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Is Faith a Virtue? (Thoughts on the Latest Rapture)

Updated on May 22, 2011

Is all Faith Created Equal, and Why do People Want the World to End?

As you have probably realized, the world did not end the other day. But at least this latest wave of rapture predictors has provided us with some always welcomed comic material. In my view, anyone who has mocked these people over the last few weeks has done “the faithful” a favor. Faith never seems stronger and nobler than when it is being tested. So when people point out the obvious holes in apocalyptic predictions, and in some cases the whole notion of a “rapture” itself, it forces believers to both defy common sense and face persecution, signs that they must be among the elect. The more ridiculous the belief, and the more that you are mocked for believing it, the more impressive and noble the faith.

For many skeptics, when they hear the word faith, they associate it with this sort of irrational belief. But even those who try very hard to be as rational as possible are forced to admit that they constantly think and act on the basis of faith. We all believe in things that we cannot see and are unable to prove without a shadow of a doubt. No one completely understands how and why gravitation, electricity, and evolution operate as they do, and it is theoretically possible that natural laws could be temporarily suspended or cease to apply in the future. I cannot prove that my mom loves me. In fact, I cannot completely measure or define the concept of love itself. I don’t even know if the can of chili that I open contains the ingredients that are listed on the label. Do they actually use beef, or are they slipping in some horse, pigeon, or dog meat? Still, my uncertainty surrounding all of these topics will not seriously impact my behavior. I will not jump off of a cliff to see if gravity still applies, I will trust my mom with my kids, and I will subject myself to eating canned food from time to time. Because in all of these situations that involve some degree of uncertainty, I do have some past experiences to serve as a guide. So far, my faith in the scientific process, my mom, and even corporations / the FDA has borne itself out. In addition, I have past and present testimony from countless individuals about the effectiveness of science, the experience of love, and the ability to survive canned food. My faith, therefore, is not blind to the point of defying common sense. I am simply playing the odds.

So faith is a necessary part of functioning in the world. If we demand absolute certainty before taking any action, we will end up in a mental institution. But all faith is not created equal, and in my view, faith in itself is not a virtue. The important thing is the object of one’s faith. A strong belief in noble principles and/or a loving, righteous divine being can lead to all sorts of positive behaviors. People of faith have done a wide assortment of things over the centuries to create a better world. It is important to remember, however, that misguided faith can be just as damaging. A religious extremist who blows himself up is a person of tremendous faith, and faithful fascists, communists, witch hunters, and crusaders, among many others, have also done horrific things throughout history.

Ignoring common sense and decency in the name of faith, therefore, is not something to admire. Not only does it lead to irrational behavior. It also leads to behavior that is fundamentally selfish. When people spent the last couple of months preaching about the coming apocalypse, this was not done, in my view, primarily out of concern for humanity. Instead, it was done so that they could pat themselves on the back for their so-called faith and their coming salvation. Normal people who enjoy healthy interaction with others would not go so out of their way in an effort to make blatant asses of themselves. The faithful, however, are trying to prove their faith by seeking out “persecution.” It’s a classic example of the martyr complex. So the simple truth is that people who are looking forward to the “end times” do not really like this world and most of the people who live in it. They look forward to a time just around the corner when God will solve their problems, judge those sinners who have mocked them, and create a perfect place reserved for the faithful.

If there is a divine judgment coming, I find it hard to believe that God will reward the people who did the best job of defying their common sense. If God has created a world in which we are asked to pass a test of faith that requires us to defy common sense and not demand a reasonable amount of evidence, then he is unjust, and both he and his followers are unworthy of being followed. No wise, just, and compassionate being would be impressed by the ability of people to take a leap of blind faith. If this is what he expects, then we have no reasonable criteria by which we can judge between what is likely true and probably false. Life would be a crapshoot, and one crazy preacher reading from a book of so-called scriptures would be as credible as anyone else.


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    • Mimi721wis profile image

      Mimi721wis 6 years ago

      Titen-Sxull, that's pretty funny. A zombie outbreak. These people just look like nuts.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 6 years ago from back in the lab again

      I have to admit, I want the world to end, not completely mind you I'd just like to fight my way through a zombie outbreak ;)

      In a sense there are two kinds of faith, reasonable and unreasonable. Unreasonable is the sort religious people and alien visitation believers possess. While reasonable faith is the sort you mention in those examples, faith that your Mom loves you or that the meat is in fact beef. Those sorts of things aren't extraordinary and thus don't require as much evidence.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      A very well-written hub ~ containing a lot of common sense! :)

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 6 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Why Gerry, and I hardly know you! in fact, I know nothing about you whatsoever, and you likewise know nothing about me.

      I trusted myself for the first 41 years of my life, and left a trail of devastation behind me, because I believed the fantasy that I could control my life.

      I (and many others) discovered I was wrong, then, having made a mess of things, I sought Gods help, and things slowly got better, and instead of harming folk, I could start helping them.

      Nearly 20 years later, I know that God is to be trusted, and I am not.

      Anyhow, thanks for the mild insult, hope you find your truth one day.

    • Gerry Bern profile image

      Gerry Bern 6 years ago from Brighton, England

      Faith is just something that keeps people happy if they don't trust themselves to make decisions.

      Aguasilver; try reason, it's much more reliable and effective than fantasy.

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 6 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      My faith runs to trusting that God has His best plan for my life and I am the only one who can allow a lesser life to happen to me, if I stop trusting Him.

      I cannot expect to understand the whys and wherefores of Gods plans, just trust that He will bring them to a Romans 8:28 solution for me.

      As for the last farce, what part of 'Nobody knows the time' did he not understand?

      I will hang on watching and praying to be held worthy thank you!

    • Apostle Jack profile image

      Apostle Jack 6 years ago from Atlanta Ga

      Faith is not a virtue.Faith is a thought of something hope for.Virtue is a part of grace like personality,conduct and behavior.

      Love is an emotion like,compassion,anger,joy etc.

      What is most disappointing about the rapture is the fact that a lot of religious people believe what he said,when the bible clearly states that no one knows the day nor the hour.It just goes to show how far away from the bible a lot of people are, even though they profess to know the bible.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 6 years ago

      In my mind, faith is only worthwhile if it leads to love.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      "Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love"

      People of faith need to remember the whole message. Unfortunately so many dont.

      Good Hub. Thank you.

      The world was supposed to end at 1800 hrs GMT on Saturday last. It was only a couple of hours later that I remembered it hadnt. I was too busy doing the things that I believe God wants me to do, i.e living my life as best I can.