What is faith?

Folks who oppose religion, as I gather the panelists here do, talk a lot about faith and its perils. Just what do you understand faith to be? Do you think that atheists and theists agree on what faith is, on what it means to have faith?

Posted: January 20th 2010


I regard faith as religious belief which is held without evidence. If someone thinks that a bus will arrive on time per its schedule, then that person has trust or confidence, not faith. I don’t use the word faith except to mean non-evidential religious beliefs. I work hard to identify the evidence, so faith for me is an lazy, easy way out.

From what I can gather from speaking with religious believers, they view their faith differently. They have no problem that faith is required for their beliefs. They want and court faith. Faith for them is a way to feel safe and taken care of. It supplies a buoyant foundation to their routines. They want to feel it; they do what they can to keep it going. Many of them want others to embrace their particular brand of faith. If it is so good for them, others will want to have it also.

They don’t want to think critically about faith. They may cherry pick their religious beliefs. They may even question some of them. But they will shy away from critical thinking applied to their beliefs. Once critical thinking occurs, it is very likely that the religious believer in question has started the road to non-belief. That road may have some nasty bumps and some difficult twists and turns, but it will be a path hard to turn back on.

No wonder religious believers don’t think critically about their religious beliefs. Instead, they insist religious faith is beyond evidence and are able to compartmentalize the part of them willing to embrace faith from the part of them that can critically think. The non-evidential nature of religious beliefs has an attractive lure, akin to magic. This magical feeling is precious to the believer, and they will do their best to protect it from critical thinking. Once they let this guard down, the magic goes.

Posted: January 24th 2010

See all questions answered by logicel


I’m not sure what the point of this question is.

My experience is that theists have rarely thought much if at all about what faith is, because they tend to ask questions like yours.

Religious faith is well illustrated by the gospel story of Thomas, who wouldn’t believe in the resurrection of jesus without seeing with his own eyes. “Blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet still believe”.

This has never made any sense to me, even back when I was a christian.

It’s basically asking me to believe something somebody says just because they say it’s true. Nobody would do that with a used car salesman, so why they would do it witha religious leader is beyond me.

At this point theists try to equivocate between religious faith and faith that is based on evidence, which makes it makes my original point .

Posted: January 24th 2010

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

Reed Braden www

Faith is simply belief without evidence. No matter who you are or how you word it, that’s what it is.

Posted: January 23rd 2010

See all questions answered by Reed Braden

Mike the Infidel www

I think the Bible was actually fairly close to the mark on this one, in Hebrews 11:1 :

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

I interpret that to mean that faith is essentially a gut instinct that something is true in the absence of evidence. I would expand upon it by saying that faith often appears to include belief in things for which there is directly contradictory evidence.

As an atheist, I no longer find faith virtuous. I see the intensity of a person’s faith as an indication of how strongly they’re willing to rely on intuition and quick answers over deliberation and critical thinking.

Posted: January 22nd 2010

See all questions answered by Mike the Infidel

Blaise www

Before I answer your question, I will ask you one in return. Do you assume that most atheists oppose religion? Atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods. Certainly, there are atheists out there who are also antitheists, but don’t confuse the two.

You’ve made a very important point. You can’t have a proper conversation about a concept unless both sides of the discussion have a common understanding of that concept. Naturally, I can’t speak for every atheist in existence, but I’ve found that most atheists define “faith” as believing in something without evidence to support it, or in spite of evidence to the contrary.

As to whether theists believe the same, I have less expertise, but most of my theistic friends have a similar definition.

Posted: January 22nd 2010

See all questions answered by Blaise


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