Nailing Down “Faith”

Recently, I started to really notice that religious “faith” seems to mean whatever believers want it to mean. We all tend to skim past their nebulous and creative “faiths”, but when you pay attention they quickly become absurd. A variety of believers, possibly unwittingly, actually give ‘faith’ some unique attributes, so I began inquiring about these fringe meanings.  Despite a few promising responses, the majority never clarified their use of ‘faith’ when asked. Consequently, I could only consider the given context, but generally that IS the intent of bloggers and tweeters. Below, I attempted to unpack and interpret the apparent meanings of ‘faith’, as acquired from online sources and established religious texts. The listings are numbered and titled for reader reference, but not for any further organizational purpose.

If after the following facepalm of faith, you find yourself frustrated and need an infusion of reason, I’ve posted over 50 submissions of atheist and skeptic definitions of ‘religious faith’, please visit HERE.

1. Dictionary Faith: “Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.” – I included this definition as a point of comparison, because one would think religious faith AT LEAST starts here.  However, as you’ll see, this entry fails to include so many attributes and abilities, that only the creative faith user could imagine. 

2. Christian Weapon Against Fear: “If you’re a Christian, you’re armed with the most effective weapon available for overcoming fear. It’s your faith!”Oddly, faith here seems to be a CHRISTIAN ONLY tool for dealing with fear and difficulties.  However, just off the top of my head, KNOWLEDGE or maybe trust in friends, would be far superior in reducing fears than ‘trusting in an unproven divinity’.

3. Faith to God Ratio: “The size of your faith is in direct proportion to the size of your God.”This “faith” is somehow meant to be a direct reflection of the infinite existence of God. Amusingly though, this pastor’s quote fails miserably. Faith is needed and used because gods have no presence, no evidence and no apparent “size”… so the quote implies a huge faith is needed because god is tiny or missing! Too funny!

4. The Real Christianity: “The few who faint like school girls over a freaking cup don’t speak for the faith, trust me.”Referencing the November 2016 release of the Starbucks plain red cup, “the faith” is apparently an all encompassing term for “The real Christianity and not what some other Christians think it is” as if anyone could claim that and not look ignorant to the reality of 33,000 denominations. This ends up as just another manifestation of the “no true Scottsman” fallacy.

5. Convincing Yourself: “Prayers are always answered. The key is to pray with faith, knowing and believing that, what you ask for, you already have!”Faith in this context seems to be a form of self convincing or brainwashing. Faith helps convince you that God has already answered prayers. Or rather, you convince yourself that you’ve already been magicked, even if nothing has changed.

6. Promising Truth: Version A.-“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”- Hebrews 11:1:
Another version: B. -“faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
“Faith” in version A. is a promise (assurance) of what is hoped for, but oddly in context it is the promise BY the one believing in what they don’t see. This use of faith is promising oneself that a belief has some truth. How brainwashy! HOWEVER believers say this defines more like “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove“, but that seems a desired interpretation and is somewhat imprecise. In version B, “reality” & “evidence” seem to be claiming faith is “truth”. This also doesn’t fit with the above believer’s interpretation of Hebrews 11:1.

7. Nitrous Oxide “If you have faith when you pray, you will be given whatever you ask for.” – Matthew 21:22As used here, Faith seems to be a straight forward ‘strong conviction in one’s belief’, though in context it appears that prayer results are benefited if you have faith at that moment of prayer, like a nitrous oxide boost in a car. You could have no faith in God before and after prayer and yet… BAM, you still get what you asked for! I know its crazy, but it says it says it’s a “prayer booster”! Notably, this verse turns into a common excuse for prayers failing constantly, as in “he just didn’t have enough faith.”… or enough Nitro, as it were.

8. Faith Does Nothing: “Strong faith in a weak object fails, but even weak faith in a strong object succeeds.”-Pastor Tim KellerIn other words, faith does nothing.  Things are going to do what they do, regardless of faith.  Sounds like prayer.

9. Faith is Soul Stuff: “Keep on praying for faith, it is through prayer that you develop all your wonderful qualities of soul.”The implication here is that faith is an embodiment or the stuff of one’s soul.  Also it seems faith requires upkeep from prayer and as we all know, prayer requires faith.  How oddly circular.

10. Leads to Morality: “My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won’t treat some people better than others.”Having faith in God is clearly the key to having a moral compass for equal treatment.  Therefore, many Christians we know must not have faith in God, considering how badly they treat others at times.  Hey, they wrote it, it must be true.

