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Hope this is the right place to put this question!

I am a person of faith (more specific, a Christian) and most of the time people consider me somehow inferior for my belief. I am not antisocial, not sick, nor crazy, but rather rational (even if apparently this is in contradiction with "faith"). I feel that many times when discussing with some people. After reaching religion in our discussion, when I tell them that "I am a faithful person" the answer I get is something like: "Oh, faithful... I see..." (from non-believing persons).

In another situation, I was having a conversation with a person who seemed impressed by my thinking and education, and we were going along this way for some time. However, after mentioning about my faith, that attitude disappeared and a despise-superiority one came out. Why is this happening in our time, since in the past there were many great faithful personalities (Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, George Washington, or even Mother Teresa)?

Somehow, people see me as some inferior kind of human, maybe even crazy - no matter of my other capabilities or social position. For many, believing what Christians believe is a sign of weakness. Now, my question is:

Why is faith seen in such a way in our times: as a sign of weakness instead of an unexplored land (considering the fact that we DO NOT KNOW an enormous quantity of things, fields, etc.)?

Why most of the people choose to despise, instead of accepting the possibility that we know too little about faith and its experiences?

Basically, why do folks close the door without checking what's inside?

EDIT: 1. I do not need a "faith" definition, that's not the idea.

  1. Giving me example or quotes from dead people that did not live in our time (in order to understand it), doesn't really help much.

  2. I know I am not inferior, I just feel people treat me like I would be, and what I need to understand is why.

  3. If you have any experience from your community, about believers (of any kind) who are seen as I am, then you could write an answer. Not opinions, because someone's opinion could be that my question is wrong, and such thing doesn't exist, but I know what I am getting through and what is the reality.

  4. I would need an answer, not a debate... Please!

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    mod deletes lots of comments Please consider using the chat for discussion. Comments are only for clarifying the question. Answers go in an Answer. – Joseph Weissman Mar 30 '18 at 22:00
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    Can you clarify what you mean by "opportunities"? Opportunities for what? – Peter Cordes Mar 31 '18 at 0:16
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    I think this question needs clarification on 'faith.' I would imagine that the OP, for example, does not support ISIS, their faith, and the blind faith that leads to beheading and rape in the name of a deity. Is this a type of faith OP also supports, and does OP consider these people equals, or does OP distinguish between flavours of faith? Does OP in fact agree or disagree with beheading and rape as an act of faith? – Sentinel Mar 31 '18 at 12:05
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    You do need a "faith" definition in sensible discussion, that's because it's one of those cases where it's very important to be using the same definitions. Either provide a definition or chose one of those mentioned to you. – phk Apr 1 '18 at 17:34
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    You answer yourself: 'but rather rational (even if apparently this is in contradiction with "faith")'. People whose attitude towards you changes once you say you have faith typically view faith in contradiction to rationality (rather, intelligence). That in turn is for them the prime indicator of human value and therefore your profession of faith causes them to feel/act superior to you. "Most people" having these views is part of your perception of your surroundings and worth checking for bias. – Armatus Apr 3 '18 at 12:53

26 Answers 26

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There are already some excellent answers which cover most of what I want to say, but I can't resist jumping in as well...

I'm going to refer to "me" as an (hopefully) relevant example of someone with the reaction you describe.

When you say you consider faith an unexplored opportunity, that's certainly not enough to discard your views unseen, but it will make me suspicious that one of the following criticisms apply to you.

Problem of how to choose a belief

You seem to imply if we do lack a scientific explanation in a certain area, we should be allowed to just choose an explanation.

But choose how?

Choose an explanation by logical, rational arguments? That's more or less what metaphysics tries to do. But to get anywhere by logical arguments you need axioms as starting points, i.e. assumptions you define as obviously true. The problem with that, as witnessed by the endless philosophical disputes about metaphysics, is that metaphysical axioms that seem obvious to one person will be hotly contested by another person.

Choose an explanation because it seems emotionally appealing? That is a risky strategy because, human nature being what it is, emotions are easily confused by wishful thinking and personal bias.

If we lack a well-established scientific explanation, there is nothing wrong with choosing a working hypothesis, i.e. just make an assumption, especially if a dangerous situation requires quick action. But in such a case one should remain aware that the assumption is just temporary and stay on the alert for clues that make other explanations more probable.

And if there is no realistic way an assumption could be checked, the sceptical consensus is to assume until further notice that the assumption is not true, since that is the easiest and most straightforward choice. Because, if one has not enough evidence, one can always invent more complicated and even more complicated explanations; so the only rational criteria to select one explanation is to check which one is the simplest. (See Ockham's razor, Russell's teapot).

Problem of choosing ethical values

You talk about choosing a faith. But faith can affect two different contexts, where the process of "choosing" has very different implications: Empirical science and ethical values.

I guess it is easy to see that people who think highly of science do not like it if faith tries to contradict science, as in the famous cases of Galileo and Darwin.

With ethical values it is rather different: Though obviously everyone here is influenced by society and education, one is free to choose one's ethical values. And other people are free to criticise the choice and argue for other values they consider superior. That way, the ethical norms of a society can be adjusted by public debate.

If the faith you choose leads to a choice of ethical values, there is nothing wrong with that. But the problem begins if one uses religious claims as a public justification of ethical values. Often the claim is that there is only one true religion, and therefore one true set of ethical commandments. These are given by god, carved in stone, built into the fabric of the universe. Intentionally or not, that implies that the discussion is over and criticism of those values is unwelcome or even forbidden. So if a religion has enough influence on a society, it often means that ethical values may no longer be criticised, even if they seem very wrong to the non-religious minority (e.g. women being inferior or homosexuality being sinful).

Problem of religious taboos

You seem to suggest that one chooses one's faith in a free intellectual process. But if I look at the historical record, it seems to me that religions, including christianity, owe much of their success to restricting that free process. With that I not only mean open censorship or legal punishments of unbelievers. Christians believe they have the god-given task to convert non-believers, and that the fact if one believes in god or not is an important factor in god's decision if one ends up in hell or heaven. That has the effect of creating a taboo: Not believing in god seems not only wrong, but sinful, scary, outrageous.

One could argue that all effective social norms create some sort of taboo. But I think religious taboos are dangerous because they are protected by supernatural threats and promises. If I think a non-religious social taboo is wrong, others may come to the same conclusion if they are willing to question their personal upbringing and prejudices and are not afraid to face social ostracism. But if the taboo is a religious one they would need to do not only that, but conquer their fear of supernatural punishment. As a consequence, religion tends to make social change much harder, and much harder to discuss.

Problem of the supernatural

Religious faith usually is connected with belief in the supernatural, like god answering prayers and performing miracles, or prophecies coming true.

But belief in the supernatural I regard as a rather dangerous thing. I think that sooner or later it leads to stuff like claims of faith healing. That means, some people will claim the power to perform spectacular supernatural acts that dramatically influence people's lives. They can promise good things (healing illness, supply positive energy, bring luck) or threaten bad things (curse someone, bring bad luck). In any case, they will get lots of influence over the people who believe in their supernatural powers, and often use that influence to drain money and demand obedience from their followers.

That is the reason why I am also very suspicious of new age esoterics and movements that advertise "spirituality". I think the term "spirituality" is often intentionally used to weasel out of the question if one makes supernatural claims, so that one can have it both ways, distract skeptics but subtly promise stuff like faith healing to followers.

Maybe your kind of faith is one where you definitely do not expect any supernatural happenings, at least not in our time. If you would add that disclaimer when introducing yourself as a person who regards faith as an opportunity, I would instantly be a lot less suspicious of your views.

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I will be writing this answer from the frank, blunt perspective of someone who is inclusive and accepting of all peoples and belief systems, but who tries to analyze my own personal pattern-matching.

I would not say that faith is a sign of weakness, nor do I think it is seen as one. Rather, it implies the existence of a 'hole' in someones rationalism that is impossible to mend. By 'hole' I mean to say that many religions will provide certain information and claim it as being irrefutable without evidence. Accepting this means that there are certain cognitive areas that cannot be explored. This 'irrefutable information' tends to branch out significantly, covering areas that often seem unrelated to non-religious people.

