enforcer, how could anyone resist temptation at all? How can there be morality without a God?
"How can there be morality with a God?" I ask. Morality is built on trust and reasonable faith in people. It is only when society has been shown good reason and compelling evidence not to trust people that we put them through our penal system and correctly label them as criminals. Our secular society holds that people are innocent until proven guilty. The assumption (based purely on faith) is that people are moral and have the right to make their own choices unless proven otherwise. Humans don't need the fear of God to keep them honest. In fact, if we did have such a fear, we would be unable to cultivate the discipline and character necessary to be moral agents in and of ourselves.
Reasonable faith in people is the cornerstone of our democratic, free, and moral society. Without reasonable faith in people, we could never hold the view that people are innocent until proven guilty, which is the core of our judicial system and the heart of our way of life. Sometimes faith is a cold stove?while blind faith can burn us, reasonable faith can set us free.