11. Ignorant Trust: “Faith is trusting God even when you don’t understand his plan.”Simply, faith here is trusting in a higher authority, despite one’s complete ignorance to what is going on.

12. Same as a Sect: “… Rastafari is basically a Christian faith”Faith is doubling as “sect, denomination or cult” in this instance. Nothing snarky from me this time, as I’m just pointing out how the same nebulous word probably wasn’t appropriate.

13. The Faith = God’s Word: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives & especially for members of his household he has denied the faith & is worse than an unbeliever”Aside from ignoring the rest God’s word conflicting with this idea, the author uses “the faith” as something like “the following of God’s word”. “The faith” cant be “Christianity” because not providing for family doesn’t mean you’ve denied your belief and acceptance of Jesus as savior. It has to be more about denying God’s word or the “way of God” maybe.

14. Provable Belief: “Good fight of faith is making faith in God meaningful, provable and enviable in most hopeless environs and conditions.” – The first faith used is more like “Christianity” while the second is “trust, belief and following”. How this second faith is “provable” is beyond me. More word salad, based on crumbled, ambiguous ‘faith’.

15. The Discount Gift From Grace: “For by grace you have been saved through faith… it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Faith here is “belief and acceptance”, specifically being the state of mind which God rewards, as opposed to even the most selfless act of kindness. Go figure, God conflates selfless, good deeds with boasting and ignores them for not being valuable. This exclusion makes God’s gift morally worthless and intellectually insulting. Do you suppose He kept the receipt?

16. No Need For Truth: “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary…” -AquinasAquinas’ faith is defined as the rejection and disregard of all real or true explanations in favor of what is believed. So with faith, you need not care or pursue what’s true.

17. Delusion: “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”-VoltaireThis faith parallels the definition of delusion, especially when ‘beyond reason’ suggests that the belief is not reality. Reread it with ‘delusion’ instead of ‘faith’, you’ll see. YES, I know this famous quote is likely a criticism of religion, but I’ve seen plenty of Christian variations disregarding reason the same way.

18. Pretending You Know: “Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” – Khalil GibranThe faith used here is outright pretending that you know what is not demonstrably known in the slightest.

19. A Soul Nutrient: “Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them.” -Mahalia Jackson – Apparently faith is half of our essential supplements which feed our supernatural self’s well being. Talking to one’s imaginary friend is the other half.

20. Unwarranted Trust: “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” -Oswald Chambers – Deliberate confidence in that which is unseen and unknown… is almost pretending.  But the ultimate meaning comes closest to “unwarranted trust”, due to the mention of the unknown.

21. Knowing the Future “The outcome is uncertain for those who do not believe. #Faith”Faith equals certainty in the future? No, faith based believing simply doesn’t translate to being certain, or to having the truth or the facts. It’s just hoping you’re right, because if you were certain, you would have knowledge, not faith.

22. Magicking: “Faith is seeing what’s beyond.”The author is suggesting that faith is informing us factually what is true, as much as peeking over the fence lets you know what factually is beyond. But this usage of “seeing what’s beyond” truly makes no sense unless faith means something like “magicking” or “Using mental powers”, if we’re is being honest.

23. Supernatural Knowledge: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” -Hebrews 11:3Here, apparently faith feeds you facts leading to “understanding” and a related knowledge, even if such facts are unknowable. So apparently, we now know, by faith, that god has a made the universe from nothing but words.

24. What Feels right: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” -2 cor 5:7Faith might be said to be “trust in God” here. Truly though, by context of the sight reference, it must mean you move forward by non-sighted (or unseen) methods, like trusing in one’s best guesses, by imagination, or more likely, whatever feels right.

25. Reasonable Fear: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” -Hebrews 11:7This faith is belief and action based on evidence, direct testimony and assurances. This doesn’t sound like faith at all, but rather more like a justified fear.

26. Faith Doesn’t Justify Harm: “Terrorism has no faith and knows no boundaries. Our thoughts are with victims & loved ones”He said “terrorism” which is abstract, like “Bullying has no faith”, which can only default to the one bullying and his/her faith. Therefore defaulting to terrorists and their faith seems fair. Since terrorists most often do have some form of religious faith, we have to look at the intended context. The author likely is rejecting or belittling terrorist faith as invalid, such that he means “real faith doesn’t justify such harms”. That’s news to me, as religious faith has no intrinsic moral limitations.

