Why faith?

Just in case you didn’t know, a few weeks ago I arrived at a decision that I would no longer call myself a Christian. I wrote a long, angry, ill-timed article about it which I won’t link here as I don’t wish to offend any more people. I am sure that you can find it if you really want to read it.

My decision might have seemed like an ill-informed snap decision to many. It wasn’t. I have been forming opinions in this direction for perhaps two years, with elements from further back. Some recent events were the final trigger that set off all that had been building up and I made my choice.

It has been pointed out to me that a lot of my reasons for not being a Christian are actually only reasons to reject organised religion. Well yes. I am particularly scathing of many things done by the Catholic church, and I stopped being a Catholic several years ago and started attending an Elim church. Many bad things are done by protestant Christians too. I know that Christians of all types have done good things, usually without any other motive but too often there are bad things carried along with that. Particular ideas, expectations and judgements that all but negate the good stuff. I won’t even go into the stuff done by morons like Westborough Baptist Church or Abortion Clinic protesters. I don’t think they are even Christians by any definition except their own.

Leaving aside my rejection of religion itself, what about God? I said in my earlier article that I would remain agnostic and open to persuasion rather than become an atheist. That is the problem though. Persuasion. To be persuaded, I need evidence, and Christianity is designed around not giving me any. I don’t dispute that Jesus existed. There is plenty of historical evidence for that. What I find so frustrating is the insistence that I must rely on faith alone and that I shouldn’t need evidence.

Some people at this point would point at Lewis’s trilemma as evidence. It really isn’t, I can assure you. Here is what C.S. Lewis said:

“Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.”

I have often seen the above quote paraphrased as “Jesus was either mad, bad, or God.” I see no reason to pick God out of those answers.

Faith is a virtue. Why?

Johns gospel tells us about Thomas who was not with the other disciples when Jesus first visited them after his death, and refused to believe it without evidence. Chapter 20 verse 29 goes on to say “Then Jesus told him: Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I do not understand the logic here. Why is it better to have faith without evidence? It seems to me like a recipe for believing anything and everything.

I cannot bring myself to believe in God without evidence. As I said a few months ago in when I wrote about skepticism, I am critical of those things that are harmful and are without reason or logic or even counter to such ideas. Scientology, homeopathy, promotion of anti-vaccine ideas, denying climate change, and more. But how can I criticise all those and not be critical of faith in God? All we have to go on are some historical figures and a lot of feelings and personal revelation. Very strong personal revelation, but still personal and can’t be replicated in controlled observed conditions.

If God is real and wants us to know about him and to worship him, why doesn’t he show himself to us today? And I mean physical manifestation, not personal revelation. Two thousand years is a long time to go without new evidence, and it’s long enough to cast doubt on the reliability of old evidence. So why faith? What is wrong with evidence?

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

37 thoughts on “Why faith?”

  1. “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” – Seneca (ca. 4 BC –AD 65)

    Think that pretty much sums up my opinion of _organised_ religion. The whole reason is that’s its a lot easier to control a population if you can start them down the line of believing things that have no evidence or proof. Put it this way, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to get people to go to war if a) they think they have a deity on their side rather than because some bigwig who isn’t even going to get near the fighting said so and b) if/when they die, they’ll go somewhere nice rather than just ceasing to exist.

    If you want to believe in something, be that some sort of all-powerful deity, or that there are faires at the bottom of your garden then so be it as far as i’m concerned. The moment whatever you believe starts harming yourself or others (phsyically, mentally or in any other way) is when it becomes a problem.

    There is nothing wrong with evidence, or wanting it. Just because someone may someday say “look, here’s the maths that prove God exists” it doesn’t suddenly mean every Christian is going to say “oh, well that invalidates my entire reason for being a Christian. I only did it because it couldn’t be proved.” and stop. If anything I imagine it’d increase the uptake 🙂

    Interesting article on the historical Jesus here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus (wikipedia so take with as much sodium as you feel necessary)

    1. I definitely agree with you that religion is often used by the powerful to coerce people into doing disagreeable things. I think it is really a separate issue from wanting evidence for religion, although I suppose if people wanted evidence then they might not be religious for rulers to abuse.

