Faith. So many people claim to have it, are proud to have it. People give respect to others for claiming that they, too, have it. Some pious humans even idolize certain other humans who claim to have an overabundance of it. Why is this?
First of all, allow me to define the faith that I am addressing here. The word ‘faith’ is, in general, tossed around for some sort of all-inclusive pseudo-religious imposition, and is used to replace words that would otherwise better express the idea that the person is trying to convey. These are not the usages of faith that I am addressing. For example:
Sally says “I’m not sure I can do this,” and her mother responds “I have faith in you.”
The word that is being replaced here is ‘confidence’. There are a few other words and phrases that have commonly been (mis)represented by the usage of ‘faith’ in casual conversation, such as hope, trust, reliance, being loyal, having a belief, etc. Again, these are not the iterations of faith that I am confronting.
When I propose that faith is worth nothing, I am referring to Faith, as in the main tenet of Christianity. This is the Faith that one must necessarily claim to have in order to consider oneself a true believer in God. Belief, trust, and confidence can not be at all synonymous to Faith, and at least trust and confidence are indeed in conflict with it. Belief is a brain state in which you reside in a certain position in any situation. Trust requires at least some inference, or previous interactions (and even trust can be misapplied…think con artists), and it is usually a gradual process. Confidence is also attained after certain criteria are met through past experience. Notice that Faith is suggested in place of trust. Only when there are no inferences to warrant trust or experiences in which to gain confidence, Faith is required to attain the same (false) sense of security. To claim to have Faith, and to mistake it for trust or confidence is not just folly, it is nonsensical, ignorant, and quite possibly dangerous.
To illustrate this, I use a tool that I call the ‘bridge continuum’. This imagining consists of only a few elements: 1.) You. 2.) A treacherous gorge, the likes of which would mean certain death if you fell into it, extending to infinity in either direction, and much too wide to leap across. 3.) A bridge connecting the paths on either side of this deadly gorge. 4.) Faith. To make proper usage of this tool, a person must consider themselves reasonable (even within the context of your favored religion), rational, and above all, one must value their life. If you find that one of these three categories does not describe you, then read no further, as this tool is of no use to those that are irrational, unreasonable, and who have no will to live.
So, with our values agreeably in tact, we press on. At one end of the bridge continuum, there exists a bridge that is, by any person’s account, the safest bridge one could possibly imagine. There may be many people, cars, busses, etc. crossing this bridge before your eyes, safely arriving at either side of the gorge. There may be obvious signs of architectural ingenuity in it’s design, rendering any question of safety a ridiculous notion. The steel may be extraordinarily thick, or perhaps the bridge’s construction is of the earth itself, a solid mass of incredibly solid stone connecting either edge. Whatever particular bridge you picture here, you have absolutely no doubt that you would make the journey across this bridge.
On the opposite end of the bridge continuum exists a bridge that is, by all means, impassable. From the looks of this bridge, taking even one step out onto it would cause it to collapse, sending you free falling to the inescapable chasm of death below. Perhaps this bridge has hopelessly rotted wooden planks held together by thin, frayed rope. Perhaps this bridge is clumsily and hastily constructed, and the stones are now obviously deteriorated and crumbling. Perhaps there exists no bridge at all, just the remnants of old steel and wire left to hang down the sheer slopes of the gorge. While it’s possible that here, at one time, there was a bridge to assure safe crossing, this bridge is no more. You would not attempt to cross this bridge.
So we now have our continuum established, with a perfectly safe bridge, and a perfectly unsafe bridge at opposite ends. It may seem obvious that at some point on the bridge continuum, there exists a transition (of your own judgement) at which the ‘safe’ bridge gives way to a ‘questionable’ bridge, and again where the questionable bridge gives way to an ‘unsafe’ bridge. Realize that this same transition exists for everyone, even though the transition may happen sooner or later, or more abruptly or more gradual, than your own on the continuum, but somewhere on the continuum, assurance becomes a matter of question for every rational human. This is the way the properly functioning human brain works.
Enter Faith. Not trust. Not confidence. But the Faith I’ve defined previously. Bring yourself now, to the point on the continuum at which you begin to question the safety of your bridge. Based on what you know about your past experiences with bridges, you may think that you would be able to cross safely, but you just aren’t sure. Just a small bit of Faith would allow you to be certain of your safety (and reach the other side you may). Proceed just a bit farther along your continuum to the point where you have given up all reasonable assurance of making it across. The observation and experience-based inferences one uses for attaining trust and confidence have greatly diminished at this point, and you realize that the unfortunate reality is that if you attempt to cross, you most certainly will die. You must now rely on something else in place of confidence or trust. A large amount of Faith has now become a necessary factor to grant you a (false) assurance of crossing safely. When you reach the point on the continuum where there is no bridge at all, the Bible suggests that Faith is not just necessary, but useful and functional, for “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I personally suggest that should you allow yourself to heed the words of this ancient text and allow Faith to act as ‘substance’ and ‘evidence’, unless the laws of physics are temporarily suspended in your favor, you will step out into only air and plummet to your death. Notice now, the perversion that presents itself. The further we travel down our continuum, from what we are sure is true, past uncertainty and questionable belief, into the realm of absolute disbelief, the more Faith is required to bolster your confidence, and lead you to believe, mistakenly, that you will not die if you attempt to cross.
Faith is nonsensical, for the less you believe something to be true, the more Faith is required in order to sway your belief. And the more difficult something seems to be to believe – in fact, when something is absolutely and obviously unbelievable – the harder Faith works to wrongly convince you that this thing is actually true. Faith necessarily works against what we, as humans, have to come agree is our one observable reality, indeed it is nothing more than a tool designed to provide a false sense of security, and to manipulate one’s mind in order to contort what one observes as truth. This is a dangerous notion.
So, while some people are revered for their possession of great faith (and perhaps you commend yourself for having it as well), we must conclude that the more Faith one claims to have, the less likely their beliefs – the beliefs which necessarily require faith – the less likely these beliefs are to represent observable reality. The notion of Faith is the perfect solution for the reconciliation for holding obviously false beliefs that are void of any real evidence whatsoever, while simultaneously convincing oneself that they are maintaining a consistent inference-based-belief reality.