Reading this question recently posted, an assertion was made that theism and atheism are both "faith-based" positions.

Ignoring the argument regarding atheism, I feel the initial premise deserves a question of its own - that theism is, necessarily, faith-based itself. I've certainly heard enough scientifically-educated people support theism, and I certainly know that people use scientific evidence to support theism, so I'm of the opinion that theism isn't, necessarily, faith-based.

But is there sufficient evidence to support that theism is not faith-based? Or is there an end point where any theist must accept that their belief requires pure faith?

  • What is the alternative to "faith-based" ? Scientifically proved ? If so, obviously NO philosophical or religious thesis can be scientificaly proved. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 18 at 16:29
  • If instead you mean "based on plausible arguments"... it depends on what do yu accept as plausible. Every argument must relies on assumptions; thus, every argument pro- or contra-theism (atheism) must list in advance all "axioms" that the argument will use. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 18 at 16:31
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA If the very premise of Theism/Atheism being "faith-based" is itself flawed, I'd definitely accept that as an answer. The more thoroughly you can explain why it's a flawed premise, the better. I'm completely willing to have this premise blown apart. – Zibbobz Mar 18 at 16:33
  • Perhaps you could reflect on the question : How far does the equation theism = religion actually hold? Here is Carl Sagan on the vedic "nasadiya suktam" which could reasonably translated as «Hymn to agnosticism» youtu.be/Ugyrzr5Ds8o – Rusi Mar 18 at 16:33
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    I am not sure that I understand the question. We need faith (that things did not randomly changed at night) even to get about our room in the morning. So what does "support that theism is not faith-based" mean? Any belief is "faith-based" at some level, including mathematical theorems. I think these questions are based on the naive idea that some things can be "proved" while others require "faith", but any proofs need faith to even get off the ground. – Conifold Mar 18 at 19:56

One can approach theism as a practice rather than as a specific creed to believe. This does not require accepting any particular statement of faith. Faith itself may be a practice, an act of surrender which doesn't acknowledge any particular propositions as being true.

Two sources for such a view would be Rupert Sheldrake's Science and Spiritual Practices: "Rupert illustrates how science helps validate seven particular practices which underpin all major world religions."

Of course even atheists can engage in and benefit from these practices, such as meditation, without feeling obligated to accept any particular creed on faith.

A similar perspective on practice comes from Aldous Huxley in The Perennial Philosophy. Huxley notes (page 1):

In studying the Perennial Philosophy we can begin either at the bottom, with practice and morality; or at the top, with a consideration of metaphysical truths; or, finally, in the middle, at the focal point where mind and matter, action and thought have their meeting place in human psychology.

The Perennial Philosophy includes theology and those who "think and speculate - the born philosophers and theologians", but it also includes those who "have no use for speculation".

The question is: "Is theism necessarily faith-based?" The answer would be no. Theism can also be described as practices common to different theistic religions, or to no specific religion, supporting different master narratives describing reality.

Huxley, A. The perennial philosophy. 1945. Harper & Brothers

Rupert Sheldrake. Science and Spiritual Practice: Transformative experiences and their effects on our bodies, brains and health. 2017. Counterpoint.

  • Thanks for the answer - so the basic premise is that both theism and atheism can be practiced without any 'belief' necessary behind it, and that faith itself is also subject to this? Essentially, absolving all three of needing 'proof' to participate? – Zibbobz Mar 18 at 17:00
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    @Zibbobz I think both Sheldrake and Huxley take that position. – Frank Hubeny Mar 18 at 17:04

The claim that theism is necessarily based on faith implicitly represents the viewpoint of an agnostic theist (with the definitions from this answer). This is because if you were an agnostic theist, then you would believe in the existence of a God (or Gods), while at the same time acknowledging that you cannot ever have conclusive proof that a God (or Gods) really existed. This necessitates a faith in your religion, which by definition1 is "strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof".

Often, an agnostic theist would therefore not be convinced of certain arguments like Paley's Watchmaker analogy. These arguments, if true, would prove that a God (or Gods) absolutely exists, so there is conclusive evidence for their existence. You are right in saying that if such arguments were accepted, then theism would not be based on faith, because they would be based solely on evidence and logical reasoning. This is often the viewpoint of a gnostic theist.

1This definition of faith might not be the only one, but it is extremely widespread. For example, the Bible itself says "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (New International Version, Hebrews 11:1).


I think belief can be distinguished from faith. As I wrote in the parallel question on atheism, the essence of faith is a confidence or ability to trust in the present and future because of past reliability. I trust in my chair to not collapse because it's held me up thousands of times before. I have faith in my spouse and family to support me because they've been there for me in difficult times before. I don't have faith in my government to make good decisions for the betterment of my nation because they've shown themselves to be lily-livered and self serving.