You could think of it from a different perspective- if someone tells you that they are a new-age "Alternative Medicine" proponent, there are certain connotations that go along with that. You could quite easily make assumptions about that person, generated via your brains subconscious pattern-matching.

These assumptions re-arrange the context of everything that person says or does from then on. Perspective is everything, and every piece of information you know about a person changes your perspective of them.

In this way, when you tell someone that you are religious, this comes with the full connotations of such a statement, and their brain will mentally re-analyze everything you've said and done, or will say and do, to the best of its ability in order to better prepare them for your behavior.

A vocal, politically active subset of religious people are unwilling to bend when it comes to their belief, and it causes them to deny or willingly avoid evidence if it points them in an uncomfortable direction that questions their beliefs. (Evolution? No, Creationism. Climate Change? God would not allow such a thing, would he? Etc...)

The typical rationalist perspective, then, isn't that faith provides "opportunities". Rather, faith is a cage which limits the questions you can ask. Instead, it gives unverifiable answers. Such a thing is the enemy of rationalism. It is, as I said earlier, a "hole" in someones rational mind that the person will refuse to fill with facts because it is held open by faith instead.

I feel the need to reiterate that I say this only to provide a potentially useful analysis of the world view of a rationalist. I have nothing against people of faith, and I firmly believe that religion can be an incredibly powerful tool for bringing people peace and happiness, though I do not choose it for myself.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please refrain from discussing particular beliefs/religions in the context of general matters of faith. This has no place here. – Philip Klöcking Mar 30 '18 at 22:36
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I should know better than to jump into this fray. But I can't help myself since this is something I've wondered about myself. Here are the reasons I've collected over the years. Often times I don't remember where I first learned of these reasons, I'm going to leave this un-cited.

  1. How do you distinguish faith from gullibility? Perhaps faith is sometimes seen as a kind of gullibility. Few people would criticize you if you have faith "the sun will come up tomorrow" or "I have faith that I'm skillful and smart enough to support my family for the foreseeable future." It's the faith in uncommon things that raises eyebrows. To use the over-used Sagan quote: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." It's the willingness to believe extraordinary claims on inconclusive evidence that might strike some as gullible.

  2. How do you know what to have faith in and what not to have faith in? Why do people have faith in one religion but not another? Often it's based on what they want to believe, or what they think ought to be true. (See https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ulterior-motives/201107/you-end-believing-what-you-want-believe.) Or they will believe things based on the culture they were brought up in, while discounting equally plausible claims from cultures they weren't brought up in. Some say you know what to have faith in based on feeling. But that ignores the many who have feelings that are just as strong, but towards a different belief. Or it ignores the selection biases, conflicts of interest, and other influences that can subconsciously shape our feelings. Or it ignores the numerous times that feeling alone has proven to be unreliable. So to some, it may seem like faith is weakness if it appears that someone will selectively turn off their critical thinking skills for beliefs they have a vested interest in maintaining.

  3. They are inflexible. There a numerous examples of this. Consider the bumper sticker "The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it." Or this quote from Kurt Wise:

"I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand."

The title of this post mentions "unexplored land/opportunity." Are you receiving criticism for exploring? Or for coming to conclusions when there is, admittedly, so much unknown? Faith may sometimes cause a person to appear close-minded: unable or unwilling to change beliefs based on new evidence or experiences. That may be a 3rd reason why faith might be seen as a weakness.

  1. Stereotyping. I'm sure every person of faith doesn't match all 3 of these reasons. They are more of a caricature, and that might be a fourth reason: Those people who consider you weak because of your faith may be stereotyping you.
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The problem with the most literal meaning of 'faith': "belief in something without proof" with respect to religion is that it's a philosophical dodge. For example if you (as a religious person) are debating someone who is agnostic and they challenge you about why your beliefs, at some point there will be something that cannot be proven. Often the answer is then 'faith'. But if a random man came up to tell you that he is the Messiah returned, you would likely and quite rightfully not believe him. There are multitudes of various beliefs that you could choose to have faith in. But choosing is an act of reasoning, not faith.

You write: "I am not antisocial, not sick, nor crazy, but rather rational (even if apparently is in contradiction with 'faith')." It's that contradiction that is likely what these people you are asking about are struggling with.

  • This does not address issues of strength and weakness. – jobermark Mar 30 '18 at 23:23
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    I'd say "Belief" is the belief of something without proof, knowledge is the belief of something with proof. Faith is a belief in something that causes you to ignore evidence to the contrary. I believe a lot of junk others don't--I just don't have faith in my beliefs and can therefore change them in response to new evidence. – Bill K Mar 30 '18 at 23:31
  • Faith is believing what you know ain't so. – dandavis Mar 31 '18 at 2:23
  • @dandavis : Quotes and [citation needed]. – Eric Towers Apr 3 '18 at 19:10
  • @EricTowers: IIRC, -Puddinghead Wilson, by mark twain – dandavis Apr 3 '18 at 19:42
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Because we live in an age in which science, which can be defined as a reason-based epistemic framework that relies on testing and evidence, is, at an unprecedented speed, closing the gap of knowledge of universal phenomena. Not all answers are here yet but we're getting there. Skepticism and doubt in the existing knowledge are some of the fundamental bedrocks of science.

Faith, on the other hand is an unsubstantiated moral and belief system that relies on superstition, supernatural, and, by definition, discourages doubt. Most religions practiced today were conceived thousands of years ago in a world very unlike what it is today. Religions have made numerous attempts to explain the universe, most or all of which have been superseded, therefore not deserving any further benefit of the doubt. It could be said that, as both an epistemic and moral framework, religion has run its course and serves no purpose to humanity.

Why is faith seen as a sign of weakness, instead of an unexplored land/opportunity?

The land has indeed be explored by science and testable and evident theories provided by it have superseded their religious equivalents.

TL;DR: (to quote the 1st comment to this answer)

faith is seen as a sign of weakness because we're confident enough now in our science to rule out any faith-based theories

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Of course faith opens up an additional domain of consciousness with many creative and fantastic ideas like gods, incarnation, sacrifices, superhuman power etc. That's similar to creative ideas in art or literature.

In addition, faith provides answers to several existential questions which otherwise had to be left without an answer. Eventually, Christian faith allows to entrust oneself to someone with infinite power and shelter.

Faith believes that the religious domain is the real domain and that faith is much more important for our life than the physical world of daily experience.

Sigmund Freud gave an answer, why faith could be seen as a sign of weakness, in his essay from 1927: The Future of an Illusion.

https://archive.org/stream/sigmund-freud-the-future-of-an-illusion/sigmund-freud-the-future-of-an-illusion_djvu.txt

Freud considers the whole domain of religious statements an illusion. In his opinion, in religion humans take shelter to a god as a substitute for their own powerful human father in their childhood. And this can been seen a kind of weakness. Because to grow up and to become of age needs the detachment from the kind of bindings which were suitable during the childhood.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. The comments are there to discuss the answer itself (in this case: whether the paraphrase of Freud is fair), not for discussing the question and even less: its "factual" foundations. – Philip Klöcking Mar 30 '18 at 22:29
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As religions themselves mature, we may be reaching a point where one can reasonably manage their own faith, seeking between genuine options without being coerced. But we are not there yet.

Historically we can see in every era that 'faiths' have been constructed by power structures and tuned for the advantages of certain groups, generally not for that of their whole base of believers.

Turning over part of your basic thinking to a group is a weakness because it concedes control over certain things to someone who does not answer to you in any way. It means that if you decided something was wrong, you would be subject to a certain level of bullying about it, and would be likely to concede to that bullying in order to have harmony.

At the same time, scientific paradigms and cohesive cultures do the same thing. As an American in a technical business environment, I am subject to a certain kind of bullying when I question the effects of gender roles. It is exactly the opposite kind of bullying than what my mother and grandmother faced, and that my (erstwhile) religion pressed on me in my youth. But the culture is seeking a norm, and in the process it wants cohesion.

And we see folks coming from a strong faith in certain aspects of science pull them out to use as a bully club at whim, often to shut down religious opponents, but sometimes just to assuage their own insecurity. (I find Richard Dawkins open bitterness and endless insistence to be a form of subtle bullying. And Christopher Hitchens seems to have no reservation about using his intelligence as a weapon in ways that are sometimes not entirely forthright.)