27. Belief Absent Reason: “It comes down to having faith.”Too often this is used by a theist backpedaling in debate, after all their arguments and evidence for God have been refuted. This “faith” means to still believe despite having no justified reason to believe. It’s nothing more than hoping that your baseless belief is correct. And no, it’s not a virtue to say “At least I still believe, now that I have no reason to believe”. No, we have better words to describe that.

28. Anti-Worry: “Worry begins when faith ends. Trust in the plan God has for you. The best way to get through a hard time is to let God guide your path.”This version of “faith” suggests that having faith in God and worrying never coexist in the same person. Absurd.

29. Faith Equals Being Saved: “God responds when He wants. Faith is a gift from Him.”Per the author, this ‘faith’ is a shorthand for “Being saved through faith”. While it looks like a misuse (and I argued such), its an intentional (and confusing) variation.

30. Un-Faith: “AND MY FAITH WILL BE MADE STRONGER IN THE PRESENCE OF MY SAVIOR”This faith is not faith at all! Faith is basically trusting in what is unseen. If you were personally witnessing God and His power, faith would give way to knowledge of God. I honestly don’t know what this is… it is an UN-faith.

31. External to Us: “Faith is the evidence of the hope that lies within us and the substance of things unseen!”Struggling through this word salad… Saying faith is “evidence of hope” isn’t saying that faith is hope, but rather, when you find evidence of hope, THAT EVIDENCE is faith. And “substance of things unseen” could be the “material” of the unseen? Very abstract. Both together indicates that faith is not something we personally would do or have, but some result of other external things. Odd. *Sometimes I laugh at the responses to these “faith salad” posts, when the blind AMENs start coming out!*

32. Gullibility Club: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5aThis is a faith which appears to mean neither religion nor belief, nor truth, but rather something like “correct mental place” or “gullibility club” partially per the context of a test to see if you believe or realize that you are in ‘the faith’.

33. Believing as You Should: “Love for the Sahaba is a sign of faith; hating the Sahaba is a sign of hypocrisy. Let us respect the Sahaba.”One must ask, per the context, why love indicates faith, while hate indicates hypocrisy. This makes little sense unless it is meant to shame or to coerce love for Muhammad’s companions. Faith here seems to be “believing as you should”, so the opposing “hypocrisy” makes sense.

34. Belief Without Trust: “Putting all my trust and faith in god, he’s gotten me through a lot, he needs to help me get through this.”Oddly faith here is accompanied by trust so it logically doesn’t include trust. So perhaps this unusual version refers to plain and simple belief, without trusting in God? I’m sure it could be an oversight, as plenty of believers would reject the implication that faith isn’t also trusting in God. Still, he wrote it and never responded to my queries about the oddity. It stands.

35. Faith Requires Kindness: “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.”-Prophet Muhammad – So this faith (or belief in the oneness of Allah) is contingent upon kindness. Yes *somehow* you can’t believe in Allah without kindness. And doesn’t it sound coercive how an authority can deny your faith because your kindness is lacking? Not only that, the marked cruelty of even moderate Islam doesn’t seem to preclude the required kindness for faith. Go figure.

36. It slices, it dices: “People of faith make better leaders. Because faith gives us humility… faith gives us empathy…faith gives us optimism.”*Get your faith today! It slices, it dices…* Faith is the all-giver apparently, with nothing to back the claims. Just replace all the faiths with “money, stupidity or dizziness” and it all makes just as much sense. Faith also justifies great harm and constant immoral impositions. Let’s not forget those!

37. The Healer: “And He said. “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.” -Luke 8:48CLEARLY faith is a mechanism for magical healing … In verse 46 “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Jesus didn’t do anything, as the faith in verse 48 took and healed with the power. Of course this only happens in the bible, in exagerated testimony and in fraudulent acts on stage. Not to mention that once such a healing happens in Jesus’ presence, it wouldn’t really be faith anymore… its fact and knowledge.

38. Seeing What You Believe: “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” -Saint AugustineThis seems to be defining the ‘joys’ of religious conditioning, which manifests in altered perceptions of reality, via confirmation bias. Its not a reward, it’s saying faith IS seeing what you believe. Disturbingly true, as believers often, for example, see nature as proof of God, when its just biased interpretation.

39. Courage to Believe BS: “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt; it’s fear…”The ONLY way faith resembles courage (an approximate opposite of fear) is perhaps that it takes courage to believe in imaginary friends without evidence. However, since 90% of the world believes that BS too, calling it courage makes little sense. No, faith is arguably more synonymous with believing out of fear and ignorance. Believers might debate that having faith removes fear, but that doesn’t follow what was claimed above.