It's easy to see how most theistic religions are faith based. Many have scriptures which tell a history of their god or gods being trustworthy. Many teach an ethical system which they believe is shown repeatedly to lead to human flourishing. Many encourage their people to share with their communities how their god or gods have supported them through difficult times. Religious people have faith when their past experience of the divine leads them to trust the divine for the future.

But it's also easy to see that many people with religious beliefs do not live faith-based lives. There are "Sunday" Christians, "Saturday" Jews, and "Friday" Muslims who attend their religious community's meeting but who live the rest of their week without their beliefs making a difference. And of course there are many people who might say they believe in God without ever attending a religious service! Many religious people do not trust their god or gods to help them in difficult times, and some may be convinced by certain apologetic arguments for the existence of the divine without having any personal experience of it. I even wonder if reincarnation may take the pressure off many Buddhist people to delve deeper into religious thought or to devote their life to carefully following their ethical principles because their belief in reincarnation means they will have unending lives to live more religiously in the future.

So theism is not necessarily faith based. But it is true that most of the world's religions do encourage faith-based living, and those who believe without it shaping the way they live are not considered good examples of their religions.


Note: This answer comes from the answer I submitted on the thread:

Asserting that Atheism and Theism are both faith-based

Defining Theism

Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities. The term theism derives from the Greek theos or theoi meaning "god". The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688). In Cudworth's definition, they are "strictly and properly called Theists, who affirm, that a perfectly conscious understanding being, or mind, existing of itself from eternity, was the cause of all other things".(Wikipedia Contributors)

Faith as Belief Without Evidence

The first religious sense of faith is a type of belief, specifically belief without clear evidence or knowledge. Christians using the term to describe their beliefs should be using it in the same way as Paul: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." [Hebrews 11:1] This is the sort of faith Christians often rely upon when confronted with evidence or arguments that would disprove their religious beliefs.

This sort of faith is problematic because if a person really does believe something without evidence, even weak evidence, then they have formed a belief about the state of the world independent of information about the world. Beliefs are supposed to be mental representations about the way the world is but this means beliefs should be dependent upon what we learn about the world; beliefs shouldn't be independent of what we learn about the world.

If a person believes something is true in this sense of "faith," their belief has become separated from facts and reality. Just as evidence plays no role in producing the belief, evidence, reason, and logic can't disprove the belief. A belief that is not dependent on reality also can't be refuted by reality. Perhaps this is part of how it helps people endure the seemingly unendurable in the context of tragedy or suffering. It's also arguably why it's so easy for faith to become a motivation for committing unspeakable crimes.

Faith as Confidence or Trust

The second religious sense of faith is the act of placing trust in someone. It may involve no more than having faith in the words and teachings of religious leaders or it may be faith that God will fulfill promises described in scripture. This sort of faith is arguably more important than the first, but it's one which both theists and atheists tend to ignore in favor of the first. This is a problem because so much of what believers say about faith only makes sense in the context of this sense.

For one thing, faith is treated as a moral duty, but it's incoherent to treat any belief as a "moral duty." In contrast, having faith in a person who deserves it is a legitimate moral duty while denying faith to someone is an insult. Having faith in a person is a statement of confidence and trust while refusing to have faith is a statement of distrust. Faith is thus the most important Christian virtue not because believing that God exists is so important, but rather because trusting God is so important. It's not mere belief in the existence of God which takes a person to heaven, but trust in God (and Jesus).

Closely connected to this is the treatment of atheists as immoral merely for being atheists. It is taken for granted that atheists actually know that God exists because everyone knows this — the evidence is unambiguous and everyone is without excuse — so one has "faith" that God will be honorable, not that God exists. This is why atheists are so immoral: they are lying about what they believe and in the process are denying that God deserves our trust, allegiance, and loyalty. (Austin Cline)

There are different ways you can attribute faith as illustrated in the above citation, but I think what matters in the context of this question is whether not a person can be without faith in the presence of their belief. Under the most lenient definition faith which is: a "great trust or confidence in something or someone" and the most lenient definition of belief which is: "a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing" our definition of theism would read: Theism is broadly defined as the state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in the existence of a Supreme Being or deities. Because faith can be defined as "great trust or confidence in something or someone." A theist can indeed be without faith.

Theism is not the same as a religious faith; theism is simply belief in some sort of god while religious faith is a religious belief system which incorporates or revolves around the belief in a god. For example, monotheism is a type of theism while Christianity is a religious faith based around monotheism. (Austin Cline 2017)

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    Thank you for your answer - this provides a lot of detailed analysis from two different sources, but doesn't really provide any context for those sources. You present the definition of "theism" and Austin Cline's analysis of theism as the whole of your answer, without really putting it into the context of this question, or at least explaining why you've chosen these sources. – Zibbobz Mar 18 at 17:12
  • Note I've since made edits in the context of the question – Alexander Gegg Mar 20 at 7:36

The question of belief in its colloquial sense (without proof) implies that the beholder of the belief lacks knowledge in order to make a decision out of certitude.

