Faith is like love

68


Discussion by: pedro

Dear fellows from the enlightened world,

Last week I was talking about religiosity with a friend of mine. He's an intelligent, educated person, and yet, a typical catholic. After some come-and-go on religions, evidence, morality and so forth, we entered the "faith zone". That's when he came up with "Faith is like love". He said he believes in religious faith because it is like love: you can't prove it's there, but we just FEEL it's there, acting upon us with its misterious force. As Prof. Dawkins would say, that just left me cold. Could you guys help me with an ultimate fatality response to that sort of bridging from private internal feelings to a two thousand year-old book?

Thank you!

Cheers,

Pedro

68 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by neurol:

      I prefer the definition in Boghossian’s “Manual for Creating Atheists”:

      “Faith is belief without evidence.” OR “Faith is pretending to believe something you really don’t.”

      I think it’s also a crutch or way to bridge two ideas together so that they somehow make sense.

    • In reply to #1 by neurol:

      I prefer the definition in Boghossian’s “Manual for Creating Atheists”:

      “Faith is belief without evidence.” OR “Faith is pretending to believe something you really don’t.”

      Agreed.

      And what type of love does Pedro’s religious friend mean? If he is drawing an analogy to human love, then we have evidence for human love. We can observe how people behave, and hear their verbal expressions of love. We can even pick a fake, someone who declares love, but whose behaviour denies it as a fact.

      If “God” is love, then “he” is a very poor lover. “God”, if we are to presume he exists, and that “he” is all powerful, acts very much like a fake, allowing things and doing things we’d not put into the category “Loving“.

      We’d be very impoverished as the recipients of love, if there were no evidence of that love. What value would it be? Sure, to be loved feels good, but does not the more concrete evidence of love lead to that good feeling, and not, the feeling qualifying as sufficient evidence of the existence of the love?

    • In reply to #1 by neurol:

      I prefer the definition in Boghossian’s “Manual for Creating Atheists”:

      “Faith is belief without evidence.”

      I think You said it well. Because love is not feeling without evidence. Love relies upon facts. You love somebody because this, and this, and this,… . One can explain rationally why is in love in somebody. Believers “love” towards god is not based upon rational evidence. Anyway pity Pedro did not ask his friend what does he mean by this “faith is like love”, I suspect he would discovered that his friend definition of love is wrong. :)

  1. That feeling of transcendence is an emotion. Most of us experience emotions all the time. I feel angry when I’m given ridiculous biblical quotes instead of a rational explanations. There is nothing wrong with having emotions, it’s just that they can’t be relied on to give us facts or workable knowledge on a particular topic or field of study.

  2. Whatever someone feels is restricted to their private world. Any discourse about feelings is senseless because you can’t convey your feeling to me this way. He “feels” faith is like love? Fair enough. Does it help talking about the topic in question? No.

    So it’s fine they have these feelings but they’ll have to keep it private. As soon as they start a discourse though, they rather put forward arguments and reasonable thinking because that’s what all discourses are based upon.

  3. It’s hard to know if this is something the guy truly feels or if it’s something he’s read or heard. Even if it is an original comment, it may be somewhat indirect.

    But taking it as face value, we have a simile, ‘Faith is like love’ – as in being a powerful but irrational feeling. There are of course other powerful feelings – fear, anger and so on, so I guess the analogy isn’t just that faith is mysterious, but it is an attraction, maybe a pleasant, even joyful one. Did he look like someone talking about being in love? That he left you cold suggests perhaps not: that this analogy is perhaps not as emotional or passionate as might be thought. Maybe it was something from a book or sermon.

    Still, the analogy and the reason for it is intriguing, as it seems to imply awareness of faith being irrational, fragile and maybe something that could end, like no longer being in love. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but could the simile be a signal that the person knows their faith is vulnerable?

  4. The word “Love” has many meanings and it depends on which particular meaning your catholic friend is referring too.

    There is that “Love at First Sight” feeling that we all experience. But that is a primitive urge for you to desperately mate now with some healthy specimen of the opposite (or I suppose the same) sex. You want their genetics. It’s primitive. Its very animal in nature stuff. You’re brain gets flooded with a huge does of hormones including Oxytocin. Many a marriage has failed because it was founded on falling in “Lust” and not love, which wears off in around 3 months and you discover you don’t actually like this person. Movie stars fall in lust all the time..

    Then there is genetic “Love”. That feeling between families. Parents for children. Brothers and sisters. Extended but genetically related individuals who share you genes. Cousins, uncles and aunts. You will be more likely to risk your life to protect a near genetic relative than a stranger. The feel of genetic love is a result of chemicals in the brain. Hormones and molecules exchanging electrons and plugging into receptors in the brain.

    Then there is “Friend Love”. Your buddies. The people you like and respect. The people you will shed a tear for at their funeral. I would miss Alan4Discussion’s demolition of irrational posts.

    Any emotion you feel is a result of chemical reactions in the brain. There is nothing mystical about these feelings. They all have an evolutionary purpose, or they wouldn’t exist. Hate. Fright. Fear. Lust. Bonding…. on and on. But they can all be explained by evolution and science.

    Faith on the other hand requires you to hold a view in the absence of evidence, or like religion, contrary to the evidence. So faith is not like “Love”. One has a rational explanation. The other doesn’t.

    • In reply to #9 by David R Allen:

      I liked Your comment in sentence: “Any emotion you feel is a result of chemical reactions in the brain. There is nothing mystical about these feelings”, because it reminded me that love is only feeling of homo sapiens that animals do not have. Animals have instinct urges, but love is inherent human feeling, and also a ways of showing it. Animals “seduce” other animal for other reasons, isn’t it? :) They are not aware that they are seducing, hahaha, but humans are. We have awareness of our own acts, and responsibility for those actions.

