Religions are great in many ways. They bring people together, encourage them to do good, explore history and philosophy, contain rich metaphors and symbolism, ritualize important activities, cultivate a sense of purpose, and tell wonderful stories. But like governments, they suffer from a fundamental flaw. Most religions are based on an invalid assumption: that faith is beneficial.
(I better define what I mean by ‘faith’, because that word has a lot of meanings. I’m talking about beliefs that are not based on evidence or reason. I better also make it clear that I’m not talking about any tenet of any religion. You can believe in God without faith. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who believed in God who couldn’t cite reasons why they believed.)
It’s hard to use logic to defeat faith. People have faith in faith. How can you use reason to talk someone out of a belief that’s not based on reason? I can tell people how dangerous it is, how it provides an on-ramp to a roundabout of circular reasoning that prevents you from seeing the truth, and we could easily be trapped with a false belief. Or I could remind people that beliefs drive behavior. We take particular actions because we believe they will have particular results, and if we want to achieve our goals, we have to hold beliefs that are consistent with Reality. I could even use Pascal’s wager, point out the risk that we’ll suffer in the afterlife by having the wrong beliefs, and we need some way of discerning whether ours are correct. But none of those would work, because they’re based on reason.
The only way I could convince people not to use faith is to show them that they already aren’t using faith. Everyone bases their beliefs on evidence and reason, whether they’re aware of it or not. It might not always be good evidence or good reasons, but they’re always there. Generally it’s trust in someone they love. Or a personal experience that can’t be explained. Or the desire to be a member of a community, or a need for moral principles. Or possibly it’s historical evidence, or appreciation of an ethical framework. Maybe people have metaphorical beliefs and enjoy the symbols. Lots of people like believing for the rituals. Many more believe because it gives their lives purpose. And some narratives are so well told that people want to believe they’re true. But in each of these cases, there is a reason people believe.
No one believes because of faith, but people will often cite faith as the reason they believe. I hope you can see the distinction. People always form a belief for a reason, consciously or unconsciously. But once the belief is formed, faith adds support. Faith is a superficial pillar, a cheap facade hiding the truth, concealing the real reasons behind the belief. It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s passive, it’s lazy. It’s for people who are afraid to look in the mirror, who don’t want to know themselves. But only the truth can set you free.
PS. I think I finally found the answer I was looking for 3 years ago.