So this is not a weakness that is specific to religion, as religion is not the only form of faith. And since we are social animals, what is personal weakness contributes to group strength. Knowing that members of a given labelled group will sacrifice for one another and compromise can create something that in the composite is very helpful - social cohesion. That group strength, in turn, can feed personal strength. So the overall effect of many forms of faith is to trade one kind of weakness for a different kind strength.

The reason it is not seen as unexplored is that we have spent millennia exploring it. The unfettered mind has traditionally always been expressed in religious imagery. It is very difficult to escape. Even when people become atheists most reserve a sort of mystical reverence for the human mind that has a definite religious content. There is no shortage of exploration here, and there is no reason why mystical thoughts that are not structured by a tradition are any less capable of continuing that exploration.

  • OP might as well asked, What's the deal with religion, why are we still doing it, and will it ever stop? +1. Might I ask what your background is, that you went straight to social dynamics and left religion almost ancillary? – Mazura Mar 31 '18 at 16:37
  • Religionwise? Raised Catholic knowing that I was gay and therefore not going to remain Catholic, became a Quaker in grad school, almost married a Witch, ended up marrying someone who was originally a conservative Baptist with AA as a second religion and drifted into being a sort of New Age Deadhead instead. So I have looked at a lot of spiritual traditions from the boundary, but in a way supportive of those within the circle. I think all of them are beautiful, and I have learned from them, but I do see that their primary purpose lies in social dynamics, and the sharing of unconscious content – jobermark Mar 31 '18 at 20:58
  • One of my attempted careers was also clinical psychology. Between the influence of the two magic traditions and exposure to excellent examples of orthodox psychoanalytic and Jungian work and Tavistock group practices, I have a great respect for the power of unconscious content and ritual, but I see it from that angle, as a powerful facet of being human, and not as a sort of abstract truth. – jobermark Mar 31 '18 at 21:07
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    Bullying? Maybe. Dawkins does have that hint of aggression you get when your patience starts running out - after the thousandth time someone tries to push the same argument on you, it gets you wearied. It's kind of like being a tall man named John Short - to the people meeting you, they're just being funny when they say "Haha, you're not all that short, are you?"; to you, they're the hundredth person to do that and it's really annoying. Everyone feels like they're bringing a fresh viewpoint to the debate, and having the same debate over and over with different people needs a lot of patience. – Luaan Apr 3 '18 at 10:56
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    @Luaan People on the other side have been doing this even longer. And some of them resort to bullying, too. But by and large those are not the heads of movements appearing constantly in public and intruding into areas where they just weren't invited. When they are, we write them off and stop listening -- yet Dawkins insists on being heard. If you choose to attack people, you can't then resent being a target. – jobermark Apr 3 '18 at 17:11
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History may help us understand better...

One reason is that the most powerful empire in recent memory, the British Empire, was explicitly Christian. When anti-imperial forces (think Ghandi) became more popular in the mid-20th Century, they reasonably associated being Christian with unjust authority.

Also, since the 1850s or so, Western Europe and parts of the US have been intellectually led by folks like Freud and Darwin who sought to contradict the claims of the Bible, such as purposeful creation and historical miracles.

Lastly, since the 1960s youth movements (May '68 in Paris, Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, and elsewhere) there has been much more public acceptance of highly-desirable media and items which Christian teaching prohibits for Christians, such as pornography.

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    I disagree that this answers the question. Gandhi's philosophy was informed heavily by the Vedic tradition, and though the rejection of the British Empire in India may suggest interfaith conflict, if anything this history suggests neither the British Empire nor India considered faith "a weakness." – user30980 Mar 30 '18 at 19:03
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    My answer is not directed at any particular claim against religion, such as its weakness, but at the action of despising people who believe religious claims, and the preference against hearing what religion has to say. I think that recent history can help to explain this posture. – elliot svensson Mar 30 '18 at 19:07
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    The second most powerful empire during the Cold War, the Soviet Union, was explicitly atheist, and dominated the majority of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Would Eastern Europeans and Central Asians therefore associate atheism with unjust authority? – March Ho Mar 31 '18 at 1:09
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    Atheist \= Non-religious. The CCCP may have been "explicitly atheist" but it revolved around its own religions in the cults of personality and blind adherence to various dogma. – Nij Mar 31 '18 at 2:56
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    This answer is deeply flawed; it conflates Christianity with faith. Ghandi was deeply spiritual, as are some of the movements that opposed traditional Christianity within the United States. While some people criticize the Christian faith primarily or exclusively, there are quite a few people who view all faith (personal or organized) as a weakness. A loss of reverence for Christianity in the West may allow Westerners to criticize faith more loudly, but criticism of faith generally applies far beyond Christianity. – DoubleD Apr 10 '18 at 22:36
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This is perhaps best viewed as historical accident. At this point in history, we are emerging from a time where the dominant religious voices, at least in the industrialized West, have been anti-science and anti-intellectual, and the dominant intellectuals have been anti-religion. The combination of those two trends has been a kind of tribalism, where people are judged, not on their own merits, but on their affiliation.

A big part of the problem has been the fact that some of the most visible and loudest people who claim faith have displayed traits such as hypocrisy, judgmentalism, intolerance, corruption and willful ignorance. Given that there is no greater enemy of good religion than bad religion, these figures have poisoned the well for many others, and given religion a bad name across many different circles. They have also inspired an atheistic backlash, in which derision for religion is celebrated, or even demanded.

This was not always the case, however. There have been times and there still are places where religion and intellectual rigor have gone hand in hand, or have even been held to be inseparable. As an intellectual of faith, I believe those times can and will return (and perhaps are already doing so). But until they do, you'll have to face the reality that many people on both sides will view someone with a foot in both worlds with suspicion, disbelief and even outright hostility. You may need to work extra hard to establish you and your faith as worth people's respect. But that is nothing new.

  • A bit of time-framing might improve your answer. What "anti-science" times are we emerging from? Second half of the 20th century in the US? Many different brands of Marxist-based socialism deriding religion and positing it as something anti-science? Misrepresentations of historical facts? I quite clearly remember the silly things written about people like Galileo Galilei in my schoolbook, with "the church" suppressing the "science", which would certainly qualify. Glorification of wild guesses that turned out to be right, while vilifying rational thought that turned out to be wrong? – Luaan Apr 3 '18 at 10:50
  • Nice points. Maybe it's also the other way round: intolerant hypocrites tend to be loud (of any "tribe": religious or intellectual). Science on the intellectual side and Christianity on the religious side IMHO could meet here with the common finding that this "loud" person lacks self-reflection and the awareness of the limitations of their knowledge/position and judgment. As a scientist, I'd say this intellectual is a bad scientist (and btw. I also think that bad science is the worst enemy of good science). As a Christian, I'd say the loud hypocritical Christian lacks temperance and humility. – cbeleites supports Monica Apr 5 '18 at 0:16
  • The time frame in question is largely from 1859 to the present day, after Darwin published "On the Origin of Species", since that's when the religion-science war got hot. (It had existed previously - consider Cuvier's comment about putting humans in the same genus as apes - but not usually outright major disagreement.) Since then, we've had lots of people claiming, on religious reasons, that biology is way wrong. Dawkins went so far as to say that Christianity is wrong because evolution happened. – David Thornley Sep 26 '18 at 15:28
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You really do need to define what you mean by faith. People mean vastly different things when they talk about this topic all the time, and any refusal to pin down what they specifically mean is usually just an attempt at leaving wiggle room to avoid confronting hard truths or even move goal posts.

Here is my best take on your question from a couple of different definitions of faith. If your impression of what faith means is fuzzy rather than precise, you should still be able to extract a correspondingly fuzzy gist from the collective impression of each of these following responses. Naturally there will be some overlap in the meanings and responses. You also may agree with some definitions and disagree with others, or find only some apply to you personally. That is okay, but shows again why you should provide your own definition.


1. Faith as complete trust or confidence in someone or something

Why would this be a problem? Why would this be seen as a sign of weakness? Why might someone claiming this virtue be seen as 'inferior'?

