Iʼm starting to find the equivocations, vagueness, and the unmerited claims emerging from assertions of faith to be a bit tedious. Asking a believer for a definition of faith and a description of how it works will inevitably result in a cogent lesson in question begging. Christians will often present this popular Biblical verse, Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
How this confidence and assurance is achieved is never divulged, and faith, in this case, simply asserts. Alternatively, the theist appeals to lifeʼs uncertainties and defines faith as the leap over these probabilities. I discussed this erroneous view during my podcast with minister-turned-atheist Dr. John Loftus in May of this year. Having faith in a proposition – whatever that means – in no way magically increases or decreases the likelihood of its truth. Again, faith simply asserts and leaves much unexplained.
In my experience, definitions of faith tend to be synonymous with the word “belief” or beg the question, as the passage in Hebrews above illustrates. Faith is often invoked as an extra ingredient or additional power behind a belief or knowledge claim, but the method or mechanism is either flawed, non-existent or kept a deep, dark secret.
Many people still invoke faith as a way of knowing, despite it being highly unlikely to help one arrive at the truth. This is why I’m grateful for Dr. Peter Boghossian’s recently published book, A Manual For Creating Atheists. Throughout the book Boghossian provides conversational strategies and tactics designed to lead religious believers from faith to reason. The book offers diagnostic methods, provides practical examples of conversations, and is supported by an impressive body of cross-disciplinary peer-reviewed literature. Boghossian is an outspoken philosophy professor at Portland State University, and recently hosted a book-signing and interview with renowned evolutionary biologist and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.
Written By: Alan Litchfield
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