After opening our Christmas presents yesterday, the family and I somehow got to talking about faith. Sweetie said that one had to have some small amount of faith in order to be a good skeptic.
“That depends on what you are asking me to put my faith in,” I replied.
“Well,” he said, “for instance, you have faith in me. You have faith that I love you.
“Exactly” said I, “And it’s based on observable data. For instance, I have faith that you will come home every night and that I can pretty much expect you home by a certain time. Why? Because that’s what you’ve done for the last eleven years. Now, I don’t know with absolute certainty that tomorrow you won’t decide to leave me high and dry, but the evidence of our life together leads me to conclude otherwise. Your actions demonstrate your love and commitment, and that’s why I can I put my faith in you.”
“I also have faith in other things,” I continued. “I am pretty sure that when I turn the faucet on in the kitchen, water will come out of the spigot, because I’ve observed that every time I turn the handle, water comes out. And the few times that it hasn’t occurred, it’s not because some law of the universe flipped on it’s side, but because either the water has been turned off at the source or the well pump isn’t working. I have faith in plumbing.”
But the more I got to thinking about it, I don’t have “faith,” either in my husband or my plumbing. What I have is trust. When the average person uses the word “faith” they mean it pretty much as it is defined in the Bible. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith thusly: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” When my husband tells me he loves me, I’m not hoping for his love, nor do I see no evidence of it. We aren’t talking faith. We are talking about trust.
I can put my trust in him because his deeds provide evidence of his love and commitment. Of course, the alternate explanation might be that he doesn’t really love me and that he’s engaging in a huge con by coming home night after night, in addition to doing all the other loving things he does. Considering what a challenge I can be, and that I have no inheritance to speak of, we’ll just stick with the most obvious conclusion. He loves me.
When someone insists that I have to have “faith” what they are really demanding is that I trust that some Thing or some One exists and can have an impact on my life, when in fact the insistent soul has presented no observeable evidence to back up their claims. And I won’t blindly trust. In the absence of evidence, there can be no trust.
Which brings me to LeoPardus’ fourth installment of Reasons why I can no longer believe. In it, LP discusses how others in our daily lives lose our trust and turns that same reasoning to belief in God*:
Imagine that you left your house in the care of a neighbor while you went on vacation. When you return, the animals have not been cared for, the lawn is all dried out, and the newspapers are just scattered on the driveway where they were thrown. What do you conclude about that neighbor?
Now let’s imagine that you give the neighbor another chance. This time you call him by cell phone and send him emails to remind him of what needs to be done. When you come home, things are still a mess. Now what do you conclude?
Obviously you conclude that he’s not trustworthy. And you conclude that you’re not going to entrust him with anything more.
NOW… Imagine that you choose to believe in a religion. You choose to because there’s a book that tells you that this religion’s deity is awesome. People, who are in this religion, sing and talk and carry on about how awesome this deity is. The book, and the people, both claim that the deity and the religion will make you a better person, and that the deity can do miracles of all sorts, and many other claims are made.
So you get into the religion. You strive to understand and relate to the deity and to do what the deity wants you to do. In time you find that neither you, nor the overwhelming majority of believers, are becoming better people. And you find that neither you, nor the overwhelming majority of believers, see any miracles. And you find that in fact the deity fails to do anything that was promised.
Now what do you conclude?
* By which I mean a supernatural being who intervenes in human affairs.