Complete trust is not to be taken lightly. To whom can we give our complete trust? To whom or what would it be perhaps unwise (some would say stupid) to give our complete trust?

A Christian might put their complete trust in any number of things. The Bible? Their spiritual mentors? Their personal spiritual feelings/relationships? We can make fuzzy generalizations, but ultimately every individual Christian can decide for themselves which things or people to put in their 'complete trust bucket', and which things do not deserve that level of trust.

In this aspect of faith, someone may relate faith in X to weakness or inferiority if they disagree about giving complete trust to X.


2. Faith as unquestioning trust or confidence in someone

This is where a lot of people have sentiments that drive them to contrast faith with science.

This is also closely related (if not synonymous) with complete trust. Just emphasizing unquestioning here.

Science of course is known for being wrong. It makes no 'absolute conclusions' and holds no 'sacred truths'. Or barely any, if you want to nitpick the philosophical underpinnings. The physical theories themselves are not sacred. Every conclusion is a so-called 'tentative' conclusion, rather than absolute. Each conclusion has a level of precision presented up front - the margin of error. There are no sacred truths, only our best current models that indeed we hope to disprove someday.

In science, you are allowed to question every conclusion others have made up to this point. Nobody is forcing anyone to believe the speed of light is constant - you can go out and do the measurement yourself. You really can.

In this way, the scientific body of knowledge is imperfect, but pretty much trustless. At least when done thoroughly (especially regarding independent experiment reproduction).

Note that word - trustless.

This is in complete contrast with anything that asks for (or even demands) 'complete trust' or 'unquestioning belief'. It's like saying "take my word for it" for very bold claims.

What science tells us is that true propositions don't don't care whether you put your complete trust in them or not. True propositions don't need, and especially don't demand your unquestioning belief. Truth can stand on its own two feet. Take Proposal X. If it is true, what does it have to fear from questioning? Go ahead and question it, if you are seeking truth, you will arrive at the conclusion it is true. If X is false, then it DOES have to fear from questioning. If false proposals tend to be culled very easily by questioning, then the false proposals that survive will be the ones that implicate virtues of unquestioning belief.

In other words, unquestioning belief is only a virtue to the gullible, and only promoted by liars and scam artists with something to hide, or something to hide from.

If Alice sees Bob as gullible, that will scar Alice's impression of Bob's intelligence, and she will very likely lose a bit of respect for him.


3. Faith as loyalty in a relationship

Nothing wrong with this strictly speaking, except when taken to the extremes as in the above cases.

Faithfulness in a marriage is highly encourageable. Of course.

One might analogize to a relationship with God, so faithfulness is important there too. Sure.

But what happens if one of the spouses in a marriage turns extremely abusive, violent even? This is where the extremes of 'unquestioning loyalty' and uses of faith as a form of absolutism break down - are no longer admirable.

If a spouse becomes extremely abusive, maybe we should have some level of tolerance to work through problems, but there are definitely limits. Is it a relationship, or enslavement? The relationship has to cut off at some point. Loyalty isn't owed forever. In a similar vein, we can analogize to God again. If God or religion becomes abusive to your or your life, you don't owe them undying loyalty. You don't owe anyone undying loyalty. You're not a slave. You're a human being free change association with whoever or whatever you want, and put limits on your loyalty.

Along the lines of gullibility, unquestioning loyalty isn't admirable. It's sad.

However loyalty isn't bad in itself. This aspect of faith isn't bad strictly speaking. It is only bad when taken too far.

So someone might feel bad for you if they think your loyalty is being abused.


4. Faith as spiritual apprehension, spiritual perception

Perhaps some Christians feel personally touched by the God. This witness of the Holy Spirit is evidence of God to them.

Whether or not this constitutes 'valid evidence' for Christianity (or any religion with similar experiences) depends on your epistemology. This is one of those fronts where people argue past one another forever and ever because they never take the time to agree upon (or even find out) their premises. If two people don't narrow down where they agree and disagree with epistemology first, they will never be able to resolve a disagreement over 'evidence' of this nature, or indeed what constitutes 'valid evidence' in the first place.

Sadly, most debates or discussions where disagreement raises over validity of spiritual apprehension never settle the agreed epistemic foundations in advance. Most people just have their way own way of thinking, and that's just how it is. Then if Alice reveals reason X for belief Y, but X doesn't make any sense on top of the epistemic foundations Bob has, then Bob will think reason X is rather silly. Bob thinks Alice believes Y for very a nonsensical reason.

Example:

  • Alice: "I only believe government sanctioned knowledge. What do you think of UFOs in area 51?"
  • Bob: "I believe everything my favorite podcast host says. UFOs in area 51 are aliens"
  • Alice: "Wow, that's a stupid belief for a stupid reason"
  • Bob: "Keep drinking your koolaid"

Another example:

  • 5 year old: "Santa brought presents last night!"
  • Uncle: "Oh? What makes you think it was Santa?"
  • 5 year old: "uhh... It was what I was told. I was just raised this way. I believed it by default."
  • Uncle: "Maybe we should consider whether things are true or not before accepting them. Have you considered what might make good criteria for accepting a proposition as true?"
  • 5 year old: "whoa dude, slow down, I'm only 5"
  • Parent: "ARE YOU GOING ON ABOUT YOUR STUPID EPISTEMOLOGY AGAIN? GET OUT OF HERE JUST LET THE KID ENJOY SANTA FOR CRYING OUT LOUD"

Fundamentally, some people don't put stock in spiritual apprehension. It can be really powerful because it is so personal, but unfortunately that can't really be made objective. It's a personal anecdote, not material evidence. Some people see spiritual perception and spiritual apprehension as nonsense, and not worthy of drawing conclusions from. They see this aspect of faith as magical thinking taken seriously, which may be seen as weak or inferior.


5. Faith as walking under the guidance of God

I looked up the famous 2 Corinthians verse about "Walking in faith and not by sight." Out of context you can apply any of the definitions. I tried to understand it in context though, and the above definition is the impression I get (sorry if it is incorrect despite my effort). It's also something I've heard my Christian friends relate before, so anyway.

Ultimately, if somebody doesn't believe in God, they have to look at the world with their own eyes, and have to take accountability for guiding their own life. In fact, to someone who doesn't believe in god, everyone needs to look at the world with their own eyes, and everyone needs to take accountability for guiding their own life.

Plato's cave is an interesting allegory, but by no means a useful argument. When two opposed perspectives clash, who is in the cave and who is enlightened? The allegory isn't an argument, it's just an analogy.

So maybe indeed it is the atheists or non-Christians who are enslaved to watch shadows.

BUT, that's obviously not how they see it.

Nobody confident in their beliefs sees themselves in the current moment as the slaves watching the shadows.

To someone who doesn't believe in god, saying "Walk by faith and not by sight" is exactly equivalent to saying "Walk with your eyes closed so that you're blind to what's around you" and consequentially the "Blind will lead the blind".

Sounds like a mess, right? You don't have to agree. It could a completely incorrect perspective to see faith as the guidance of God in that way. But regardless of the correctness, that is a perspective some people might have. And then having that perspective, that could contribute to why they look down upon faith in this regard.


Summary

Faith doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. This goes not only for the definitions, but the implications of the definitions, and then the value of those implications.

To many people, the unknown is a great opportunity and an unexplored land. However, an opportunity is not an opportunity if you decide outright you will never take it. An unexplored land is worthless if it is never on your agenda to explore it. While not everyone agrees on what faith is, to a lot of people, faith implicates closing your eyes, shutting your ears, clinging to the known, and letting others decide your life. To these people, faith is the opposite of an opportunity and spirit of exploration.

People with this perception of faith will naturally see faith as a sign of weakness (or inferiority if they have an arrogant streak) when another person espouses faith with pride.

7

The Bible itself actually has a perspective on this. Peter told believers: "Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you..." (I Peter 4:4), and elsewhere, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul..." (I Peter 2:11), and believers in the "Hall of Faith" "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13). Jesus said, "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." For these reasons and others, what John said sums it up (I John 3:13):

Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

So much of the awkwardness, according to the Bible, relates to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confirmed by their own consciences. Of course, other factors can be involved, but I believe these verses expose the primary engine for a push against Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18).