      • In reply to #18 by Modesti:

        In reply to #9 by David R Allen:

        I liked Your comment in sentence: “Any emotion you feel is a result of chemical reactions in the brain. There is nothing mystical about these feelings”, because it reminded me that love is only feeling of homo sapiens that animals do not have. Animals have instinct…

        Wait … wut???

        I’m pretty sure my dog loves me… he cries when I’m away and won’t eat his food, becomes more emotionally demanding on my wife, needing more patting, more cuddles, more closeness, more attention.
        He’ll find some item of clothing I’ve been wearing and pull it to his bed to be close to the smell. When I return he’s joyous, totally excitable, barely able to contain his emotion.

        Lastly… I thought homo sapian IS an animal?

        • In reply to #20 by TheGap:

          We should ask Your dog is he loves You :). No offense, but people often project their own feelings toward animals. I know that love is not a topic here. I think domestic animals as dogs react upon our act, as you say He will cry, He will demand padding, cuddles,closeness, and so on, because he likes that not because he loves you. He does all this things because He likes it. He demand attention not because of You, but because of himself. Why he did not pick the flowers from a meadow and brought to You if he loves you? People (animals as You say) do that for a person they love. If your dog loves you he would do something nice for you, and not himself. :) But dogs often do things that would be benefit for them at the end. :) And yes people are animals, we are Homo Sapiens. Key word is Sapiens. As I often heard love is feeling, and not an emotion. There is a difference. We can have emotions(physical reactions) even when we are in sleep (unconscious) but we can not have feelings because they are conscious manifestations. :) Anyway love is probably a nice topic to put in this site.

          Pedros friend probably has mistaken love with feeling of safety. We often fell in love with persons that give us feeling of safety. Sorry for the long comment, and no hard feelings ;).

          • In reply to #40 by Modesti:

            I think domestic animals as dogs react upon our act, as you say He will cry, He will demand padding, cuddles,closeness, and so on, because he likes that not because he loves you. [Emphasis added.]

            Did you really mean to say that a dog enjoys crying because his “owner” leaves the house? Separation anxiety and depressed behavior are very pronounced in many dogs. According to your logic dogs must whine, cry, reject food, become lethargic, throw fits, and act out, because they enjoy these behaviors not because they are experiencing emotional trauma at being separated from someone to whom they feel a bond. As you point out, we can’t ask a dog if it feels love, so I can’t disprove this hypothesis. Let’s just say I’m skeptical. Given what we know about evolution, it seems unparsimonious to assume that related species DO NOT experience inner states analogous to our own when we can clearly observe analogous behaviors. You charge “projection”, I counter with speciesism.

            By the way, I happen to enjoy “padding, cuddles,closeness, and so on” as well. How does the fact that I get selfish gratification from these behaviors rule out the idea that I might also experience emotions like love while engaging in them?

            Why he did not pick the flowers from a meadow and brought to You if he loves you? People (animals as You say) do that for a person they love.

            I have never picked meadow flowers and brought them to anyone. Imagine my surprise to suddenly learn that this means I have never loved!

            If your dog loves you he would do something nice for you, and not himself.

            Actually, dogs are often extremely eager to please their “owners.” Training a dog is about giving them treats when they do what you want, but successful trainers know that praise can be just as effective a “treat” as a tasty morsel. Dogs appear to get real satisfaction from pleasing their masters, and real sorrow from indications that they have disappointed us.

            But dogs often do things that would be benefit for them at the end.

            So do humans. Who can say which species is more “selfish?” I guarantee you that a quick google search would yield thousands of anecdotal examples of dogs behaving “selflessly” and “loyally” and “heroically sacrificing” to help a human or another creature.

            One could easily argue that all human actions and inner states are ultimately selfish. The fact that we enjoy feeling love is enough to demonstrate that doing “something nice” for a loved one could be considered highly selfish. I fail to see a distinction on this level between humans and many other species.

            As I often heard love is feeling, and not an emotion. There is a difference. We can have emotions(physical reactions) even when we are in sleep (unconscious) but we can not have feelings because they are conscious manifestations.

            a) I honestly don’t think the distinction you are trying to draw here is a meaningful one. Do you know of any actual research that says there is a qualitative difference between the emotional states we can experience during sleep and waking? Does dreaming count as conscious or unconscious?

            b) Who says dogs aren’t conscious? They sleep and wake up to you know.

            c) This sounds suspiciously like your argument boils down to “I know that other animals cannot experience love because I define love as something which only humans can experience.”

      • In reply to #18 by Modesti:

        In reply to #9 by David R Allen:

        … love is only feeling of homo sapiens that animals do not have. …

        I’m not sure what basis you have for this claim, but I would be frankly stunned if it were true. In all probability, many animal species experience the entire range of human emotional states, though possibly without the added layers of nuance made possible by complex mental constructs like awareness of personal mortality, contemplation of the future, etc. Such feedback between thinking and feeling might mean that humans can experience more “shades” of love, but I see no reason to think they are uniquely able to feel it at all.

        Like most claims of bright lines separating humans from “the animals,” I’m skeptical of this one.

  5. Faith is like knowing beyond all doubt that there’s a monster under the bed. Love is very often one-sided, in which case it can easily become a creepy stalker kind of love. There’s nothing mysterious about either, they are the unsubstantiated fruits of an undisciplined imagination.

  6. Tell him he needs a divorce. People are certain about love until they are no longer in love. Why? Because love, no matter how certain you are it is there, is just a feeling. Love can be changed by knowledge, it can be changed by behaviour, it can be changed by the discovery of a greater love. Love is as certain a thing as faith, which is not certain at all. All of those frauds who rob their partners blind, rob people who are in love.

  7. Well, to start with, I would suggest your force this theist to speak for himself, and not for others. Have him repeat in front of a mirror (with several witnesses watching), the following claims:

    “To me, faith is like love.
    “I can’t prove faith is there.”
    “I just FEEL faith is there.”
    “Faith acts upon me with its mysterious force.”

