Christianity is not alone among the religions of the world in placing an emphasis on faith. Faith is a highly regarded virtue. In fact, Rom 14:23 says that “whatever is not from faith is sin” and Heb 11:6 makes it clear that “without faith it is impossible to please him.”
However, when anyone says we must believe something based on faith, warning bells should go off. The question one should ask is WHY? Why is faith necessary for religious belief and, in the Christian world, why is faith required for salvation? Without it, you are “toast” – dead in your sins and heading toward hell. But again, we must ask: “Why faith and not evidence?” After all, to quote Jubal Harshaw in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land: “I’ve never understood how God could expect His creatures to pick the one true religion by faith—it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.”
Of course, if you have no evidence, faith is the only option. Least you think faith is based on evidence, think again:
[Faith is] belief that is not based on proof.
From Wikipedia,[Faith is] a belief not resting on logical proof or material evidence. You can also see from this entry the number of religions that rely on faith. What makes the Christian think that their unfounded faith is any better than another religion’s unfounded faith? Faith of course!
Strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp. without proof or evidence. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
Even the Bible defines faith as:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:-14)
As Bertrand Russell said: "We may define ‘faith’ as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. When there is evidence, no one speaks of ‘faith.’ We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence." (Human Society in Ethics and Politics)
Coupled with the requirement for faith, Christianity has to downgrade and even villainize those who find faith inadequate. This is done by making the “wisdom of the world” (rationality) out to be foolishness:
“For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” (1 Cor 1:18-27)
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness"; and again, "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless." (1 Cor 3:19-21)
If a Buddhist or Hindu or a person from any other religion said the same thing, the Christian would immediately see through the ruse. They fail to see the deception because their own religion is special. I have even known Christians that smugly and confidently see faith (at least religious faith) as superior to being rational. Yet, I think, this eventually grates on the average Christian and such an individual will eventually say that faith is necessary but that faith is based on evidence. As we have seen, this is not the definition of faith, but let’s look at this claim. What evidence does the Christian usually point too? I have often heard that resurrection of Christ is that evidence. In fact, some Christian apologists suggest that the “resurrection of Christ is the best attested event in ancient history.”
I beg to differ. The resurrection is attested to in only 4 religiously biased Gospels and a few epistles. Outside of the Gospels, there is no undisputed contemporary, secular account of Christ’s resurrection. Even the Gospels were written at least 2 or more decades after the event. No one thought it was important enough to write down the words of “eternal life” until 20+ years after the event! Furthermore, the Gospels are internally inconsistent. They disagree on the day of the crucifixion, the last words Christ spoke, the witnesses who saw the empty tomb, the time they came, why they came, who they saw and what they did after they saw the empty tomb. They also disagree in other details. Did zombies actually rise from the tombs and enter the city? Did the sun darken? Was the curtain in the temple torn in two?
David Edwards wrote: “It has proven impossible to construct a fully harmonized version of the resurrection stories despite many attempts to do so.” John Shelby Spong agrees: “When we embrace all of their versions in our minds at one time, we discover that all we have in the Bible about Easter is an inconsistent, contradictory, mutually exclusive witness.” (both quotes from “Why I Became an Atheist” by John Lotus. I do not have the original source material to verify the quotes.)
Paul says that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17-18). Given the importance of this event and the “inspired,” “inerrant” word that some claim the Bible is supposed to be, you would think the Gospel writers would get their story strait. They didn’t because the resurrection account has all the earmarks of myth, legend and fiction.
I agree with Christopher Hitchens who recently said:
“[All religions] make the same mistake. They all take the only real faculty we have that distinguishes us from other primates, and from other animals—the faculty of reason, and the willingness to take any risk that reason demands of us—and they replace that with the idea that faith is a virtue. If I could change just one thing, it would be to dissociate the idea of faith from virtue—now and for good—and to expose it for what it is: a servile weakness, a refuge in cowardice, and a willingness to follow, with credulity, people who are in the highest degree unscrupulous.” (Hitchens-Berlinski Debate)
Faith isn’t a virtue. It is closing ones eyes to the evidence and jumping across the abyss hoping for an unseen bridge that will save. There isn’t one. No one should determine their eternal destiny based on something as tenuous as faith. Everyone should require evidence. I’m an atheist because I find no compelling evidence for a god or supernatural realm.
(A special thanks to Tom Voegeli for finding the Bertrand Russell quote and the definitions of faith.)