  • In many cases, the push against Christianity is not a push against Christ, but against Christians. Jesus said nothing about the origin of species, for example, but many modern Christians (at least in the US) claim to know about it in defiance of all the evidence. Jesus preached about taking care of the poor and the children, and lots of US Christians are perfectly fine with gross mistreatment. – David Thornley Sep 26 '18 at 15:33
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I think there is a continuum of trustworthiness for knowledge. I've heard the term "faith," as used by Christians, fall in many places along this continuum. At one extreme you have faith meaning a rigid belief that is supported mostly on the basis of authority. "The Bible says ... ." On the other extreme you have faith defined not as adherence to any particular belief but as a habit of trusting or relying on God. (I'm sorry that this definition is unintentionally vague.)

The rigid-belief extreme is more commonly assumed by others, and is problematic in my opinion. One problem is that this form of faith causes a person to be apparently immune to reason or change. You can't have an interesting conversation with such a person. Another problem is that this faith is brittle and subject to manipulation by others. You can't alter this person's beliefs directly, but you can often alter their perception of a trusted authority, and affect beliefs indirectly. Radicalization is a version of this process. So a person with rigid, authority-based beliefs can be seen as a "land of opportunity" for others interested in manipulation.

So maybe the answer to your question is that people assume that faith equates to this rigid definition and this makes them prejudiced, expecting that the "faithful" are lost causes.

Two asides seem relevant here. (1) A good scientist is expected to know a lot about the history of their field and the current state of research. What is "known," why is it known, what are some of the more plausible possibilities, etc. In other words, a scientist operates at the fringes of knowledge, so they have to be very familiar with the shape of that fringe. But even so, we all have a natural tendency to over-estimate our certainties. So even a scientist has faith in some of their domain knowledge, and often that faith is stronger than can be justified.

(2) Is it possible for a self-described religious person to have faith, but also remain aware and respectful of what they know, why they know it, and what they don't know? Can they distinguish between knowledge based on experience, on reason, and on authority? All of these sources can be flawed in different ways. Can a person change their beliefs gradually, taking new experiences into account but still respecting their past experiences?

  • From the perspective of a person who is skeptical of faith, I don't think the problem is just with rigid faith-based belief. All faith is seen as a flaw; rigid faith more so than mild faith. It may be that a rationalist restrains his or her reaction from showing when someone shows a small degree of faith, but does not do so when someone shows a dramatic faith-based belief (e.g., YEC), but the threshold crossed is in the rationalist's ability to hide an emotional reaction, not that "mild faith is 100% OK" vs "rigid faith is not OK." – Jon of All Trades Apr 3 '18 at 15:41
  • I won't disagree with that, but if you remove the context of religion you'll find that everyone, out of necessity, applies certain aspects of faith to their decision-making processes. Just replace "faith" with "best guess" or "guiding principles." While science and rationalism work very well to reduce our ignorance, it does not provide much guidance when we need to act based on imperfect knowledge. Also, a political activist you agree with you'll call rational, while one you disagree with you'll call crazy. But if you had shared their life experiences, you might see it the other way around. – user149485 Apr 4 '18 at 16:32
  • @JonofAllTrades: as a (experimental) scientist reflecting my knowlege I don't see on which grounds I could know that the material world exists. As a pragmatic scientist, work based on the axiom/dogma that it exists and moreover also exhibits certain properties (e.g. reliability: allows me to try predicting future behaviour, for example). Without this faith I needn't start any scientific work. – cbeleites supports Monica Apr 5 '18 at 0:23
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Because having faith, rightly or wrongly, is generally perceived to imply a mind that is closed to evidence that challenges said faith (and hence is a "flawed" mind). This perception is reinforced by the vast numbers of people who believe in events documented only in "holy books" - such as the act of creation, a flood that destroyed the entirety of the Earth except for a man in a boat, a prophet who rode a flying donkey, et cetera - things that have little to no factual details to substantiate them, and have far more known facts to disprove them. From the viewpoint of a logical and scientific mind, having faith that those things occurred is thus wholly irrational.

As such, the default stance for someone who considers themself a rational person, is to treat all persons who profess faith, with skepticism - because we simply are unable to determine how trustworthy you are. This is not necessarily fair, but it is rational because experience has taught us that people who are willing to ignore evidence in a single case are generally quite willing to ignore it in other cases - as well as being prone to being untruthful about doing this. And if there is one thing a rationalist loathes more than anything else, it is having their time wasted with someone who professes to be willing to have a rational discussion, but ignores facts when it suits them.

So, people are not "despising" you and treating you as "inferior" because of your faith, they are doing it because of the negative connotations your faith as a whole has built up for honest, factual debate. To be honest, this is an impasse you may never be able to overcome, but here are some points and suggestions:

  • DO NOT attempt to preach, proselytize, convert, or in any way "sell" your faith. If it has merit, it will sell itself. Yo must also be very careful about being too enthusiastic about your faith, because again this may come across as trying to push it.
  • Being up-front about your faith, i.e. what exactly you believe and disbelieve in your religion, before you start a conversation will set an expectation for the discussion to come. It will also make you appear more honest in the eyes of the person(s) you're conversing with, which is not only likely to make the conversation easier, but is also more likely to prevent things from dying out when you come to any "speed bumps" involving faith. Of course, there is also the possibility that the person(s) involved will immediately break off their attempt to converse, which leads to...
  • Closed-mindedness from so-called rationalists - who are supposed to be open to facts only - is definitely an issue you will run into. Unfortunately, humans aren't machines, and we have biases; the mark of a truly strong mind is one that can suppress or look past its biases to engage another, different mind in honest debate. Thankfully you'll generally avoid these people by nature of the fact that they aren't honest enough to even consider conversing with you.
  • If you have any atheist/agnostic friends, ask them to have a "mock" conversation with you, and then give you feedback after the fact. Be aware that they may decline for a number of reasons, such as not wanting to damage the friendship, which may very well have nothing to do with you and/or your faith.

Above all, please don't get discouraged. Although I am an atheist, I would very much welcome a Christianity that once more respects intellectuals among its ranks, particularly those who are willing to consider ideas that may be considered heretical. That is why I, and I believe many other "faithless" like me, are so impressed by the current Pope - he speaks his mind, does not slavishly agree with dogma, and appears quite open to interpreting the Gospel in a way that benefits everyone, not just believers.

5

I will say a number of things on this, all of them just my own opinion really, and unfortunately that's all anyone can really offer on this kind of question:

  • I don't think your interpretation of others' disdain can be necessarily interpreted as always meaning 'weakness' on your part. This is just your subjective projection onto other peoples' reaction to your admission of 'faith.' While in some cases some people might see you as weak, on the whole they won't see it as precisely that.
  • In my own case, people declaring their 'faith,' simply turns me off. In a conversation, debate, or any relationship I am suddenly aware that there is a limit to the counterparty's ability to be rational. There is scope for a meaningful, logical, rational debate only up to a point. Beyond that threshold we are in la-la-land, magical thinking, and personal offense for no good reason.
  • In my opinion your question is presented as innocuous, benign and genuine, but I believe it is either a deliberately disingenuous attempt at politely (and blindly, blanket) portraying all those who hold 'faith' in disregard as people who condemn it as 'weakness,' or it is an unintentional attempt at doing the same, with a self-conviction that is probably rooted in the same kind of prejudices that give rise to 'faith' itself.

I hope that helps you.

I will also add that the site, S.E., is aimed at allowing questions to be answered. Your question is one that invites the kind of answer structured "your premise is flawed" or "I disagree with the premise". Essentially, it reads like a false dichotomy. I think it would not only help you, but others, if you rephrased the question to "Is faith seen as a sign of weakness? Irrespective, can it be and should it be seen as a land of opportunity? If so, how, and how can I invite that kind of thinking from others?"

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This question has two components:

  • Why do people see faith as a sign of weakness?
  • Why don't people see faith as something new to be explored?

I'm going to address the second one. The first one is a very broad topic (perhaps even for Philosophy.SE), has been exhaustively addressed in the other answers, and is likely to cause arguments.