    Yes, start with that. Once he can do this (speak only for himself), then you can progress to the next step, which will be to have him define the terms “love” and “faith”.

  8. Hello, Pedro.

    That your intelligent, educated friend’s remark “just left [you] cold” was probably the shock of hearing him suddenly utter such an irrational statement. It puts you suddenly in the position of having to decide whether you will let it go for the sake of the usual cordiality of your friendship, or whether the discussion has reached a point where cordiality needs to be set aside in order to probe the topic more thoroughly. I am left with the impression that you let it go that time but would like to resume the discussion at the next opportunity. It certainly would not hurt to ask your Catholic friend what exactly he meant by likening faith to love.

    As a former Catholic, I would say your friend spoke more truthfully than he was perhaps aware. What gives power to the faith of a devout religionist is the emotional bond that he has with the culture that constitutes his religion and holds together the community based on it. It is a very deep bond, much deeper than any rational insight. Obviously, then, it forms part of his very identity as a person, and for this reason one has to be very careful when questioning a religionist about his religion. But, if your manner of questioning is sincerely for the sake of understanding your friend a little better, then perhaps questioning him on what he means by “faith is like love” can lead to some good.

    Such an enquiry may lead to your friend becoming more aware of the emotional basis of his adherence to what he thinks of as his faith, and it may provide you with more insight into how religion infects the mind and interferes with its operations. It would only be fair to point out to him that a position based on such a private (subjective) thing as emotion is not something that can be proposed for others’ acceptance, where evidence and reason are required. If he objects that he discusses his faith with fellow Catholics freely enough, it must be pointed out that he does so only because he and they are bound by the same emotional bond to the same religion (to put it less kindly, they share the same delusion) – as a community of religionists, they have nothing to say to the world unless they can substantiate their message with evidence and reason.

    If your discussion with him proceeds anywhere at all, you may reach the point where the basic problem can be touched on, namely truth. Truth, I think we all agree, is a very important concept, and it is a concept that Christianity has seriously distorted. For a Christian, truth is first and foremost whatever God says, wills and does. More specifically for a Catholic, truth is what the teaching authority of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has defined as truth. In other words, the concept of truth has been severed from its natural logical connections with evidence and reasoning. If the question of truth comes up, at least be aware of the radical difference in meanings that this word has for the Christian on the one hand and for the average reasonable person on the other. How the Christian concept of truth can be true in the ordinary sense of the term may be an interesting question, but it may be wiser for friendship’s sake in the meantime and for your friend’s eventual mental emancipation merely to make clear how different the Christian use of ‘truth’ is from the ordinary use, and how a statement like “faith is like love” is not a statement of fact but only the expression of an individual’s state of mind.

  9. “The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” – Ayaan Hirsi Ali (from ‘Infidel’)

  10. your friend isn’t entirely wrong but…

    get rid of that lazy thinking about love being something you can’t prove. love is a bit like faith, it’s something that your brain does.

    Humans have evolved to nurture because their puny offspring are bloody useless for about 18 years so they produce oxytocin at the drop of a hat. Love can be studied in terms of providing evolutionary advantage, just like faith, by helping social bonding.

    love is nbulous enough to mean whatever you want it to mean during your argument. the bilogical needs of parent and child is love, the biological drive to reproduce is love, then there’s all that social stuff. people you love out of familiarity which brings trust based on past events. faith is something you can have in people not just invisible friends, i’ve no reason to htink I’m not getting fed tonight, based on emperical evidence. that’s faith. equally I know of humans who are regularly beaten and made to feel unworthy yet wouldn’t dream of leaving their opressor. isn’t love wonderful?

    Love and faith both exist, they can both be studied and anyone telling you otherwise is scared of having their views examined.

    This is an argument of “i want it both ways” I want to call witnesses without you cross examining them.

  11. Reading Marc Bekoff´s book “The Emotional lives of Animals”, the author refers emotions cannot be seen, yet they exist, he would add love, yet a non-listed emotion from those listed by Antonio Damasio, Darwin- I think- and other authors.
    God does have little to say about love, freedom , intelligence and other matters I think, but our biology does certainly.
    I would prefer the love of my dog than God´s.

  12. Faith is more often like an adolescent infatuation, with no capacity for discernment. God likes to put it about a bit, but he doesn’t love you enough to set you free also. Take care, he’s a jealous sod.

  13. I would say your catholic friend is right, he just wouldn’t be able to comprehend why.

    Faith * ** is*** like Love.
    It’s not quantifiable or falsifiable, but it’s real. Real in the sense that it’s a real emotional state, a real neurological state.

    Faith is a feeling, like any other, but all feelings are subjective and fallible. Just because someone has faith in something, doesn’t mean that faith is justified or that the thing they have faith in is as they wish it to be.

    There are a lot of people here saying that faith is not like love, and then spouting off various definitions of love and concluding that “faith is just unfounded belief” so there’s no similarity. However you fail to realise that faith can be subject to just as much scrutiny. There are evolutionary explanations for the phenomenon we call faith, just as the ones spouted off about the various ‘types’ of love. Faith plays as much of a role in our emotional lives as love does.

    Why are you trying to degrade faith while justifying love? Both are ultimately irrational, despite serving some valid purposes as far as human society goes.

    Is it because you resent faith, while desperately trying to hold onto some kind of objective definition of love? Do you believe love is more valid than faith?

    I think I need to point out here that faith is not the same thing as ‘religious faith’. We all have faith, in various things, in other people. While those who have religious faith, are a bit like those who “love” Justin Bieber.

  14. Hey Pedro. This is an important topic, because so many believers seem to advance this line of argument. It evokes quickly recognizable, universal experience, and just “feels” true at first blush. And yet it completely falls apart under a little examination.

