I have heard many people reduce the argument for religious systems of belief and action to their material benefit. A most cited argument is that the Book of Leviticus and its guidelines for nutrition and cleanliness prevented the Jewish people from having plagues and widespread sickness in a time in history where it was very frequent.

Or some sociologists of the Judeo/Christian persuasion cite that biblical stipulations for abstaining from pre martial sex and only having one wife are statistically correlated to stability among nations that follow the Bible's guidelines. This argument is bolstered by the observation that widespread promiscuity and polygamy are frequent among unstable nations and people groups.

My question is that does the essence of faith, that is, the substance of things unseen, loose its efficacy when the guidelines from a religion become cause and effect exchanges of practice and outcome?; Does the reduction of beleif systems to a materialistic perspective to market them to people of scientific worldview alter the original faith itself?


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    Arguing that faith has material side benefits does not necessarily reduce it to them. "Come for the food, stay for the fun" tactic is quite effective, the path to the heart may well lie through the stomach, and what does it matter in the end. But if side benefits remain the sole reason for keeping the "faith" that is indeed incompatible with true faith. One illustration of this are contemptuous reactions to Pascal's Wager, a radical version of such reduction, from many believers, who see it as dishonest and immoral.
    – Conifold
    Oct 7, 2020 at 22:17
  • When many of the world religions became codified, built into them were practical guides for inducing piety and love of your neighbor and right behavior as part of a belief system. For a complete depiction and in depth answer to your question see 'The Religious/ Political Treatise' (TTP) by Baruch Spinoza. He is credited as the originator of the methodology for biblical studies and for objectively interpreting scripture. And no, the divine aspect does not necessarily suffer or become diminished by practical consideration accompanying religious prescriptions. Welcome to the SEP!
    – user37981
    Oct 8, 2020 at 4:20

1 Answer 1


Firstly, the saying that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of what is not seen, means that faith is equivalent to reason or intellect. Paul also refers to a foolish kind of philosophy but it is hard to see that he is referring to all philosophy.

If there is no evidence of something, it is not much of a virtue to cling to it. This is as true of unrequited romantic love as of spiritual communion. If God has not proved Its existence to you, do you think It needs you to believe in It? Pascal's wager, here, is shown pointless: it's not enough to have faith in the creation of the world but also in its creator's goodness. But a good God would not torture people forever for lacking beliefs that It can alone truly provide. So what is gained by belief, there? Nothing, unless God made that game out of things, but then are we cowardly enough to play such a game?

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