Humans don't have the lifetime to explore every avenue of thought—we have limited time. Deciding to explore some possibility is a time investment, and we often have to make a quick judgement of whether that investment will pay out.

Consider Russel's Teapot—a hypothetical teapot orbiting in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. There is a nonzero chance that this teapot really exists, but if you suggest it to most reasonable people, they will quickly shut it down as nonsense. Why would faith in the Teapot be seen as crazy instead of an opportunity for exploration?

Because this reasonable person has made the quick judgement that considering this avenue of thought is unlikely to yield useful results.

While perhaps the exploration of faith is more productive than philosophizing about Russel's teapot, the same decision is being made: they feel that faith is unlikely to yield productive results for them. Maybe this is the correct decision, maybe it isn't, but everyone makes that decision for themselves.

Humans have the unfortunate tendency to negatively view others who have different opinions, which is why the (presumably non-faithful) people you've talked to judge you poorly.

  • 1
    Russel's Teapot is not worth exploring because there is no significant body of believers in history claiming teapot religious experiences, there are no sizable teapot charitable organizations, nor are there teapot wisdom sayings and writings that are acclaimed throughout history. However, the major religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have profoundly affected a sizable majority of all people of the world. I decided as an atheist teenager that it was intellectually irresponsible of me to ignore these religions if I made any claim to be seeking the truth. – Greg Graham Apr 8 '18 at 23:03
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Short answer: despising faith generally is a sign of emotional immaturity, and a blindness to the nature of ones own belief.

A truth as old (at least) as Socrates is that wisdom is knowing you know virtually nothing.

Faith (not specific to Christian, or even religious faith) is recognizing a lack of knowledge, and deciding to proceed anyway. There is acknowledged risk in this. Sometimes we persist in the faith of something despite evidence to the contrary. The risk is elevated in this case.

I show up to work every day with the faith that my work will be useful, that I will be payed, and that my workplace will still be there when I arrive. But I know that there is a possibility that these things are not true.

There are plenty of example of what happen when employees no longer believe their workplace will be there or pay them. Its not pretty. (Its what we call a vicious cycle).

On the other hand, if it never occurs to one that my job might end, or my employer might go out of business, I am foolish and dangerous in a completely different way, operating cavalierly oblivious to the risks.

Disparaging others faith can fall into one of two categories. Either one is sure that the others faith is in something one knows to be false, or one doesn't have any idea how much the world around them is full of uncertainties. Individual cases are individual, but there is a lot of potential for grandiosity and self blindness in either of those judgments

  • 4
    For an atheist, faith is imaginary, or having imaginary friends, and has got nothing to do with emotional (i)mmaturity. As you put it, then I can also say in the line of your thinking that believing in imaginary friends is a sign of emotional immaturity. – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 2 '18 at 15:43
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    Thats not quite true. An atheist is confident that God(s) is/are imaginary. Which is quite a different thing, and a dogmatic, rather than a scientific position. – Joshua Clayton Apr 2 '18 at 21:43
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    Looking at the history of world, and the recurring need of the humans to have imaginary friends, it can be a rather scientific position. Being atheist is the opposite of accepting dogma. – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 2 '18 at 22:05
  • You talk about the rational faith in things happening based on past experience, but being open to correction. We have to have that sort of faith. You're confusing it with faith without doubt in something you don't have past experience confirming. That's irrational, and despising irrationality is not a sign of emotional immaturity. – David Thornley Sep 26 '18 at 15:38
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The answer is simple. You must — as all faithful people must — ignore a lot of logical contradictions if you accept common-place mainstream ideas about our world while staying faithful.1 You simply cannot have it both ways: Either you reject2 the modern knowledge of our world, as creationists do; or you water down your faith until it is almost non-existent, as many pro-forma protestants in Western Europe do (I'm one of them from Germany).

Sustaining these contradictions is intellectually dishonest or intellectually weak; often it is an unappetizing mixture.


1 The well-crafted site https://whywontgodhealamputees.com/ painstakingly lays out a simple example.

2 Against all evidence and against Occam's razor!

  • +1. A clear answer, straight to the point. I would like to discuss more, but we'll keep it simple. Thank you! – lukuss Apr 4 '18 at 6:33
  • @lukuss Thanks. If you want to discuss you can mail me at faithful-at-deletethis-schneiderp.deletethis-de (I have faith in you to figure it out ;-) ). – Peter - Reinstate Monica Apr 4 '18 at 7:20
  • No, there are no logical contradictions in Christian faith. It involves believing in things that cannot be proved by science or by logical inference, but it does not involve any logical contradictions. – Michael Kay Apr 4 '18 at 16:01
  • @MichaelKay Your answer only supports my argument ;-). More seriously: Obviously there are many factual statements in the Bible, many of them wrong. Now you can say "but that was only metaphorical, not to be taken at face value, must consider the historical context, etc. etc." -- i.e. you can water it down until all statements are open to arbitrary re-interpretation. Fine; just not Christian (or Muslim, Jewish, ...) any more. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Apr 4 '18 at 21:09
  • Trying to understand a historical text by analysing what message the writer was trying to convey is not "watering it down". People 2000 years ago didn't use language the same way as we do. When Jesus said to his mother (John 19:26) "woman, this is your son" he was not making a statement about biology, history, or DNA: he was giving an instruction "treat this man as your son". That's not "arbitrary re-interpretation", it is the only way to read a historical text. – Michael Kay Apr 5 '18 at 8:59
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My previous answer has been tagged for deletion by someone. No surprises there (although it is based on formal study of religion and world political history in Sri Lanka as well as Canada - Quebec, and experiences/readings/discussions in the Middle East, USA, UK, Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, India, etc).

The point of this 'answer':

A 'Readers Digest' I read in 1980 or 1981 had an article on 'faith', this very question, I believe. I won't repeat the article because I don't remember it, but I do remember the the 'graphic' (cartoon) of the article - picture the following:

Two young ladies are having a solemn discussion when suddenly a third friend appears and starts giving (uninvited) a VERY GRAPHIC (X-rated) description of how here 'blind date' went after they went to her apartment after dinner.

One of the first two girls tells the third person: 'Jane, just before you came we were discussing the merits and demerits of religion and faith, what do you think about it?'

The third person, Jane, who was giving an X-rated account of her date says: 'That is a very personal question, I prefer not to discuss it!', and walks away red in face with a scowl.

Any psychologist, psychiatrist even when you study 'marketing' will tell you: People don't want to know the truth, people want to know what they want to hear'.

A marketing guru wrote in his book/article (again, I am too old to remember) 'Of all the successful sales I made in my life the people who bought from me had to be told that they want/needed it - i.e. they did not know what they want'.

This should, at least, help keep my comment alive for the 'open minded'...

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(A little bit late in the game, but here's an additional perspective)

It's not really about being Christian perse, that makes people assume that you are weak, but about being Christian in a Christian majority culture or location.

Most religious people (I don't have the exact stats, but I'd wager it's above 99%) follow the religion of their family or ethnic group. And so people who follow the religion that they were born into are seen as taking the easy way out, by adopting the set of answers that was immediately available to them, instead of searching further afield for more difficult answers to the deep questions of life.

A Christian born in a Judeo-Christian culture will seem (rightly or wrongly so) like they are weak. On the other hand, a person who has converted to Christianity from Islam in Saudi Arabia or Iran will be seen as a very strong person indeed.

See this related question.