    [...] he came up with “Faith is like love”. He said he believes in religious faith because it is like love: you can’t prove it’s there, but we just FEEL it’s there, acting upon us with its misterious force.

    This analogy – at least as you relate it second hand – is basically useless. It’s an example of what Dan Dennett calls a deepity.

    On one level, the analogy is clearly true, but what we learn from it at that level is pretty trivial. Of course “faith is like love.” Both are internal mental states with strong emotional resonance for the subject. Depending on usage, the statement is almost tautological, since many definitions of the two words overlap. Sometimes, “faith” actually is “love.”

    But the shallow nature of this insight is easily made clear by the explication of the analogy, “you can’t prove it’s there, but we just FEEL it’s there”.

    The first part of the explication is just false. We absolutely can “prove” love is there. Love – by almost every definition – is a feeling, so the fact that we can “FEEL it’s there” is all the proof we require to establish its existence as a phenomenon. Modern neuroscience can take this even further. We could map the brain states of people experiencing love, note the distinguishing similarities and use those as markers to identify love in other brain scans without having to ask the subject directly.

    The problem is that the mere existence of “love” or “faith” as a phenomenon is not in dispute. If the only goal is to demonstrate that faith exists, one hardly needs this weak analogy to do so. “Faith” as a mental state clearly exists and is experienced by millions of people. To the degree that we can ever be sure that other minds exist, we can be sure that some, probably most of them have experienced a state that could reasonably be called “faith.” (Actually, the term “faith” is so loose that it probably describes multiple mental states, some related, and some quite distinct.) Even if one were inclined to deny the existence of “faith” (an extreme position in my view) the same modern brain scanning techniques I mentioned above could be used to confirm whether there are a common set of markers in the brains of those claiming to experience it, which would be enough to show that it does, in fact, “exist”…in the brain.

    However the real subject of contention between the believer and the non-believer is not “does faith exist?” (duh!) but rather “is faith justified in any particular instance?” Does it correspond to an external, objective reality? I do not question whether people believe in gods, only whether those gods are real.

    On this second, implied level, your friend’s analogy is attempting to demonstrate something much larger and more profound than “faith exists.” Something it most certainly does not “prove” or even support. This second level of interpretation isn’t even clearly spelled out because explicit statement would shatter the illusion. The strong implication is that because “faith is like love” we should somehow derive that the internal, subjective experience of faith can tell us something about the external object of that faith. If one says this out loud, it is easily dismissed as a fallacy, hence the deepity. Because the analogy is so obviously true on the first level, the listener is invited to conflate the second-level implications with the first, and to give them unearned credence. It is a mental trap.

    The falsehood of the second-level implications of this analogy can be easily shown by the briefest examination.

    Does the fact that your friend experiences faith actually demonstrate that the “God” he believes in is real? Well, I love my girlfriend, and she is real, so if faith is like love, doesn’t it follow that gods must be real? See? If I say it like that it sounds silly.

    No reasonable person would point to the experience of love to establish the existence of the object of their affection. I know that my girlfriend exists from multiple, externally verifiable and mutually supportive lines of evidence. The fact that I happen to love her would not enter in to any argument I might construct to demonstrate that she is as real as any other part of the objective universe. She was equally real before we fell in love. My college ex – who broke my heart and now inspires feelings in me that are…well, not loving – is none-the-less, just as objectively real as when we were in the first blush of deep infatuation. On the flip side, I can honestly say that, when I was about four years old, I deeply loved my best friend, Peter. That love was absolutely real. I know it would have shown up in a brain scan, exactly as my love for my parents would today. But no matter how much I loved him, it doesn’t change the fact that he was completely imaginary.

    The analogy to faith exactly maps to these examples. We can have “faith” in all manner of things. Some of which might have objective reality, some do not. “Faith” has no direct correspondence to “reality” and thus cannot be used to tell us anything about it. Everyone already know this when they examine the “faith” of someone whose religion they reject. Does the deep faith of a Muslim in the Koran demonstrate it’s objective truth? Does my former faith in the Book of Mormon and the divine calling of Joseph Smith mean that Mormonism is objectively true? Of course not. Does your friend really think that “faith” can tell him what is or is not true outside of his own mind when others with whom he disagrees are clearly moved by faith to the same degree? I bet that he would not defend that explicit position for very long. Yet that is what this analogy tries to imply.

    So, we can dismiss your friend’s analogy in either of two ways. On the first, explicit level with a shrug and a “no duh!” And on the second, implicit level with a, “no, that doesn’t show us anything meaningful at all.”

  15. Hello again, everyone!
    Thank you very much for the insights, they are really helpful.
    However, I would like to apologize for the misplacement of some words that might have made some arguments escape a bit from my pretended track. Good logic needs good wording, sorry about that. Judging by the line of arguments we were having, what I think he was actually referring to was not that faith is like love in a sense of emotion, feeling or such. Clearly faith and love are feelings triggered by chemical reactions in our brain. Since we were clearly talking about god (in his case, the christian god), I think he was trying to say that his faith in the existence of god is like faith in love. It would sound like “No one can prove god or love exists, and yet we believe in love, so why not belive in god”. At first, I wanted to say that love can be proved by simply tracking down all the chemistry behind it. But I decided to hold myself back and think about it for while, because I don’t actually know if and which are the chemical reactions triggered in our brain by faith in the existence of god. Perhaps I should change the topic of this conversation to “Somebody please explain to me what happens in the brain of people who believe in god” ;-).

