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Faith: An Excuse, Not an Answer

Updated on July 14, 2013
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Unjustifiable Faith

When it comes right down to it, most believers (especially Christian believers) claim faith as their ultimate reason for belief. No matter how many paths you wander down, no matter how many apologetic arguments you encounter, no matter how many "proofs" they try to present, when they're backed into a corner, faith is the answer. Faith is the answer for belief without reason. As Mark Twain so notably stated "Faith is believing what you know ain't so". Faith is the excuse that people give for believing in things without evidence, and a large majority of people take faith to a whole new level. They see faith as interchangeable with evidence. They see faith as synonyms to knowledge and understanding, when it is literally anything but. Faith is not a reason to believe in something, and it does not equate to knowledge in the least.

Is All Faith Created Equal?

The problem with faith in a nutshell is that, when employed for one particular belief, there is nothing preventing it from being applied to everything across the board. A theist has faith that their particular god exists, but they're skeptical about the faith of someone from a different religion - or a different denomination of their own. They're skeptical about people who claim to have faith that aliens exist, and they roll their eyes at those that have faith that fairies are real. If faith is good enough to justify belief in a god, isn't it good enough to justify faith in something else? Where does faith fail? When it applies to anything else than the particular god claim that they're making. They scoff at faith when it is presented in a different religion. They scoff at faith in fairies or unicorns or aliens. They scoff at faith when they realize that it is insufficient to justify belief in anything - but turn around and use it to justify their own belief in god without a second thought.

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"If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits. It is intellectual bankruptcy. With faith, you don't have to put any work into proving your case. You can "just believe". Truth does not have to be believed. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing "Yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I believe in my heart that what goes up must come down, down, down. Amen!" If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it" Dan Barker "Losing Faith in Faith"

What Faith Really Means

When people use faith to justify their religious beliefs to the exclusion of all else, despite the lack of evidence or reasonable arguments or proof, it points to one thing - and one thing only. It points to an insecurity, whether it's one that the theist is likely to admit or not. Think about it momentarily. If you are certain of something, you don't need faith. If you have knowledge, you don't need faith. Faith shows up in the absence of proof, certainty or knowledge. It's the antithesis to these three critical factors that should be present in ANY belief - let alone a belief as important as belief in a god, especially if eternity is truly at stake.


This is exemplified beautifully when you look at the behaviors of tribal peoples throughout history - and even today. Pagans rarely if ever turned to faith to justify the belief in their pantheon of gods. They were certain of them. As Daniel Dennet points out in his book "Breaking the Spell":

"Those who practice a folk religion don't think of themselves as practicing a religion at all. Their 'religious' practices are a seamless part of their practical lives, alongside their hunting and gathering. One way to tell that they really believe in the deities to which they make their sacrifices is that they aren't forever talking about how much they believe in their deities....Where there is no ambient doubt to speak of, there is no need to speak of faith"

When cornering a theist of any stripe, it's not difficult to get them to admit that faith is faulty when it shines the light on any belief other than their own. To most unbelievers, a retreat to faith is an admission of defeat. It means that a believer cannot prove their case or present any evidence whatsoever for the claim that they're making - and faith therefore becomes their last, impenetrable line of defense. It's the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears, covering their eyes and refusing to take the conversation any further. You can't argue with faith - especially when it's a last, die-hard position with no possible defense.

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Arguing Semantics

Most believers justify the concept of faith by using it interchangeably with the philosophy of trust. They insist that atheists and non-believers have faith in something unseen as well, even though most of us will admit to trust. The word faith comes with baggage, and this baggage is extremely difficult to overcome when you have journeyed out of a religion and embraced reality with all of its glory. I personally do not like to use the term "faith", particularly because it is often synonymous with the word trust or confidence in the minds of unbelievers. I trust my wife because she has proven to be trustworthy. I believe her when she tells me that she loves me, and she backs up her words with actions. When push comes to shove, I can admit that I have "faith" in her - but it is not blind faith. It is faith based on a proven history, a current reality and the hope for a shared future. I do not have "faith" that the sun will rise tomorrow. It has risen on every day since the dawn of time, and I have no reason to doubt that tomorrow will be any different. I do not have "faith" that my car will start in the morning. I keep up on the maintenance, I service it regularly and I regularly purchase gas. That is not faith - it is confidence, and I fully accept the reality that if I keep this car long enough, one day it will fail to start. My faith will not be shattered - I simply have to take it to a mechanic. What happens, however, when a faith in a god fails or fails to live up to expectations?

Putting the Shoe on the Other Foot

If you truly want to get a grasp of how silly faith seems to a non-believer, consider this quote from Dan Barker when he puts the shoe on the other foot.

