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Can the so-called virtue of faith justifiably arrive at the truth? I think not. The whole justification part is absent from the exercise of faith. If science is a process of guess and check, then faith is just the guess part. And so I wonder: how can anyone call this mental blindness a virtue?
In the article “Unholy Alliance” from Discover magazine, I read this from George Coyne:
I did not tell Richard Dawkins that there was no reason to believe in God. I said reasons are not adequate. Faith is not irrational, it is arational; it goes beyond reason. It doesn’t contradict reason. So my take is precisely that faith, to me, is a gift from God. I didn’t reason into it, I didn’t merit it – it was given to me as a gift through my family and my teachers … Dawkins’s real question should be, ‘How come you have the gift of faith and I don’t?’ And that’s an embarassment for me. The only thing I can say is that either you have it and don’t know it, or God works with each of us differently, and God does not deny that gift to anybody. I firmly believe that.”
[Michael Mason:] “Are you saying that the Bible should not be held up to scientific scrutiny?”
“That is correct, absolutely.”
This is appalling thinking. If someone has to resort to calling faith a gift from God as the only way that we can righteously believe, it is the same as admitting that there are no actual reasons for believing.
(1) Faith can indeed be attached to a true belief that could not otherwise be justified by reason. (“it goes beyond reason.”) But faith only works as much as a guess does. For the most part (or the whole), faith gives you a wrong conclusion. There is no religion on Earth that holds the majority of the planet’s population, and so even if one is right the majority of the faithful are wrong. Thanks to faith. In super-general, the chances of faith being right is the number of true beliefs divided by the number of false beliefs. That’s practically zero.
(2) To accuse all atheists of secretly having faith in God is supremely arrogant and condescending. He apparently has enough faith to believe we’re all lying to everyone and to ourselves, and he firmly believes it.
(3) If the Bible shouldn’t be held up to scientific scrutiny, then we are restraining our right to think for ourselves. Freethought is fundamentally against this. Why can’t we investigate it? Isn’t a sincere investigation the right way to believe in something?
Beyond the belief sphere, there is the real world. How does faith work in practice? Can faith really be a good thing?
A virtue is something that leads a person to behave ethically and avoid causing suffering. So I wonder, is faith truly a virtue?
Faith in something that commands you to behave ethically will lead to good behavior. Faith in something that runs on hatred, fear, intolerance, bigotry, ignorance, or self-denial will lead to pain and suffering. And for “intellectual” faith – holding an amoral belief for the sake of belief – there is only misunderstanding, and that’s no good. Faith is only a virtue if you have faith in something virtuous in the first place. Thus, faith is not individually a virtue. It is not faith that leads you to good ethics, but rather the objects of faith.
Timothy Keller, in The Reason For God, gives a different definition of faith. (The book didn’t actually give a reason for God, just “deep clues.”) Keller attacks Dawkins for an epistemology he calls “strong rationalism,” which is where you ask for absolute proof of any belief before believing it. Obviously, no one could survive in the real world with strong rationalism. Keller suggests a better epistemology he calls “critical rationalism,” where you hold on to the belief or explanation that has the best evidence over competing ones. In this way, we have a sort of “faith” that goes “beyond reason,” in the sense of outside perfect proof. We hold provisional beliefs because we are without conclusive evidence of most things.
But Dawkins isn’t actually a strong rationalist. Dawkins invokes the ideas of probability and evidence, which suggests if the probability or evidence were sufficient enough for belief (to his eyes) he would believe. And most atheists aren’t asking for 100% proof of God – we’re asking for sufficient reason to believe. There have been some interesting attempts at giving us such reasons, but they have failed.
And this provisional belief that we hold under critical rationality is different from faith. Faith is blind, it does not relate to evidence at all. If you mix a little reason and faith together it still doesn’t justify belief. There is a reason faith is called a leap, and that is because it is the only way to get across a gap in logic to get to a desired belief.
Some apologists have even picked up on this. Have you ever heard the phrase “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”? There is a bit of victorious irony in the reversal done with that statement. Supposedly, it’s to say that atheists who criticize faith are actually hypocritical. But it implicitly concedes the fact that faith is not a reliable epistemological method, and is in fact intellectually detestable. I wonder, do people who tout this clever quip for atheists feel good about their religion being called a “faith”? And what does it mean when we start seeing apologists losing faith in faith?
Firstly, how do you know? How can you support the claim that there are other avenues to truth than rationality? Life-changing events always have subjective tinges to them. The “beauty of a sunset, the cooing of a baby,” and “the love of a man and a woman” are not objective in any way. Science does not operate within subjectivity, and it is only within objectivity that beliefs are externally true or false. Feelings are real perceptions, but the beliefs and worldview that are formed from emotions are, with no other support, baseless. What we feel is not justification to believe. If it were, then reality would have no objective truth, what with everybody feeling diametrically different things around the world and all. I believe in rationalism. Without reasoning, there is no epistemological foundation for any objective ideas.