    Cheers,
    Pedro

    • In reply to #29 by pedro:

      Hello again, everyone!
      Thank you very much for the insights, they are really helpful.
      However, I would like to apologize for the misplacement of some words that might have made some arguments escape a bit from my pretended track. Good logic needs good wording, sorry about that. Judging by the line o…

      No one can prove god or love exists, and yet we believe in love, so why not belive in god”

      I’d argue one can prove love exists just by defining it properly but I think that’s a red herring to draw you into a circular argument so I suggest accepting it on face value then asking your friend to apply the same logic to fairies, goblins, thor, zeus etc.

      simply stating “here’s a thing that’s hard to define that we agree exists therefore my thing that i believe in is just as likely to” is a bit like the going nuclear falacy. You state he’s a catholic, which is fertile ground for counter-questioning. after all talking about something nebulous like god is one thing but maybe nail your friend down on their views on crackers becoming human flesh, human virgin girls giving birth to offspring carrying a Y chromosome, a man coming back to life, complete with spear wound after being dead 3 days, then ascending, yes “going upwards” to “heaven” bodily; a phisical act of moving to one place to another, none of this airy-fairy idea of heaven being like some other dimension but up he went. actually up.

      find out which of these rediculous beliefs they buy into, accept they’re perfectly valid arguments under the “we believe in X so why not believe in Y?” school of thought then get them to explain why they don’t belive in everything they don’t believe in. If he believes in the complete catholic dogma, face it, he’s not intelligent at all so step away from the argument but if he takes a more liberal approach to the accuracy of the biblical account then fine go with his argument but ask why he only belives in his one (or 3in1) god. why not a goddess? why not a different god for every planet who all answer to one super god (shall we call him satan? yeah lets) and ask if he can believe in love why can’t he believe in everything he doesn’t believe in?

    • In reply to #29 by pedro:

      Thanks for the attempted clarification. However, this reformulation of the argument, doesn’t actually improve it or save it from the criticisms I pointed out before. In fact it makes the case worse by removing the “first sense” in which the analogy was at least trivially true.

      Instead of, “faith is like love,” we are now asked to consider whether “faith in the existence of god is like faith in [the existence of?] love” Notice that the analogy now seems to compare faith to faith, a pure tautology. But that isn’t interesting at all. What could we possibly learn by saying “faith is like faith?”

      Fortunately, we can simplify the matter. Because “faith” is now on both sides of the equation we can really eliminate the term, just like in algebra. This new formulation actually asks us to accept that “the existence of god” is like “[the existence of] love.” “Faith” as an experience – no matter how profound and mysterious – is not the term we are trying to learn about by comparing it to love. We are comparing god itself to love. The only way one can argue that eliminating “faith” from the formulation in this way is invalid, would be to concede that “faith” is not actually being used in the same sense in both cases, which would instantly disprove the analogy.

      Once you see this, it becomes clear that the chemical reactions triggered in a brain by faith are irrelevant. The way a believer feels when experiencing faith is irrelevant. Nothing about the nature of faith itself has any bearing, because faith is not being compared to anything other than itself. For brain chemistry or feelings or experience to matter in the discussion we would need to determine whether “the existence of god” is somehow related to the believers state of mind. Unlike “love,” “god” is not itself a state of mind, so that relationship is not automatically demonstrated. So long as the definition of “god” includes objective existence outside of the mind of believers one would have to demonstrate the existence of god before any attempt to measure its effect on a brain.

      Which brings us to the question which this analogy pretends to ask. As you put it:

      “No one can prove god or love exists, and yet we believe in love, so why not belive in god”.

      This is simply a false equivalency. “Love” and “god” are not comparable in the way this question presumes. The criteria for rational belief in one of them is not the same for belief in the other.

      Love is a subjective, emotional state. It does not require “proof” beyond personal experience to establish that it exists. No matter how many times believers say it, it is NOT TRUE that “no one can prove love exists.” We don’t need any scientific equipment or any further data at all to establish that love, does in fact exists. Because love IS an experience, the fact that we do in fact experience it is more than sufficient to establish it as a real phenomenon.

      God is not subjective. The statement “god exists” is an objective claim about the state of the universe outside the mind of a believer. Because this is so, “I experience god” is not enough to establish that god does in fact exist. Objective realities require objective evidence.

      Therefor the analogy fails. There are only two ways to rescue it and they both involve redefining terms in such a way as to make them agree.

      1) I doubt whether your friend intends this analogy to demonstrate that his God is “like love” in the sense that god exists only within his mind and his subjective experience. But if god is defined in that way, then yes I will admit that god does demonstratively exist – as a mental construct inside the mind of believers. (I have actually heard that Morgan Freeman uses this reasoning to explain why he is not an “atheist” even though he believes god is imaginary.)

      2) If your friend means to imply that “love” is some sort of force or phenomenon that exists outside of the minds of creatures experiencing it, then yes I would concede that believing in that type of “love” is equivalent to believing in god. Both beliefs would be equally irrational given the available evidence.

      • In reply to #35 by BanJoIvie:

        In reply to #29 by pedro:

        Thanks for the attempted clarification. However, this reformulation of the argument, doesn’t actually improve it or save it from the criticisms I pointed out before. In fact it makes the case worse by removing the “first sense” in which the analogy was at least trivially t…
        I just popped a reply in to say how much I enjoyed &and gained from) reading you rreplies to this post. The best counter-arguments I have yet seen to this old chestnut!

        On a side note, re Morgan Freeman and God, watch this small clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFRnd-UugUg

    • In reply to #31 by laura_a_fischer:

      You can prove love, it’s chemicals in your body. That may sound unromantic, but it doesn’t make it feel any less amazing.
      http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/science-jan-june09-love_02-13/

      Thank you for the link Laura.

      Pedro. I would encourage you to send the link to your catholic friend. While he won’t like the science contained therein, and will probably reject it, or claim that love, like religion is some mystical experience.

      When you finally get down to it, love, and any other useful evolutionary emotion is actually the product of electrons being exchanged between atoms in the brain. An electric potential is created in some area of the brain that makes you feel “Love”. Or Depression. Particular shaped proteins that fit into particular shaped receptors in the brain generate particular emotions. As Laura’s article showed, oxytocin in women and vasopressin in men produces feelings of “Love”.