"suppose an atheist, refusing to look at any religious claims, were to say 'you must have faith that there is no god. If you believe in your heart...then you will know that atheism is true'. Wouldn't the Christians (and followers of other religions) snicker?"


According to the Bible, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

I don't have to see something to know that it's real, but by the same token I'm not just going to jump headlong into a belief so important as a religion without anything verifiable. Otherwise it's just a bunch of old stories thrown on a pile of other old stories. If you're willing to accept one by faith alone, what prevents you from accepting all of them? What prevents you from accepting anything without proof at all?

Faith vs. Reason

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    • Ashleign profile image

      Ashleign 4 years ago

      Very Interesting. I was turned on to your hubs, from your Q&A, about Learned faith.

      "You can't teach an old dog, new tricks." Is a quote I actually live my life by. Because it is very difficult to unlearn things that have been thumped on you your entire life.

      I guess more or less, standing out, is a way of life. I love that more atheists now are able to express themselves openly. Without fear of consequences.

      Bravo.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States

      Well written and presented. You're absolutely right that when blind faith becomes an accepted norm, it starts to unravel important things in other aspects of society. The most obvious offender being politics. "I believe, in my gut, that President Obama is a muslim socialist who wants all my guns, even though I have no proof." Not that I want to get into politics, but its easy to see how blind faith can erode all truth until all we have left is an angry mob on a witch hunt.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      krillco - How is your notion of religious faith not diametrically opposed to any form of reason or logic?

      Just making that statement, as you just did, is obviously not going to convince anyone who can think for themselves!

      Maybe you like to explain your thoughts in greater detail or write a hub about it so we can follow your odd way of applying reason ...

    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 4 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      The premise that faith and reason are diametrically opposed is flawed.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Excellent discussion, voted up. What amuses me is when believers attempt to use science to prove the claims of their religion... as if they hadn't just been deriding science for coming to the "wrong" conclusion on something else. They seem to think that science is a tool for converting people, and a tool for proving conclusions that they've already made. It's a betrayal of science to approach an investigation with your mind already made up. IMO, that's why faith is incompatible with rational thought.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for a great hub showing us very clearly again the absurdity of religious faith and the mental short comings of those who keep using faith instead of REASON ...

      I am also 100% sure the word god exists in the English language - no faith required to know that much ... but when people talk about a living god, or some one being the son of some god, I keep asking myself what went wrong in their minds to have lost all sense of REASON?

      Where is their ability to draw a line between the limits to what is REAL and what is fiction, myth, imagination, or all the other forms of expressing human fantasy? Sure, we all see them in our dreams and in works of art ... but therein lies the BIG difference, they are ALL outside the logical realm of scientific thought and don't deal with reality factually!

      A good story maybe better than a totally absurd, religious one, but grasping REALITY firmly with your mind requires quite a bit more than the faith of a religious believer ... or anything could be REAL but NATURE provides a clear cut limit or cats and dogs could have puppies and supernatural gods of all kinds would be creating new miracles by the minute ... :)

    • profile image

      Motown2Chitown 4 years ago

      I like this. It explains so well what the rigid and hardline Christians are up against. I can tell you that I am absolutely certain that God exists because of certain things that have happened in my life - my own personal experiences. I continue, not to have faith, but to trust that He will be faithful to me. Where perhaps I differ from the more fundamental Christians is that I recognize the lack of hard evidence. I do not doubt God in the least, but I certainly understand that I can't present Him as fact without verifiable proof. Which is why you and I can engage in honest dialog about faith, religion, and belief without reaching the eventual impasse that generally ends the conversation for others. Girl, you are one smart cookie! Voted up and all that.

    • Claire Evans profile image

      Claire Evans 4 years ago from South Africa

      A Christian who says they have faith God exists and that Jesus is the son of God but they aren't sure is not really a Christian. You have to have strong evidence that God exists. To be a Christian you have to know as absolute truth that Jesus is the son of God. Then you put your faith in Him to guide you in life. A son knows his father exists but puts his faith in him to guide him through life.

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 4 years ago from New Zealand

      JM - this was an interesting hub. Not bagging on anyone but presenting the facts on faith. I liked the way you present it, and thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience. Thanks. Voted up, and shared

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 4 years ago from Michigan, USA

      JM, you've touched on a distinction I often make when referring to "faith." For me, there are essentially two different types of faith -- BLIND faith, which is believing in something without evidence, or in spite of it; and RATIONAL faith, which is based upon knowledge and experience.

      Not all faith is bad. Having faith in someone or something that has demonstrated fidelity or reliability is, I believe, a proper manifestation of trust. Having blind faith in someone or something is, in the end, never good.