Secondly, the Bible is not regarded as evidence to an atheist the same as it is to a believer. The claim of the Bible’s God is an extraordinary claim, and the Bible itself is not remotely close to being good enough evidence to constitute justification for belief. The Koran and Bhagavad Gita are in a similar situation. CARM even has a nice article on presuppositionalism. When a believer reads a verse from the Bible, the believer is to automatically believe what is written (ignoring interpretation) because the believer already supposes (on faith) that the entire Bible was the word of God beforehand. An atheist does not presuppose the authority or reliability of the Bible, and so a verse will not carry any special gravity with it for the atheist.
Suppose this were true. Then we can regard the creation of the universe as an event. So what event caused the creation event? There is no way to justifiably switch off the valve on the law of causality to stop an infinite regress from emerging. If we had to do it anyway, though, it would be more prudent to do it as soon as possible. Why should we put an extra being into the metaphysics equation? Occam’s Razor states that “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity,” and so it would be prudent to leave the universe alone when dealing with causality. As an explanation, gods are unneeded.
But, the law of causality is not perfect. It is a nice and simplistic concept that can be applied with almost totally negligible inaccuracy to the world around us on a daily basis. However, when dealing with the very nature of the universe, this “law” has no foundation. What causes the four fundamental fources such as gravity and electromagnetism? What causes virtual particles, vacuum fluctuations, and specific wavefunction collapses? In Processes and Causality, John Sowa writes, “Relativity and quantum mechanics have forced physicists to abandon these assumptions [Causality, Antecedence, Contiguity] as exact statements of what happens at the most fundamental levels, but they remain valid at the level of human experience.” Similarly, in Creation ex nihilo – Without God, Mark Vuletic writes, “Few people are aware of the fact that many modern physicists claim that things – perhaps even the entire universe – can indeed arise from nothing via natural processes.” (See his essay for expansion on the claim.)
I’ve never heard why there cannot be an infinite number of regressions of causes. It seems like an acceptable scenario but of which we have no way of knowing. And even if there couldn’t be such a chain, why must the number of causes be reduced to one? Where is the reasoning behind this swift move? Why not five causes? Or zero?
Lastly, to state that the God of the Bible, with all his personality and history about him, fits the bill of this “uncaused cause,” requires an argument. The reasoning here is nonexistent, and so this is a textbook case non sequitor.
Although our coming into existence (and indeed, the everyday naturalistic operations that keep us in the state of being alive) are governed and ruled by the laws of physics, it does not mean that there is no such thing as the self. Even if we are programmed, we are. We exist. And so our inventions of thought exist too; meaning and purpose are real. They are not given to us, they are self-made.
Also, look at lines 13 and 14. The atheist is supposed to have no “freely chosen, self-intended purpose,” and the theist is supposed to have a purpose handed down from God himself. So then, the theist also doesn’t have a freely chosen, self-intended purpose! Argh! Messed up on that one, CARM.
Here is the article summed up in two sentences: “Otherwise, we are merely bags of chemicals reacting to stimuli. I believe man is more than that.” In other words, the great argument from wishful thinking. I’m sure that argument’s becoming popular with the scholars these days. Must be becasue of so much real-world data to support it.
How can an atheist account for logic? My intuition tells me that it is a necessary feature of all possible universes. Logic cannot fail to be true, or to “exist.” But, predictably, there’s no way to prove that. Proving logic is a task beyond logic. By failing to do the impossible I am not being intellectually lazy or averting any duties to account for logic. Not everything can be accounted for.
This is self-righteous and ideologically arrogant. Logic is not the sole property of Christianity. It’s public property. Other religions can have myths which also account for the existence of logic just like the one given here. And I just gave an atheistic explanation of it as well. To think that logic must come from Christianity is to misunderstand the possibilities here.
The key error here is the axiom “logic is conceptual by nature.” The full-blown fallacy:
“Logic is a process of the mind. Logical absolutes provide the framework for logical thought processes. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.”
Logic dictates the structure of thought process. This does not mean logic is ontologically begotten from thoughts. Logic also provides the framework for computer circuitry. And yet logic is not the product of computer curcuitry, and computers are impersonal and manifestly non-conceptual. Indeed, by the act of defining the boundaries and manifold functioning of thought processes, logic can be said to precede or supervene thought and thus cannot be its child. This house of cards falls with the removal of one faulty premise. It’s unfortunate so much time was spent on building the house.