July 9, 2013
Discussing religion with a believer, for me, is like driving into the cul-de-sac from my old neighborhood. The houses in this neighborhood had a high turnover rate, so every time I drove down it there would be something new to see; a different car in the driveway, a new basketball hoop set up over the garage, a fat man sunning himself in a kiddie pool on the front lawn. But the drive always ended at the unkempt house at the end of the block. Its windows are boarded up, the grass is dead, the porch is full of carpenter ants; but for some reason the owner refuses to let the dilapidated peace of shit go to let the city planners continue the cul-de-sac into a true road and make some real progress.
The same is true for the back and forth I exchange with any believer. I’ll occasionally see some new sights in a familiar neighborhood, but we always end up at that rotting, dilapidated obstruction to getting somewhere meaningful: Faith.Nobody has ever explained to me why having faith is considered a good thing. As far as I can tell, its the equivalent of saying “it’s true because I’m wishing it was true really super hard.” Faith is a word you use when you’re out of reason and logic. It halts any progression of the thought process you’re on.
Our scientific history has been made almost exclusively by people who did things not on faith. Newton could have taken it on faith that gravity was a magic trick from God, but instead he used his reasoning to formulate mathematical formulas that dictate how the natural phenomena of gravity works. Galileo could have taken it on faith that the sun revolves around the earth, but he broke free of this dogma (at great risk to his livelihood and his life at the hands of the faithful). Paul and David Merage could have taken it on faith that you couldn’t create a microwaveable sandwich burrito, and if they had we’d never have gotten Hot Pockets.
Now there are those that tell me I just put my faith into science instead of religion, I call bullshit, and refer you to Brian Cox:You can’t back up faith with evidence. If you could, it wouldn’t be faith. That’s what makes science so awesome. Faith is just the obstacle in the conversation we’re trying to have. If you’re going to decide that “faith” is the answer in our discussion, why not just start there instead of spending 30 minutes listing so-called miracles or showing how irreducible complexity disproves evolution or pointing out successful Biblical prophecies? If “faith” is enough of an answer, why bother with giving any other answers?
The truth is, “faith” isn’t an answer. I don’t even believe it to be a virtue. I have never had anybody successfully describe how belief in something without proof is a positive thing. I can’t consider a single scenario where someone’s life would be improved by taking something as fact without proper evidence. And let’s face it, if faith were considered an all-around good thing, I’d stop having people try to insult me by derisively claiming “atheism is just as much of a faith as Christianity.”
I know it looks like the road dead-ends at a cliff up ahead, but just have some faith and you’ll make it across the canyon just fine.