Religion is gaining more critics, and more critics are becoming outspoken about it.
Phrases such as 'religion is evil', or 'religion is the cause of most of the wars
in history'. I am guilty of saying such things myself, from time to time.
But really, I want to cast a wider net. I do not believe that religion as such
is the problem, but rather that underlying cause of religion: faith.
Faith is the ability to accept something as true, without any evidence at all.
Sometimes even in direct contradiction of available evidence.
In many religions, notably the three major ones that stem from the middle east, faith
is hailed as a positive, something good and laudable, something to be desired. Usually
they limit their praise to faith in their own religion, but quotes abound that see
faith in and of itself as praiseworthy.
Faith is, however, not limited to religion in any way (though religion may be the only place
it is seen as good of itself). Politics, for example, is awash with people who will state as true
elements of their ideology, and become angry when asked to justify it. They are easily
recognized by their ability to ignore contradictory evidence completely, while accepting even
the flimsiest argument, as long as it conforms with what they have already decided is true.
I submit that this is the true disease - religion is merely a symptom.
The retort, from people of faith, is frequently that even rational people display faith,
when they listen to scientists. After all, I know nothing about dendrochronology, or
the mechanisms of radiometric dating, so is not my acceptance of that science as much
faith as the belief that the world is 6000 years old?
Well, no. It is true that no one can know everything - the greatest phycisist in the world
can be completely ignorant of chemistry, or biology - but I don't accept calling it faith
to listen to the people who do study it for a living. I prefer to think of it as considered
trust, for two reasons. Firstly, there are usually several people studying any one subject,
and if they all agree, and no one points out any errors in their work, it is likely to be
reasonably correct. Secondly, if a scientist were to make an outright error in a published
work, such as for example René Blondlot and his N-Rays, that scientist would not be trusted
any more. Scientists who make gross errors, or commit fraud, lose their standing in the
There is no parallel to this in the faith-based community. In the world of faith, it seems,
the ends justify the means, and someone who has been caught out in a lie to further the
cause of his faith, is rarely punished.
Faith implies a level of irrational certainty, whether it be in political leaders, ideologies
or gods, the result is always the same, and it is never good. It may, quite by accident, have
some positive side effect for some, but refusal to face reality, and see the world as it is,
will always be bad in the long run.
Rationality must be the answer. If a piece of evidence goes against what you think is true,
you will not be weaker for modifying your position; rather, your position will become stronger.
Justifying your position by silly, outrageous, erroneous or even fraudulent statements, can
only hurt the cause you want to fight for. Consider your arguments for, and other people's
arguments against, and state your case based on the evidence, while remaining prepared to
adapt to new evidence that comes along.
This, I am certain, is the only way the world will survive beyond the immediate future. I'm not
sure I can have faith that it will ever happen - humanity is just too faithful