As an example, *”He has faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by the fact”. - Dictionary.com

Until proven otherwise this assertion is faith-based.

Atheist’s know insufficient to claim certitude of no god/s

It is therefore my assertion that atheists despite the definition of the word itself a-theist, a person who denies the existence of god/s, in the practical sense, must make this assertion based on knowledge. Considering no one has all knowledge or is not omniscient and there is the potential for extra-dimensional or metaphysical knowledge (even if only hypothetically) an atheist must invoke an act of faith. A hypothesis that needs to be substantiated by the facts. They do not know enough to say with certitude that a god, some where, any god, does not exist. Not with absolute certitude. Not when earth is potentially but a speck in a multitude of “multiverses”.

Theists know insufficient to claim certitude of god/s

This can be true also for theists. Any theist who accepts belief in at least a god on the basis of intellectual assent, must invoke belief to bridge the gap of knowledge to say with certitude a god exists for the same reasons atheists do. It’s a hypothesis that needs to be substantiated by the facts.

Theists need just one fact encounter to dispel faith

But while atheists must possess omniscience in order to invoke a certitude of knowledge concerning atheism, and avoid a faith based assertion, theists on the other hand don’t need to possess omniscience, they need to only encounter one god, one time. Upon their encounter, their faith based acceptance changes to a certitude of knowledge that at least one god exists.

The non material

We generally are taught a reductionist understanding to our existence. Yet there are certain things that are immaterial. Take for instance the mind. The mind is coupled into a brain, which in turn is housed in a biological machine. The machine limits the brain’s functionality and the brain in turn limits the mind’s functionality. But the mind itself is immaterial and exists outside of the body.

The healthier a person, the greater chances that their brain will have an optimal state of functionality. Granted what hardware was created due to the genetics is a limiting factor on the brain. The brain limits the mind. Information is fed into the mind via the body and it’s senses. A lobotomized person that has had hardware removed limits the mind to acrue new data or possibly even retrieve old data. A person who has had the part of the brain for feeling pain removed, cannot input pain into the mind, certainly no physical pain information can be registered.

The brain comes with preprogrammed functions that work on the body and does not require the mind’s input. This distinguished the brain from the mind. The input of language, software and data uploaded via the brain into the mind limits the mind. A blind person from birth cannot input visual data into the mind. The mind, brain and body are intricately linked.

Experiencing the immaterial

When someone experiences their own mind, they don’t doubt that they have a mind. They interact with their mind even though it is immaterial.

In the same way when people have experienced a god and interacted with him they don’t doubt that just because it was immaterial that the god was not real. Being of another dimension or not of the physical dimension does not discount its existence.

It is true that some experiences can be fabricated by our own minds but not all. Just because we experience something in our own mind doesn’t immediately rule out interaction with another mind.

It is true that the brain processes the information and that the body facilitated and reacted to the experience physiologically and physically. But the experience though felt it source is non physical.

Concluding remarks

It takes just one experience of a non material deity to switch from faith-based theism to theism with certitude.

This certitude is compounded if and when the deity interacts with the physical world.

I’m not arguing for a particular deity, I’m merely asserting that interaction with just one deity, true deity or self-professing deity is sufficient to change the status of a theist or atheist for that matter. Sure, it’s normal to try and explain it away, but if you’ve interacted with an intelligence/mind that is not your own intelligence/mind which gave you knowledge or experiences that could not have originated with you, whether true or false, verifiable or not, you cannot attribute to your brain something that was created by another mind.

Therefore theism is both faith-based for those who are still hypothesizing and factual for others who have substantiated their hypothesis with facts.

  • Thank you for the downvote, could you also leave a short comment please on what you disagree with? Thank you – Autodidact Mar 20 at 10:24

Nope, theism not only supported by faith but by logic and facts especially from revelations.

Primitive humans first believe in God(s) not by faith by absurd logic using cause-and-effect fallacy that people get cursed when they do something bad in the eyes of deity.

But in this age, when the teachings have become crystallized and standardized, when miracles/magic become too mainstream, there developed a strong religious belief towards deity that one "must have faith to believe and be saved".

Despite this, the people still have their logic which they use to prove the existence of deity without? the necessity of strong faith such as "If there was no god, we won't exist" and they even made scientific attempts to prove god.

Another way to believe in god without strong faith is by understanding a revelation. A revelation is an attempt to improve the spiritual capacity of evolutionary religions by presenting clear concepts of scientific facts about spiritual domain.

Eventually, the revelations and the scientific understanding of god is a paradox since one must first have faith to believe in the divine to understand the logic within it.

"It is literally true, “Human things must be known in order to be loved, but divine things must be loved in order to be known.”"

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