      This is how narcotics like heroin operate. A naturally occurring molecule created by a plant as an insecticide happens to fit in a receptor in the brain of a human triggering a relaxed feeling of well being and peace. A dose of heroin induces an emotion in the recipient. And Naloxone, the artificial drug created to deal with overdoses of heroin. It is more chemically reactive that heroin and out competes for key hole receptors in the brain, saving the person from overdose.

      I know this is very sad for the romantics and mystics, but when we look in the mirror, we just a bag of chemical reactions.

    • In reply to #32 by Bob Springsteen:

      The suicide bomber who blows himself to bits is a man of amazing faith, and this faith stems from his love for Allah.

      I don’t buy this idea of doing something like this for love. There is an expectation of getting something in return- whether it is a better afterlife, the idea that others will revere you…

  16. Jane Goodall told in a conference I attended-on animal welfare-(Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall on a plenary conference, which came not to be plenary but the audience listened to both separately):

    after a chimp´s mother death one of her offspring died too and the examination of it´s brain proven the same neurochemistry present in human brain in case of depression. Even to state that love is a unique emotion that animals don´t share is required to have some evidence beyond such strong “believe”, evolution is more likely to have continuity, and organs like brains with some of it´s functions- the emotions- are more likely to be shared no matter the shades of gray, as far as hearts, no matter it´s shape pumps blood.

    While science tries to discover more about misteries, religion´s purpose is that everything remain a mistery, as Prof Richard Dawkins quoted on TGD St- Augustine- I think- the educated friend of yours seems to love mistery himself too.

  17. Consider this continuity between subject and epistemological object, which Piaget- and Bachelard criticized:

    “Everything that is real is rational, everything that is rational is real”, Piaget referred to this as the complete identity between subject -lactant- and object, which is not continous in fact as far as a four years old child may have- or has indeed- different logical prepositions about reality that change over time, experience, and reasoning, meaning the epistemological process requires some distanciation between the lactant and object, not a complete identity.

    Do you think your friend makes some disscontinuity, or continuity between his reasoning and objective reality?
    What happens to the brain of believers, I dare to suppose, maybe a “continuity”, if I am not to bore you.

    How Pastor Ted explained Prof. Dawkins the epistemological process “please don´t be arrogant in the process”,; when I was a child I understood God otherwise and so on, but whats there to know about God? (I don´t make any idea).

  18. I have faith (a deep sense of hope) that situations in my life will work out in the long run. I have faith (an assurance) that my career will be OK despite some ups and downs. I have faith (assurance) that good people exist everywhere and will help me out if I am ever in need. I have faith because these situation have proven themselves in my life in an actual tangible way. It is a type of confidence resulting from past experiences. Faith is a good an necessary part of the human experience.

    Faith in religion is built on empty promises or piggy backs/conflates real and tangible situations (like the examples above) to the unseen. “I have faith in God that my husband will survive his Cancer.” This type of faith misses the mark. It is tossed out into thin air and fails to acknowledge humanity. A better use of faith would be – “I have faith that his doctors and modern medicine will do their best to treat him. I have faith that competent individuals will assist him. I have faith that his natural healing process will kick in; he has a positive outlook and his prognosis is excellent.” See the difference?

  19. Most of us believe that death is scary terrifying now when you believe that you will end up in a state that is not eternally nothing I suppose that fear is removed. Now eternal happiness being loved feeling that you are apart of something much bigger all of this was created for you I.e. the universe and knowing something that no one knows or should I say not everyone knows such a feeling can be created its exactly similar with Stockholm syndrome.

    • In reply to #32 by Bob Springsteen:

      The suicide bomber who blows himself to bits is a man of amazing faith, and this faith stems from his love for Allah.

      In reply to #43 by Bob Springsteen:

      Faith was exemplified by the men who drove the planes into the Twin Towers. Love was exemplified by the brave men of the New York Fire Department. Faith is the antithesis of love.

      Which is it, Bob?

  20. What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. don’t hurt me. no more!

    So basically, he is making the argument that faith is just an emotion. Well… What do you say now? Not ‘just’ an emotion? Then what is the rationale behind it. Makes you feel good about yourself? A nice comfort blanket to let you know ‘everything will be all right’? hmm hmm. Hey, we’re making progress! Please, just lie down on the couch and calm down, I’m not finished with you.

  21. “Why he did not pick the flowers from a meadow and brought to You if he loves you?”

    It seems chimps can offer a female food- bananas (because its a way of sexually appeasing the relation, as some men offer cattle to the parents of their bride- sorry for the analogy).
    Cockroach males are even more pleasing: they wrap an appreciated “sweet” they produce with secretion of their own body- I think- and while copulating, the female tastes it -I had a Professor whose name was Cockroach.
    Some birds pick all blue pieces they find to arrange their nest (because females love blue?) Aren´t they being “selfish” too? Love, I think, would rather be the bond between companions.

  22. I think people come up with ways to use language to benefit or enhance their ideas in ways that are incorrect.

    “you can’t prove it’s there, but we just FEEL it’s there”

    That simply is not right. We can prove love is there and a host of other emotions which trigger endorphins in the brain. What people feel is simply chemical production. The feel good kind.

    Anything which can produce this effect would likely be called love or happiness. By extension if believing in something regardless of wether it is pretending to know something you do not, if it is a catalyst for endorphin production people will feel good.
    This would also explain why people derive pleasure from torture and other hurtful things which would certainly not produce pleasure to someone else specially the victim.

    It does not matter what you call it. Faith, Love, Hate. If it feels good people will do it. This is where the hypocrisy lies. the fact that people think there is no pleasure from pain. And that those who do feel pleasure from the pain of others are sick in the head. They don’t realize they are not different. They simply use other methods to get high on endorphins.

