Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Believer's "Coming Out"

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I have had a few conversations with believers lately that have brought the concept of blind faith to the fore. I am proud to say that I don't believe in a god. Sure, at times it can be a bit awkward to say when I know I am in the presence of believers whose relationship with me I value. But I am always very proud to declare my non-belief. It is a core element of who I am on par with my gender identity, nationality, sexual orientation, and being a fan of Arsenal FC.

While believers and I will likely never see eye to eye on anything to do with our chosen paths of belief, I would assume we both share one thing in common: a pride in the belief system we have chosen. I have to assume that the sense of identification I have in stating "I cannot believe in a god because I don't believe in blind faith" is mirrored by a believer stating "I have blind faith in God because I think some things are 'bigger' than science." In fact, I will even say that I "get" the latter statement. While I know I could never accept blind faith personally, I do respect that many people feel it.

So where am I going here? Well my aforementioned conversations have revealed several believers who appear to be "in the closet" with their blind faith. While they clearly declare their belief in "God" they become hesitant to base this belief on faith. When I say, "I respect your decision to believe in god I just can't have blind faith in something," they respond with a statement indicating that their belief in "God" is based on something more empirical than faith. It's at this point that my "New Atheist" side is revealed.

I don't claim to know for sure that there is no god. I claim that, based on all of the objective, measurable, falsifiable information available to me, I believe there is a near absolute improbability that a god exists. My lack of belief is based on my need for objective proof and I am proud to say it. When a believer states that: a. They are certain of god's existence and b. That their belief is based on the existence of proof......proof in the form of miracles, I lose my cool.

I'll end this with some semantics. "Faith" refers to the concept of hope and belief in something and it is a word with a broad range of utility. For example, I have faith that my wife and I will do our best to raise our daughter to be a responsible and considerate adult. I have no internal conflict when I make a statement like this. This "faith" is based on observable and reproducible behaviours that my wife and I plan to use in our parenting. What I cannot control are my daughter's genes, what may happen to her parent's health, what happens to the earth during her lifetime etc. I have no faith in those things because they are beyond any one's control and my psychological make up just does not allow me to have faith in these types of things. This is how I would characterize religious faith or "blind faith." It is a trust in the truth of of an unproven deity, the questionable history of a messiah, the future return of this messiah, and the existence of an afterlife. None of which has any objective, reproducible evidence or tangible probability of happening based on trends to date. As such, any one believing this is putting faith in something far different than putting faith in a sports team, family member, or friend. This is what I, and I will confidently predict most people, mean when they use the phrase "blind faith." While I don't have the ability to have blind faith I certainly appreciate its attraction and would fight for people's right to it. I just wish those whose belief depends on blind faith were as proud of it as I am of not having any.
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