      1. Not being a believer in any way, shape or form it would be out of my remit to comment on the wanting evidence thing. However, from my experience with Christians (limited though it is) I think that wanting evidence is almost going to be seen as offensive to them.

        It seems to almost be a badge of honour that they believe things without evidence. Beth asked me once what it was I believed in, almost as though to not believe in anything was in some way a bad thing so I just said “science I guess” which she seemed to accept.

        1. i aree with rob 🙂 Have to admit, I know my freinds over in the USA would be THRILLEd to hear me say I beeive, that I accept Christ as my own personal saviour etc etc. It would make them very happy, but they wouldn’t want me to say it without it being true at all

  2. I found this on http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/content/who-were-twelve

    Thomas was his Hebrew name and Didymus was his Greek name. At times he was called Judas. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us nothing about Thomas except his name. However, John defines him more clearly in his Gospel. Thomas appeared in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:2-16), in the Upper Room (John 14:1-6) where he wanted to know how to know the way where Jesus was going. In John 20:25, we see him saying unless he sees the nailprints in Jesus’ hand and the gash of the spear in His side he will not believe. That’s why Thomas became known as Doubting Thomas.

    Thomas became certain by doubting. By nature, he was a pessimist. He was a bewildered man. Yet, he was a man of courage. He was a man who could not believe until he had seen. He was a man of devotion and of faith. When Jesus rose, he came back and invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints in his hands and in his side. Here, we see Thomas making the greatest confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas’ doubts were transformed into faith. Thomas was always like a little child. His first reaction was not to do what he was told to do and not to believe what he was asked to believe. The good news to him was always too good to be true. By this very fact Thomas’ faith became great, intense and convincing.

    I have other comments but for now I’ll just mention that since your post at Christmas, I have found and bought the book Why Does Being a Christian Have to be So Hard? http://amzn.to/hicx4I

    Also, sorry I haven’t come to visit you yet, it’s been a bit busy here.

    1. Was that book particularly recommended to you? Or would you recommend it?

      Also, don’t worry about not visiting. I have been so exhausted that it has been far easier to type than to speak. So much so that I have had to use google talk within the house sometimes.

  3. “If God is real and wants us to know about him and to worship him, why doesn’t he show himself to us today?”

    That’s a good question and one that I have thought about as well.

    Let’s face it. God is supposedly the most powerful being in the Universe, and he allegedly created the Earth (so we know he has unsurpassed material and physical manifestation/creation powers, right ?)

    On that alone, it should be pretty easy then for the fella to make some unarguable appearances in person to settle the “does he, doesn’t he?” exist dilemma.

    According to some, when perhaps a young child succumbs to a terminal illness, or some other horrific disaster befalls the undeserved, it can apparently be “God’s Will”.

    In the next breath, others say “He gave man free will” and hence he won’t “directly materialise”, as that would prejudice man’s belief”.

    Yet, it’s ok to snatch the odd child here and there, have a disaster over there, and play, well, literally “God” with our lives.

    That either makes WW2 a complete godly cock up when he took his eye off the ball, or the sickest joke of a malignant entity yet.

    If I created a planet, seeded it with my creations and whatever (Basically playing Populous for real), how I step back from the job when the work is done, says a lot of things about me as a Deity.

    1. I finish the job, don’t tell anyone I exist, and move on to the next planet. [Builder Deity]

    2. I finish the job, then hang around. I let people know I exist. (Need to be recognised ?). Some people don’t work the way I expect them (Adam / Eve), so I have a major hissy fit and call the whole experiment off. My understudy arrives to sort it out, but they kill him. Oh well. I’ll just hang around and play with the simulation for my own entertainment. [Unhappy Deity, bordering on the Sociopathic]

    3. I finish the job, because I’ve like, you know, always really really wanted my own world, with animals and people and grass and stuff and things to play with, just like all the other Deities have in the 1st year of SuperEntity school. We do this because we live forever, and let’s be honest, floating in space, within nothing to do, would test the patience and sanity of anyone. However, one of the other Deities has messed it up and keeps baiting my people, and now they keep fighting. It’s a full time job sorting it out. [Super Control Deity]

    There’s probably many more analogies I could write here.

    It’s the whole “I created everything from nothing” approach that requires the greatest faith, because I really cannot see a need to do so in the first place.