    I suspect that During the inquisition , having feelings as a man was worth some torture. How can catholic discard all the atrocities as if they are no longer relevant? How can anyone continue to be a slave to these ideas ?

    They have been drowned in these notions of what faith is etc. gods love bla bla bla. Most do not even know the history behind their religion they follow like sheep blindly in the night…

    Fortunately the tide is changing and more people are standing up to this sort of thing.It is important in my opinion to let them know they are delusional but as long as it works for them it is ok. Just not to spread it too much because to realists they simply look crazy… I am glad that at least atheists don’t need to hide in the shadows. At least in my circles.

    I tend to avoid the subject until they bring it up. Then usually they never bother me again… ;)

  23. “He said he believes in religious faith because it is like love: you can’t prove it’s there, but we just FEEL it’s there, acting upon us with its misterious force.”

    That’s just retarded. You can’t prove it’s there? There are no signs love is there? No symptoms? No behavioral indicators? No emotional indicators? I’ve never heard anyone so inane as to claim they had no reason to think they were feeling love other than they just feel it. Maybe I need some less astute friends. But no matter how well we understand our experience with the emotion/feeling of love, it should be obvious: love IS a feeling.

    Faith is not a feeling. Faith is belief in the face of absent or contrary evidence. Belief is not a feeling. Reasons for belief may (worst case scenario) be confined to subjectivity… aka feeling. We can equivocate “feeling” with “believing” but this is merely a linguistic shortcut. Example: “How do I know Yahshua is coming back tomorrow? I just feel it.” Conversely if we say, “How do I know I love my spouse? I just feel it.” In the second example does “feel” mean believe or does it actually mean “feel?”

    Just like pedro’s interlocutor, this feeling, belief, faith, whatever you want to call it, doesn’t tell us anything about the real world; it only tells us about the person who is expressing this feeling, faith or belief. People who expect their self-delusion to be compelling are ridiculous. Feel free to offer a counter-example. And we find ourselves rendered speechless by their equivocation, nonsense and self-imposed ignorance we need to remember they are using substandard epistemology to maintain their unsupportable fantasy.

    • In reply to #48 by Akaei:

      Example: “How do I know Yahshua is coming back tomorrow? I just feel it.” Conversely if we say, “How do I know I love my spouse? I just feel it.” In the second example does “feel” mean believe or does it actually mean “feel?”

      True. I think the problem comes in people’s minds when thinking of romantic love, that it is an admixture of love and reciprocated love, the latter necessarily being a belief in the existence of the thing. Claiming you have faith in, say, an institution is to rather stretch the word. Claiming you have faith in a god is to identify a principle like romantic love, a feeling and a belief in the reciprocation of that feeling.

      This is why I suggested that faith more nearly resembled infatuation, a feeling and a misplaced belief in reciprocation or its possibity.

      • In reply to #53 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #48 by Akaei:

        For completeness, I should distinguish a loving god from others. Others may net infatuation and a sense of duty. The Loving Christian god was cleverly contrived to press all the kin detector and oxytocin buttons to enhance the belief in reciprocation,….the Blessings, the Giving of Daily Bread. (SkyDad finally gets to bring home the bacon.)

      • In reply to #53 by phil rimmer:

        Out of curiosity are you modeling some kind of love that exists externally to humans, a force that acts upon us? I sheepishly admit this is how I thought loved worked growing up under the influence of christian and popular culture.

        • In reply to #57 by Akaei:

          In reply to #53 by phil rimmer:

          Out of curiosity are you modeling some kind of love that exists externally to humans, a force that acts upon us? I sheepishly admit this is how I thought loved worked growing up under the influence of christian and popular culture.

          As an early teen I decided it was our best invention as a species, and that in an admiring and positive way. I twigged that there were some basic biological things going on, as pets (well, dogs) exhibited a lot of genuine looking affection, and that there was some kind of cultural overlay that might have created the various flavours, romantic, fraternal etc.. I was always a little Aspie and that may have made me a little more objective about people. I found others didn’t share my amazement that most songs and films my parents’ generation seemed to like were all about romantic love, about what it was and how it worked. How could this not change how we feel about things?

          I now need to think how those, who imagine Love a force of some kind, might think about reciprocation as an essential part of the spell. Would reciprocation in your younger days have been a part of romantic love or love of God?

          Cheers, Phil.

          • In reply to #58 by phil rimmer:

            Would reciprocation in your younger days have been a part of romantic love or love of God?

            I was speaking in terms of romantic love. It’s all very embarrassing in retrospect. Given everything that pop culture was telling me/us about love it continually baffled me that no matter how much I loved someone (or believed I loved someone) there was little to no correlation with their loving me back. It was very frustrating that I could not influence someone to love me back. This whole love thing seemed to be defective… hit and miss but mostly miss. Only much later did I realize that love is not something that happens to us, or upon us, but is something that we unintentionally (or otherwise) create within ourselves. Even then it is not essential, substantive or independently existent. It is merely a description of how we feel about something. Perhaps still tragic, wonderful or both, but for far more mundane reasons.

  24. People who expect their self-delusion to be compelling are ridiculous.

    Yes I agree, however that is always the case with people who want to convince others of something. They utilize what would amount to emotional parlor tricks to get you to replace or equate a feeling with a faith. That is the trick always.

    Example: Come to our church where you will be loved accepted and anointed even and filled with joy.

    Who can turn that down when they are aware of how those feelings make you feel good? It is the most basic form of exploitation.
    I think they do it in a subliminal way where they may not even be aware they are doing it. They just assume you will also be intoxicated with the vocabulary promising love and happiness in exchange for faith.

    Maybe the approach under these cases would be to ask the person if they think of their faith when having an orgasm or when going to the bathroom. I know muslims who do actually since every aspect of their life was decided by alah . But in general to catholics or xtians, Possibly showing them that they should stick to the real meaning of what words were made for.

