Author Dan Arel
My focus is on the religious attack on science and the ill effects it has on our children, particularly in our educational system. Proper scientific education through free thought and critical thinking is key to our future. | @danarel
We have select a winner for the “A Manual for Creating Atheists” signed book contest! The winner is Scott Dotterweich, whose comment below impressed Emily and myself.
Congrats Scott, I hope this book helps you in your discussions on faith. Keep up the good work!
My best argument against faith is that faith is a failed epistemology, as Dr. Boghossian and others have pointed out. That is, faith is a poor way to come to knowledge. This is because faith provides no standard by which we can reasonably determine which conclusions are more likely to be correct. Given two propositions — such as, “Humans have brains” and “humans don’t have brains” — faith cannot help us decipher which one is more likely to be true, since believing either proposition on faith (without sufficient evidence) wouldn’t tell us anything about what is more likely to be true. Having faith in one or the other would just be arbitrarily choosing based on nothing reliable. Faith gives us no good reason to think something is or isn’t true.
This is why we should value scientific evidence over faith. If we have no evidence or insufficient evidence one way or the other, the most reasonable thing to do is to remain undecided on the subject. There is no need to jump to a belief without evidence, as it would be horribly misguided given that there is no support or justification for doing so. It follows that people should not believe anything based on faith, since evidence is a better method to distinguish between opposing beliefs and we do not need to believe anything without sufficient evidence. All of this is not even adding the fact that faith is very divisive and consequential in our world.
One real-life example of my argument in action happened about two years ago when I wrote to a Baptist pastor friend of mine. Here is the relevant snippet, and keep in mind I don’t consider this a successful intervention:
“If I said I have faith that Elvis is in my bathroom taking a shower, you’d look at me like I’m a lunatic, because there is absolutely no good evidence that my statement is true. The very definition of faith is “belief without evidence.” I don’t understand why it is a good thing to have faith. I don’t even understand why it is desirable. Shouldn’t we desire good evidence before we believe something? If someone told me my wife is cheating on me, I would ask for evidence. If someone told me invisible, magical fairies are actually what start my car’s engine, I would probably not believe that person without good evidence.
If someone were to hand me a 2000-year-old book that claimed that a Being that I cannot see, hear, taste, feel, or smell is constantly narrating every single event in my life (and everyone else’s simultaneously), I would probably not believe that person based on that alone. If that person insisted that she really feels in her heart that it is true, and she thinks believing in this narrator has really changed her life for the better, I would say that she could easily be fooling herself. After all, people are able to fool themselves enough with particular faiths that they are willing to kill themselves (and others) in the name of those faiths. I don’t see how it is unreasonable that she could be fooling herself, too.
Christianity talks a lot about being humble. How is it humble to believe a proposition in the absence of evidence rather than just remaining neutral? How is it humble to believe something is certainly true when there is not sufficient evidence?”
I never got a response, of course. Reading “A Manual For Creating Atheists” will hopefully help me greatly!”
Thank you to everyone who entered the contest and gave us your best arguments against faith. If you are interested in trying again to win a copy, our friend David Viviano at GammaAtheist.com is doing a weekly giveaway you can enter here, or head over to the Richard Dawkins Foundation and purchase a copy.