Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Folly of Faith

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard "Oh, she is such a great person ... she is a person of faith."

However, I've always wondered why having strong faith is synonymous with being a good person (almost as if you don't have faith then you're a bad person). Such a notion is silly, of course, because being a good person is determined by the harm and good you do to others, not by whether you believe in a supernatural entity. The two are mutually exclusive and it makes about as much sense to say "She is a great person because she has faith that eating whole grain bread will lower her chance of cancer."

In fact, if someone claims to have deep faith then that's just a red flag showing that a person believes in something without having any supporting evidence. In my opinion that is a poor trait for someone to have. Imagine being a defendant in a criminal trial. Would you want the jury to convict you just because they have strong faith in the prosecuting attorney or would you want them to weigh the evidence and form an opinion separate from their faith in the DA?

Interestingly, in a poll conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians make up about 80% of the US population and about 80% of the prison population. In contrast, atheists make up about 4% of the US population but only about 0.2% of the prison population. So, in reality a smaller percentage of atheists are in prison compared to Christians. Admittedly there are flaws in this study (for example, prisoners could become religious after being convicted in hopes of eternal forgiveness). However, I think the numbers are good enough to show that someone's faith has absolutely nothing to do with whether they are a bad or good person.

This post will serve as a lead into to a multi-part series on morality & religion. In particular I'll be dissecting William Craig's argument that the existence of moral values proves the existence of God, and I'll dig deeper into the faith vs. morality issue.

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