    You can have faith someone will love you. You can have faith god will love you. You can have faith you will win the lottery. It does sound quite ridiculous when you use the term properly as I read back….it is wishful thinking at best. I would hate to have faith and then be disappointed. It feels like when you see how magic tricks work then it’s over for enjoying the magic tricks since now you know it is not magic but dexterity and eye foolery…

    Possibly asking them which of all the gods is love because based on the track record it does not look very loving to me.

  25. Sorry for reporting my intimate life, but for me it would be more correct to claim “love is like faith”, as far as I seem to have had such a strange and confused period of time in my life and love was so problematic (even with both gender relations I have had it seems, and so problematic it may have been that I may have had an histeric amenesia, for a girl came to my family, reporting them for my shame we had some relation and we both loved each other? what makes me feel so strange, because I don´t remember that relation as far as she seemed familiar to me. Just a glance of how problematic it must have been, it would really need some sort of freudian explanation? and I always blamed myself for this kind of strange relations, some would indeed need “faith”, because I don´t really know wether they were real, as far as I prefer to think they were.
    I have had really such a troubled life concerning love, and finally depression and a lot of guilt on my shoulders for some of this troubled relations. Some are almost surreal, but I have some “faith” , I mean some optimism I finally got from a poem written by the first person for whom I really fell in love, that some how calmed me and gave me more security and to read some poems left by this person, after his suicide (that no one knows either if it was really suicide, gave some optimism, it´s too weird isn´t it?Well forget it, its not worth for someone to know. (although I told my husband once).
    Troubled enough? It wouldn´t require to mention God in all these, it would be even worse..

  26. In reply to NUMBER 52 by Katy Cordeth. Which is it, Bob? : Congratulations Katy! You were the first to spot my deliberate mistake. You’ve won a signed copy of Pat Condell’s autobiography.

    • In reply to #56 by Bob Springsteen:

      In reply to NUMBER 52 by Katy Cordeth.

      Which is it, Bob?

      Congratulations Katy! You were the first to spot my deliberate mistake. You’ve won a signed copy of Pat Condell’s autobiography.

      Ohmigodohmigodohmigodohmigod, are you kidding me?!

      Am I really going to get a signed copy of My Life in Bigotry?

      I literally just do not know what to say at this moment.

      Your kindness has placed me in an untenable position, Bob.

      I could put this book on ebay and make a million dollars, or keep it for myself.

      thinks: WWNGD

  27. What does love have to do with it ?

    (quote)”The Way of Love is a continual sacrifice; and what gets sacrificed are the lover’s thoughts of ‘I’, until at last comes the time when the lover says, ‘O Beloved! will I ever become one with you and so lose myself forever? But let this be only if it is your Will.’ This is the stage of love enlightened by obedience.”

    Meher Baba

    THE EVERYTHING AND THE NOTHING, p. 4
    Copyright 1963 Meher House Publications, Australia(endquote)

    It would appear that the Word Love has many meanings depending on the concept at hand. Faith may be Love or wants to be represented as love, because faith wants people to love to have faith, to love their master. Above is a perfect example of how religious beliefs/faith/love are concatenated
    and presented as a necessary relationship. You can’t have faith without love of your master and for this you must give up loving yourself and only love the master. And it must not come easy, you must always sacrifice something for love to have a meaning.

    I can understand the concept of greed and selfishness. That it is best not to be greedy or selfish. It is not a sacrifice to not be greedy or selfish one simply choses not to be. I do not think one needs to lose oneself in someone else to love or be loved. That would be obsessive.

    “This is the stage of love enlightened by obedience.”

    This is the part that gets me to chew the leg off a chair…. enlightened by obedience of the master’s will. That means obey god.In this case Meher baba a self proclaimed reincarnation of christ mohammed and krishna among others..Lover means god lover or baba lover, not lover in the romantic term at all. The word love gets thrown around a lot in his philosophy but it is also synonymous with obedience .

    • In reply to #62 by GFZ:

      “You can’t have faith without love of your master…”

      What a ridiculous assertion. And (like the friend in the original post) you’re equivocating the meaning of faith, using it in the sense of devotion rather than belief.

      You needn’t love your master to be devoted to them. Not to mention what you are devoted to is your perception of your master rather than your master as they really are. For example what if the master is the flying spaghetti monster or some other fictional deity (forgive my redundancy)? Even if you know your master intimately (which is silly if your master is a deity) you can not know your master completely. You are devoted to the concept/perception you have if this master, which I say again includes concepts of non-existent beings. Can people be devoted to something or someone they don’t and can’t understand? Absolutely.

      Not only can your love be misguided, you can also hate your master and still be devoted to them. Fear of eternal damnation might motivate someone to devote their self to something they hate.

      Then there is the other meaning of faith: belief. If we say, “Belief is like love,” or “You can’t have belief without love of your master,” it is obvious this meaning of faith is inappropriate. Mystical woo woo poetry is very pretty but also irresponsible and dishonest.

  28. actually you can prove that loves exist. It’s a chemical reaction inside your brain you can measure that starts releasing substances and basically drugs you from inside. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy and experience it at his fullest. Music itself it’s just a vibration traveling trough a media, commonly air. doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy music anymore after you realize that.

  29. Like how you can’t prove that there isn’t a spaghetti monster that is too small to see. I just have one question, and I do not mean to offend. Why did god let the following take place: 911, Crusades, WWI, WWII, Holocaust.

    • In reply to #66 by ryan.jackson.16121471:

      Like how you can’t prove that there isn’t a spaghetti monster that is too small to see. I just have one question, and I do not mean to offend. Why did god let the following take place: 911, Crusades, WWI, WWII, Holocaust.

      Free will. Seriously that is the answer you will get. You are better off posing the question about tsunami’s, earthquakes and other non man made disasters.

      Michael

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