    A super-powerful entity, who has no need for anything, expends time and effort to create something that he/she/it doesn’t need in the first place.

    Now that can only lead us down a few possibilities.

    1. The Deity is heedless of being wasteful and created us on a whim to test his raw fertile power. This essentially places Earth and Humanity as the equivalent result of a cosmic one night stand.

    2. The Deity was bored and wanted something to do. This places Earth and Humanity as the equivalent of clicking the “Feeling lucky?” button in Google. A giant cosmic burp.

    3. The Deity wanted a bit of company in the nothingness of the void. I’d have settled for a Mrs God myself, but hey, if God wanted his own version of interactive TV, who am I to argue ? This places Earth and Humanity as the equivalent of a conjured plaything to amuse the whims of the creator.

    4. It’s all a load of old baloney.

    Faith, to me, is asking me to accept without evidence, seemingly miraculous events.

    If I was to perform some of my sleight of hand tricks on Neolithic Neanderthals, they’d believe me when I said it was magic. At a magician’s convention, it’s a different story. The Neanderthals need belief to make it work for them. The magician’s don’t need belief, because their science informs them how it’s done.

    You may have heard. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” which was popularized by Carl Sagan, the Astronomer.

    The origins of the saying can perhaps be found in Hume’s Maxim:

    “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish…”

    I’ve just realised the time, but here is a link to more on Hume’s Maxim and some really thought provoking comments after it.
    Hoping your pains soothe for as long as they can,
    Harvey

    http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2008/01/extraordinary-c.html

  4. The subject of faith is a mixed one. I think the term Faith means different things to different people. I believe in the concept of evolution, but is that the same Faith as creationists. Scientists (and their groupies) have constantly updated their theories to fit with he evidence at hand. Some of Darwinian evolution has been discarded as we observe and learn more about the world around us. It’s the same with other science theories We had Belief that an atom was a solid point charge of protons (and their neutron mates) with electrons whizzing around it. Then someone sat down did some thinking and realised that if this theory were true we’d all glow blue and explode. So scientists looked at this idea, pondered, observed more and found a new theory to fit the observed facts. No-one got burnt to the stake, no-one got kicked out. (And before I get flamed i KNOW heretics aren’t burnt any more). If someone comes along in science and points out a hole in the thinking then the establishment looks at the issue and double checks it’s theroeis, observes more and then decided if the criticisms have validity. From talking with some religious friends their faith seams a little less fluid, it’s what they hold as truth, but a scientist knows his faith (little F) in a theory is a temporary thing, that it must shift if we observe new evidence that contradicts it.

    1. ‘If someone comes along in science and points out a hole in the thinking then the establishment looks at the issue and double checks it’s theroeis, observes more and then decided if the criticisms have validity.’

      Well, the process is not as smooth as all that, but it’s the general idea.
      Unfortunately, some research results turn out to be biased in favour of the people paying for the research.

      1. that’s why I preferred the old days of research being done at uni for the sake of research. I’ll never forget the first day of my Chemistry degree. “If something doesn’t make sense then ask us about it, some of the greatest discovereise have were made because a student raised his and and said i don’t get it”

  5. Hi. I have several comment but rather than replying to each point as it cropped up, I’m hoping I can do all at the same time and not confuse myself!!! Sorry if that ruins the flow of the conversations!

    latentexistence – ‘If God is real and wants us to know about him and to worship him, why doesn’t he show himself to us today? And I mean physical manifestation, not personal revelation.’
    Please can you define what you mean by ‘physical manifestation’ and ‘personal revelation’? Just to make sure I know exactly how you are defining those terms. But I would like to answer that!

    Phill – ‘I think it is true that Jesus says blessed are those who have not seen. I don’t think that means that we should leave our brains at the door though. Faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum.’
    We should definately not leave our brains at the door. What is the point in God creating brains and then telling us we can’t use them?????? That we should have only faith?!!!