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    I disagree. For example, if a person converts from Islam to Christianity in Iran or Saudi Arabia, it will most probably be persecuted by the community. No chance as being seen strong. If in my case it's despise from the society, in this person's case will be most probably hate and in the end murder. – lukuss Apr 2 '18 at 5:31
  • @lukuss they will be prosecuted by their own society - but from the perspective of the type of people you are dealing with, they will seem as extremely strong and courageous, for exactly the reason that you mention, they are willing to adopt new beliefs, even though they might die for them, whereas being a Christian in a Western society is a vert easy choice to make. – Alexander S King Apr 2 '18 at 5:56
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    Oh, I see your point. Indeed, the majority will see it as a courageous act. – lukuss Apr 2 '18 at 6:12
  • You're right that in our society we expect people to make personal choices and decisions. Like so many assumptions, this is one that has no rational basis: why should individuals coming to their own conclusions be more likely to get things right than communities thinking together and reaching consensus? Other societies have valued wisdom passed down through the generations: perhaps we have something to learn from them? – Michael Kay Apr 4 '18 at 18:33
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As you said, there are deep unanswered mysteries and people people need some kind of an answer at the risk of losing their mind. While eventually everyone needs answers to maintain sanity. Some people have slightly greater tolerance for these unanswered questions than others. Some people seek the answer in science and others in religion. High mystery tolerance level isn't a question of ignoring the deep mystery altogether but instead the ability to have the question ferment for years at a time while keeping an open mind to all possible answers (while just barely keeping mental illness at bay). Mystery intolerant people need answers right now at the risk of losing their mind.

This struggle for answers creates the following general groups

  • A) Tolerant of unanswered mysteries and drawn to science for answers (I view myself as belonging here)
  • B) Tolerant of unanswered mysteries and drawn to religion for answers (You appear to be one)
  • C) Intolerant of unanswered mysteries and drawn to science for answers (People who preach science in specific areas but don't practice it in all areas of life)
  • D) Intolerant of unanswered mysteries and drawn to religion for answers (People who find religion and close their mind to all other reality)

Of course these groups are just archetypes. The real world is more complex and individuals usually fall on a continuum between these extremes. Individuals may even belong to a mixture of these groups.

Interestingly, if you really do have traits of group B), the two of us will get along just fine. Even though I don't view group C) highly, I get along with them ok - only because I could imagine how they feel. I will probably clash with D) though.

In your case the people you're clashing with are from group C). They can't stand having a deep mystery hanging out there. They must have an answer immediately even though there may not be one yet. Immediate indisputable answers to life mysteries mixed with science create unnatural concoction of science as a religion. Your religion clashes with heirs. That's why there is a conflict.

Unfortunately groups C) and D) are the norm. It's unusual to find groups A) and B), so I'm not surprised that you meet so many people who clash with how you view the world.

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    Although your answer is interesting, it does not answer the question. Why it is necessary to mix faith with science? Science handles with empirical side of our world, while faith(not religion) handles with spiritual side. – lukuss Mar 31 '18 at 18:36
  • @lukuss ~ "Science handles with empirical side of our world, while faith(not religion) handles with spiritual side." That's an unproven statement. – Bread Mar 31 '18 at 20:21
  • You don't need prooves for axiomatic statements. – lukuss Mar 31 '18 at 21:10
  • @lukuss Your statement was not axiomatic. It was an assertion of something that should be true and often isn't. There is no necessary clash between science and religion. I've known lots of people who treat science as empirical knowledge and have faith in some sort of religion. There are lots of people who treat their religious faith as decisive on questions that can be settled empirically, often in ways the religion contradicts. – David Thornley Sep 26 '18 at 15:48
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Faith (as in religion) almost always implies a compromise of self ownership, and by extension a (voluntary or learned) submission. Submission can be interpreted as evidence of having suffered defeat. Defeat can be interpreted as evidence of weakness.

  • Interesting answer, because it suggests a way of turning the tables: belief in a God who is much more powerful than we are is indeed an expression of humility and thus weakness. By contrast, belief that we are the most powerful kind of being in the universe, with no evidence for the hypethesis, is not to be strong, it is to be arrogant. Christ, I'm sure, said that we ought to be humble; so while others see that humility as weakness, we should see it as strength. – Michael Kay Apr 4 '18 at 16:06
  • One could also take a more neutral perspective - in that we deserve victory when it comes from our own strength but also defeat when it comes from the lack of it. – rackandboneman Apr 4 '18 at 16:23
  • Notions of "deserving victory if it comes from strength" seem very metaphysical to me: where do such ideas come from? – Michael Kay Apr 4 '18 at 18:18
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Faith provides meaning beyond the material from an external source. Philosophy does not require any source of meaning to exist to explain all scientific observations recorded so far, so far faith is always a superfluous assumption not justified by scientific observations.

To accept that events that occur have no external meaning is rationally pure, but psychologically more difficult to most humans than assuming meaning. Assuming any meaning takes the edge of hardship, makes some decision-making easier, reduces certain doubts.

As such, faith serves as a crutch to those who want to reduce the hardship of their existence, by blindly assuming some meaning.

It is thus a symptom of inner strength to accept reality without assuming hidden meanings, and a symptom of inner weakness to rely on some assumed meaning to reduce hardship.

On the other hand, faith does not make people weaker than they are, as a crutch it makes people better at coping with some events in the way mentioned before. As an example it can enable humans to blow up themselves as suicide-bombers, who would not be able to do that without faith. More ethical behaviors exist as well, of course.

However, it is not rationally possible to choose to be faithful to reap those benefits. Faith requires gullibility, the holding of certain assumptions without rational motive.

More examples

If you were a terrorist recruiter of suicide bombers, responsible for selecting children to indoctrinate religiously so that they will one day blow themselves up, would you rather choose children that you perceive as psychologically strong, or children that you perceive as weak? I think weak children would make for easier prey.

Same goes for adults. When charismatic people start new cults, they usually start recruiting among people which are mentally weakest, people who are in a personal crisis and thus most easily swayed.

Another problem with faith is that it can easily lead to contradictions of science (though not necessarily). As an example the famous rejections of a heliocentric worldview or the theory of evolution based on faith show a "weakness" in reasoning rationally about nature due to faith. Possibly more a weakness of scripture or religion, but faith plays it's part in training people to accept and (fervently) support statements out of faith instead of sticking with reason alone. Even contemporary debates on politics, homosexuality or abortion are tainted by the faithful applying faith instead of reason.

  • Faith is not the only thing that provides meaning beyond the material. Almost every conviction, philosophy or world-view does. Faith is belief in an external meaning. But an intrinsic meaning beyond the material is absolutely common. Most people have a couple, irrespective of their religion. – Tom Apr 2 '18 at 21:05
  • Yes, I was talking about external meaning. – tkruse Apr 3 '18 at 3:18
  • Granted that I'm way out of my experience here, it seems to me that it would be easier to get a weak-willed person to put on a bomb and go to a crowded place, and easier to get a strong-willed person to actually detonate the thing. – David Thornley Sep 27 '18 at 20:02
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Don't hate me for being honest, i'm trying to answer the actual question. I'll confess, I would probably discount you after that revelation. Despise is too strong, but I would lose respect for you.

Why? I was thinking about it, and I found a few concepts that might explain why.

Association Faith and open-mindedness with science is one thing, example Einstein. Science without faith is another, example Sagan. But when you have no science and just faith, it's easy to make invalid arguments. People of faith in the US have said some offensive things over the years about women, minorities, LGBT people, immigrants, people of different faiths, even science itself. I'm afraid some less-than-wise persons of faith have poisoned the well and you're guilty by association.

Since we can wall-off people we don't agree with via our media and internet, we don't observe as many unexpected contradictions from dislike people. Back when the Cosby show came out, it diminished prejudice about black Americans by showing a Doctor and Lawyer power couple who were black. But now, you can spend all day on youtube watching racist content that only re-enforces what you already believe. Contrast became something to avoid, not spotlight.

intensification This filtering intensifies "othering", leading to what communications researcher Sut Jhally coins "the spiral of silence". As people avoid conversations and people who are unlike them, to avoid the now-stressful defending of your views, it makes it even harder to set feelings aside next time, on both sides. I like to think of it as the atrophy of empathy. From the first innocent subject change, it builds gradually to a point where people just prefer to categorically avoid certain topics or people. The less you try to get along, the harder it is to get along, and it's easier than ever these days to find people you agree with to console your loss of diversity.

Motivation Even if i disagree with someone, i don't look down on them without "reason". Humans like to jump to safety as a justification for their beliefs. This extends to mass wiretaps, guns, healthcare, vaping, bathrooms, water testing, you name it; "safety is #1".

