The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Faith Is Incompatible With Humility And Intellectual Shame

One of the most fascinating thing about debates with theists is the way in which every single argument, every single piece of contradictory evidence, every fact that illustrates the folly or impossibility of a specific belief can be blithely ignored without the slightest hint of humility or intellectual shame.

No matter how well crafted the argument, no matter how sound the logic, no matter how compelling the evidence and no matter how reasonable the tone, Faith, as discussed here, is utterly impervious to reason.  Faith cannot be reasoned with because Faith is fundamentally incompatible with reason.

More troubling, Faith seems wholly incompatible with either humility or shame.

Faith is the mechanism by which a believer can convince themselves that they are right no matter how manifestly and demonstrably wrong they actually are - no matter how ridiculous their belief.  Faith is an intellectual temper tantrum, a purely emotional insistence that the believer is right no matter what - and no evidence to the contrary will ever be considered.  Few human attributes demonstrate a more profound and overwhelming arrogance than Faith.

The Faithful are incapable of shame.  Normally, when human beings are presented with compelling evidence that their position is incorrect, there is a certain degree of intellectual shame accompanying that realization.  The Faithful have no such problem, they simply deny the evidence or claim that the absence of evidence is merely proof that absolute knowledge is impossible.

Which is supposedly why Faith is necessary.

And yet the Faithful profess to have precisely the absolute knowledge they claim is impossible.  The Faithful claim to KNOW that God exists - a far stronger epistemological claim than almost any atheist I have ever met.  Moreover, they claim to have specific knowledge about his personality, his plans, his state of mind, his purpose.

The Faithful posit that revealed knowledge is in fact superior to observation, measurement, calculation and the accumulation of evidence.  Indeed, so certain are the Faithful in the supposed superiority of revealed knowledge to empirical knowledge that they KNOW that any contradictory empirical knowledge MUST be wrong.  Faith professes absolute certitude on the basis of subjective, internal feeling states, no matter what any objective empirical evidence shows.  It is hard to imagine an attidude more shamefully and wrongfully arrogant than Faith.

To the Faithful, seeing is less valuable than believing.  Which begs the question - If God meant for us to rely solely on Faith, why would he create us with all of these senses that MUST be ignored if Faith is to survive.


  1. "Faith is an intellectual temper tantrum..."

    This is the best thing I've read all day and totally true.

    I keep going back to my mom but she fits this stereotype so well. She is an educated woman but her reasoning skills and desire to dig deeper are not that great. When presented with any fact or argument that goes against her belief or even calls it into question, she will always blurt out, "You just have to have faith!" or "Well, I just believe it!"

    There's no reasoning with that because it's an unreasonable position. She has decided that she needs this belief so, therefore, she will not entertain anything that might discredit it.

    I can't understand the mentality but I see it everywhere: religion, politics, etc. It is pervasive.

  2. And yet they frequently accuse atheists of being "arrogant."

  3. Having some faith really comes in handy in situations involving great sickness, when you become elderly or are dealing with the elderly. Having faith acknowledges that there is no way to know an outcome but it comes with the hope that the outcome will be good. That can steer thoughts in a positive direction. Since it is natural that people devolve and fall apart physically over time, until science can come up with a fix, the people not working on the problem have faith.

  4. @ Anon,

    What you describe is not faith, it's hope. The two are epistemologically distinct.

    Hope is a preference for a specific outcome regardless of the probability or possibility of said outcome. Example: I HOPE X wins the Superbowl. My preference for X's victory remains and operates independently of any and all evidence or probability for X's victory.

    Faith is a BELIEF that a specific unrealized proposition is TRUE in spite of evidence that the belief is either not supported by or directly contradicted by evidence. Example: I BELIEVE that X will win the Superbowl. The belief is (or should be) based on evidence or probability that said belief is actually true or reasonably plausible. All RATIONAL belief is based on an evidentiary basis or reasonable plausibility. If I had FAITH that X would win the Superbowl, even proof that X is actually a basketball team would not change the belief.

  5. Even if every bone of every dinosaur, every graph of every species, every scientific breakthrough and every little piece of evidence for the big bang/old earth/evolution theory were laid out in front of a large amount of people of "faith", they will still cling to their faith. They prefer the McDonalds Happy Meal answer to the complexities of the universe and it's structure.Not much can change someone who is utterly convinced, or so heavily brainwashed that the head sloshes about in a sea.