    Rob Norman – ‘Adam and Eve are the original humans and we’re all descended from them. Fair enough, apart from the whole massively inbred, not enough unique DNA to sustain a planetary population thing but we’ll ignore that for the moment. But it then goes on to say that they had two sons Cain and Abel. Sooo, where did the rest of us come from?’
    When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. – Genesis 5 v 3-4.
    I’m not saying I agree or disagree that all people come from Adam and Eve… simply that the Bible does say a little more. Seth I think was the third child after of the first two, one died and the other was banished… who incidentally found a family from somewhere!!! My Bible knowledge is really not what it should be!!

    hkintheuk – ‘A super-powerful entity, who has no need for anything, expends time and effort to create something that he/she/it doesn’t need in the first place.’
    hkintheuk – ‘Faith, to me, is asking me to accept without evidence, seemingly miraculous events.’
    God does not need people in that sense.

    Dean Allen Jones – ‘From talking with some religious friends their faith seams a little less fluid, it’s what they hold as truth, but a scientist knows his faith (little F) in a theory is a temporary thing, that it must shift if we observe new evidence that contradicts it.’ – Dean Allen Jones

    the main bit from me:
    Faith – yes there is an element of believing something you perhaps do not have full proof of but that’s not the only thing. When you know about something but do not know every detail there is an element of faith like it or not, even with science. Are we asked Biblically to believe in God with nothing to base our belief on… is perhaps the most important question?!!

    The big question is: what is Christianity all about?
    The answer is relationship. Christians have a relationship with a living God. The point here being that relationship is two way conversation. It is very easy to live in society, particularly ones where there is little persecution as such, and forget to have that relationship, forget to invest time in talking and listening – and I’m equally at fault of this too. It is easy to simply stop hearing God speaking to you. It is easy to forget the relationship you had in the past. It is easy to forget the miracles you have seen, to forget the answers to prayer you have had, to forget the moments when God has touched your life. And when all that happens you are simply left with not a lot really… a Christianity that is in fact fairly worthless. Without God in the equation, faith is pointless, Christianity is a dead religion, and good deeds are simply only that.

    Sometimes horribly bad things happen in life. But God does not stop you from having a piss and moan at him, cos at least you’re saying something!!

    Also God is quite happy for you to ask him to show himself to you. In the Bible Thomas is not the only one that needed some proof. Gideon heard God speaking to him… and thought he couldn’t possibly be hearing right that he the least of his tribe should go and do this job – so he tested God by putting out a sheep fleece.
    ‘ When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” ‘ Judges 6 v 12-13
    Gideon in fact was asking the exact same sort of questions… where’s the proof!!!
    so he asks God to get dew on the fleece but not the floor in the morning, which happens. Then he asks God to get dew on the ground but none on the fleece, which again happens.

    In the New Testament… it say that in the last days we will do even greater things than Jesus did while he was on earth and carrying out his ministry, which was only over a few years! I think the difference is we are reluctant to go up to people and say ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk’. But I don’t doubt that God could still do it. The question is… if you saw or experienced a miracle like that would it be enough to prove to you that God existed?

    Bum… I was supposed to be writing an assignment today for Uni… but the morning seems to have disappeared!! Laters.

  6. Sorry Dean I didn’t type what I was going to in response to the message I picked out from your message!
    All too often Christians become stuck in their ways unwilling to hear new information which would change their viewpoint. Even unwilling to hear it direct from God. Too often Christians hold onto people’s opinions of God’s… following strictly ideas that may not have been entirely Godly in the first place. Forgive us, please!!!!!!!!!! We are human, we make mistakes!!! Yes we should be more fluid in some senses, prepared to take on board new ideas and see if they fit with what we know of God, but that generally takes more time than people wish to give so instead they stick to their old ideas cos it’s what they know. We should listen to God more than people though! We should see a bigger picture! But as I said Christianity has to a greater extent become quite stagnant in this country, washed out, the luke warm type that was warmed about in Revelation. My prayer is that God would move in mighty ways, that we would see miracles everywhere proving the power and existence of God!

    On that note… have you ever noticed how most people came to recogise who Jesus was because they experienced a miracle in their lives… notice how little that happens now. Think that says it all really. Christians now expect to bring non-chritains to church and they will be instantly converted without having to do anything but the reality is they should be the catalyst for God healing those people as their way of meeting him!!!! In healing I do not always mean physical, but also emotional!

  7. Sorry I am not replying very much here. I am reading all the comments, but I don’t have the energy to think through all of my responses. All the comments are appreciated though.

  8. I have edited a couple of posts to remove my wifes name at her request. I would ask you not to mention her by name, due to the wide and varied audience of this blog.

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