When I hear something like "we don't need a carbon tax because God will take care of the righteous", it upsets me because I think to myself "OK this isn't just a different belief, live and let live; this is a threat to survival". It's saying to me: "nothing else matters except something you don't even believe in"; can anything possibly be more invalidating? Who enjoys talking to someone who invalidates?

Conclusion In short, I don't think it's that they "despise" you, you're just different. People wedge apart for far less fundamental differences: back in high school I hated a certain teacher because he was a big Mac proponent, and I liked Windows. Everything he said about anything I discounted because of his computing preference. "Sounds like something a mac head would say", "how can he know anything about the Civil War if he's too stupid to right-click", and "everyone knows that, even a mac user like him". It wasn't as though I intended to be completely irrational/selfish/foolish in my youth, it was just the default I found myself in, and an impulse/tendency I still struggle to reconcile objectively.

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For me this isn't a question of faith. I have disproofs based on knowledge theory of both life-after-death and the claim that the material universe was created by an intelligent agent. If correct, this removes most of the basis for Christian belief.

Do I think that people who believe Christian theology are inferior? No. In fact, I have respect for both G. Welton Gaddy and Pope Francis who I'm certain will never change their beliefs. If you are like them then I would have no reason to think less of you. On the other hand, I could never respect someone like Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, Kent Hovind, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell or Ken Ham. My respect for William Lane Craig slipped considerably when he began avoiding debate with Matt Dillahunty.

Why most of the people choose to despise, instead of accepting the possibility that we know too little about faith and its experiences?

Faith as a synonym for hope can be useful in lieu of giving up. Faith isn't useful when it takes the place of evidence.

Basically, why do folks close the door without checking what's inside?

I have checked what is inside. However, I don't believe I can expect the same from evangelicals and fundamentalists when I publish. This is one of the reasons I haven't published knowledge theory yet even though it is complete.

  • "the claim that the material universe was created by an intelligent agent" --- What do you think of the claim that the material universe IS the "intelligent agent"? – Bread Mar 31 '18 at 20:17
  • I can disprove that assertion so I wouldn't put much stock in it. Panpsychism, solipsism, and Boltzmann Brains can also be disproved. – scientious Mar 31 '18 at 20:25
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    I've not yet seen anyone disprove it, ever. So if you can do so, I'd be interested in reading it. And I never mentioned panpsychism, solipsism, or boltzmann brains, so I can only wonder why you switched to irrelevant topics. – Bread Mar 31 '18 at 20:49
  • You won't be able to read it until it is published. Seth Lloyd suggests that the entire universe is a quantum computer. Claiming that inanimate matter is sentient is panpsychism. I assume you were talking about one of these. Solipsism is similar in that the sentient agent itself is the universe. Boltzmann brains are related because if they were possible then more complex versions (galactic or larger) would be possible. Somewhat related is the idea that bacteria could form a distributed consciousness. I've researched all of these. – scientious Mar 31 '18 at 21:09
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    "Claiming that inanimate matter is sentient is panpsychism." All animate matter began as inanimate matter, and then returns to inanimate form. But the universe is no more 'inanimate' than any living human being. In fact it is the source of our intelligence, quite obviously. Also, I never claimed that inanimate matter is sentient. You just assumed that, because you assume that the Universe is inanimate. – Bread Mar 31 '18 at 21:17
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People who have faith in God upset the prevailing notion among Western intellectuals that humans are autonomous beings who can chart their moral destiny with impunity. The possible existence of a God who is our creator and tells us how we should live is frightening, especially when it requires limiting the expression of our sexual desires to the confines of a life-long marriage. This theophobia often results in the one type of bigotry that is acceptable in our culture today.

Thomas Nagel, in The Last Word (Oxford University Press, 2002) pp. 130-31, describes this fear and admits it has resulted in irrational opposition to faith.

I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believer. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.

  • Theophobia is extremely mild compared to the bigotry of many self-declared Christians in the US today. Most claims I've seen of discrimination against Christians in the US boil down to either someone talking unpleasantly about Christianity or Christians (and not noticing how some Christians have been talking to some others) or people refusing to let Christians have their own religious way over other beliefs. When one is in a privileged group, it's real easy to see any threat to privilege as bigotry. – David Thornley Sep 26 '18 at 15:56
  • @DavidThornley I agree that there is a problem with some Christians being overly defensive about opposition, sometimes as a result of their own insecurity. I have also admit that some who call themselves Christian are bigots. I cannot keep a bad person from calling themselves a Christian, but that doesn't mean Christianity is bad. There are bad people who call themselves atheists, but that doesn't mean atheism is bad. – Greg Graham Sep 28 '18 at 10:40
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If somebody thinks we live in a new age of reason, you need to check out the facts:

84% of the world’s population identifies with Faith in a religious group.

According to 2015 figures, Christians form the biggest religious group by some margin, with 2.3 billion adherents or 31.2% of the total world population of 7.3 billion. Next come Muslims (1.8 billion, or 24.1%), Hindus (1.1 billion, or 15.1%) and Buddhists (500 million, or 6.9%).

But the third biggest category is missing from the above list. In 2015, 1.2 billion people in the world, or 16%, said they have no religious affiliation at all. This does not mean all those people have committed atheists; some – perhaps most – have a strong sense of spirituality or belief in God, gods or guiding forces, but they don’t identify with or practice an organized religion.

Which religions are growing, and where?

The answer is the religion is on the wane in western Europe and North America, and it’s growing everywhere else.

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world – more than twice as fast as the overall global population. Between 2015 and 2060, the world’s inhabitants are expected to increase by 32%, but the Muslim population is forecast to grow by 70

China has seen a huge religious revival in recent years and some predict it will have the world’s largest Christian population by 2030. The number of Chinese Protestants has grown by an average of 10 % annually since 1979, to between 93 million and 115 million, according to one estimate. There are reckoned to be another 10-12 million Catholics. In contrast, Christianity is in decline in Western Europe. In Ireland, traditionally a staunchly Catholic country, the proportion of people identifying with Catholicism fell from 84.2% to 78.3% between the two censuses of 2011 and 2016, and down to 54% among people aged between 16 and 29. Those with no religious affiliation increased to 9.8% – a jump of 71.8% in five years.

The only Christian theocracy is Vatican City, the tiny but powerful centre of Roman Catholicism, where the Pope is the supreme power and heads the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the Vatican government.

Thirteen countries (including nine in Europe) designate Christianity or a particular Christian denomination as their state religion.

Does religion have an impact on the world?

Of course – there are huge consequences to religious belief and practice. Firstly, countless wars and conflicts have had an overt or covert religious dimension throughout history right up to the present day. In the past few years, we’ve seen Islamic extremists waging war in the Middle East, a power struggle between Sunni and Shia across the region, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, violent clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic, to name a few. Women are subjugated, LGBT people are persecuted, and “blasphemists” are tortured and murdered in the name of religion.

What happens next?

More prejudice and persecution. Followers of most major religions report increasing hostility and, in many cases, violence. Christians have been largely driven out of the Middle East, with some calling it a new genocide. Meanwhile antisemitism and Islamophobia are rising in Europe.

One of the biggest upheavals on the religious landscape in the next few years is likely to be the death (or, possibly, retirement) of Pope Francis, who is 81 and has a number of health issues. His efforts to reform the Vatican and the church have led to a significant backlash by conservative forces, who are organising against his papacy and preparing for the moment when the post becomes vacant.

I have just posted the general scenario of the 'Faith' driven religious growth on our plane and the ask the question that why you feel 'as inferior ' to a group when you disclose your faith-

reason 1.- you may not have been properly trained in the matters of faith and the link with the Almighty who created the world- or the communication link has not been established as yet- the faith must mature to attract the fellow humans by the glow of your persona.

reason-2-you perhaps have genuine doubts in the "Faith" part or still waiting to experience it by trying hard.

The fact of the matter is that many people do not understand the "Power of faith" in human life and can just go on shrugging their shoulders and imagine that "Faith" does not exist.

In our community the Hindus- the "faithfuls are such that they sacrifice theselves in thousands at their annual extravaganza without dropping an eyelid ".

Ref.- https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/27/religion-why-is-faith-growing-and-what-happens-next

protected by Community Apr 3 '18 at 7:25

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