Faith

Faith is a strange thing, something we as humanists are generally opposed to. That sounds sad to a lot of people on the street, because ‘faith’ is so often used as a synonym for ‘trust’. But let’s be clear here, faith is a specific type of belief which goes beyond what the evidence says.

The reason I bring this up is because we had a conversation at the Chaplaincy Fayre today with Jack from the Christian Union. He started off by plugging one of their joint events with the Philosophy Society (which I’d also like to mention), which is called “Is Faith in God a Delusion?” It’s a debate on the subject between 2 fairly big names; Alistair McBay from the National Secular Society and David Robertson, author of ‘The Dawkins Letters’. It should be good, I’ll be there, it’s THIS TUESDAY 23rd September at 6.15pm in the George Square Lecture Theatre at Edinburgh University. Be there if you can.

Anyway so he was talking about the discussion they had deciding whether to use the word ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ in the title. It was interesting because he said the discussion was about whether to define belief in God as a belief or a faith position, but in my mind it doesn’t matter, that’s the subject matter of the debate. I would say that any faith is delusional by definition (after all, faith has been described as “an illogical belief in the improbable”), and so ‘belief’ would be the correct word to use, with the debate itself dealing with whether belief in God is logical or specifically a faith position. That in turn will determine whether it is delusional or not.

In any case that was merely the first sentence of our discussion. Jack denied that belief in God is a faith position because there’s plenty of evidence for the existence of God. We of course enquired what that was and he told us that the “rational information” of the universe was evidence enough to imply an intelligent designer. By that I presume he means that the universe is so complex it couldn’t have come about by ‘chance’. So then we realised we were talking to a creationist and gave other examples of rational information coming from an intelligent force, such as peanuts in a jar sorting themselves out through gravity with the smallest at the bottom, pebbles on the beach having the smallest ones furthest up the beach, craters on the moon as well as clouds that look like things. But he was having none of it. We also gave examples of how things are badly designed, such as the human eye, but he said he wasn’t commenting on the level of intelligence involved (even though he’s saying his perfect God did it :/).

We then got onto the problem of evil, and he said that it’s a punishment from God from the Fall. I said that there are a lot of innocent people who suffer, and the amount that people suffer isn’t proportionate to their sin, so what kind of judicial system does God run? Jack said it’s an imperfect system because the world has been corrupted by sin, and God’s waiting for everyone to repent before he fixes it. In the meantime he judges after death.

Now see, the problem is that a lot of people think that as long as the existence of God is possible, it’s perfectly rational to believe, regardless of whether things can be explained naturalistically. In fact, Occam’s Razor says that we should go with the option that presupposes the least, so even though the naturalistic option may seem against the odds, it’s better odds than presupposing the existence of an invisible, all powerful entity, for which we have no evidence whatsoever. Anyway, a bit of a ramble today. I apologize.

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