40. Puppet Strings: “True faith doesn’t depend on political power, military might or economic prowess, but the spiritual power of the Kingdom to change hearts.”This nebulous mess, really says that this “true faith” relies on divine power to change hearts. So, through true faith, God has the power to manipulate us as he desires… like a puppet.

41. Understanding Beyond Science “Faith can accept the contributions of science but then fill in the missing pieces of meaning and understanding.”Faith (a nebulous word for religion here) is apparently an authority like a learned parent, who lets the science children discern their truths and then reveals the rest of the answers, expecting a compliant acceptance. Horseshit. This quote is saying the conclusions of faith give understanding, which is from the family of evidence and truth. Truly, faith leads believers to pretend to understand at best.

42. Undetectable Faith “The devil may be trying to break me but he doesn’t know I have the faith that God will make everything ok for me.”This is the first time I’ve ever heard that Satan is unable to recognize when people have faith in God. Heck, I know this guy has faith! Doesn’t Satan have twitter?

43. Knowing That God Directs You “Faith is accepting that you may not understand everything but knowing that God will direct you to what He wants for your life.” – So now faith is ‘knowing’ that god will direct you? Therefore you also must ‘know’ that God exists? Knowing is strong language, relying on factual confirmation. ‘Knowing’ is having a verified truth. The irresponsibility of using ‘knowing’, when ‘believing’ was the appropriate word, is staggering. But you said it, I guess it’s true.

*     *    *

I hope you found my exploration of all this “faith salad” somewhat enlightening or amusing. Now please go enjoy some serious reasoning by the other half, HERE! Over 50 submissions by atheists, humanists and skeptics, all defining ‘religious faith’. After the above mess of ‘faith’, that post’s content will prove quite refreshing and clever.
Thanks for reading! -Artie


When Believers Say They Have “Experiences”

The following is how I tend to respond to believers citing their own personal experiences as valid evidence for supporting their god beliefs.  Since believers often resort to other fallacious arguments surrounding this concept, I have included those refutations as well.  The numbers merely allow quick reference when directing somebody to read a particular response.

1.  “I have personal experiences and amazing visions and realize god’s miracles. I know he is real because God revealed himself to me.”  – So you  claim to know that God is real, but still have nothing to demonstrate it (especially to yourself), despite your divine connection. You instead cite subjective feelings, experiences and mysteries as evidence, but always fail to show that a god caused any of it, let alone that it’s even supernatural!  There’s NO indication that your experiences aren’t naturally occurring events.  Our brains are not fully understood and may be capable of more than we realize… especially with a coercive environment.  Even if your experience were supernaturally manipulated, how did you verify, with a merely natural brain, that its not a deception?

2.  “How else do you explain vivid and insightful visions, miracles of terminal patients recovering instantly, the design in the universe, life coming from non-life and the universe coming from nothing, if not from an omnipotent intelligence?”Concluding that your God did it by citing the lack of answers for mysteries, is called an argument from ignorance.  It doesn’t logically follow that your imagined answer is right.  BESIDES did you appropriately research ALL the potential natural forces in the universe to be able to legitimately dismiss them as causes?  No, obviously not, but lets say you did… Okay, you’ve OMNISCIENTLY discerned, tested and dismissed ALL NATURAL FORCES in the universe as being the causes of your miracles, experiences and mysteries. Now you officially have no answer within the known universe, yet you still can’t conclude your one God even exists.  All you can say is “It could be faeries, intelligent ectoplasm or maybe one of those god myths.” …but the fact is there’s a universe of natural possibilities which you have willfully or blindly skipped over to arrive at an utterly unproven supernatural conclusion.  By the way, who confirmed that your experiences are indeed from the source you claim they are? … and how do they know?

3.  “If you’re wrong though, then the feelings, experiences and visions would be direct information from God and you are not taking it seriously!”IF it were supernatural in origin (which isn’t evidenced at all), the believer is merely the viewer of events and visions which s/he was permitted to see.  Not unlike a movie, the content NEED NOT indicate the truth about anything.  Its laughable to say that the visions must be reflecting reality or that it must be telling you about the sender!  Utter nonsense.  Would a vision depicting the Faerie King verify, in any way, that the Faerie King was real?  Of course not.  Even if you KNEW 100% that these sources were supernatural (and you absolutely don’t) you would be believing, worshiping and loving ONLY what you have been fed and have verified nothing about the sender.  The TRUTH is that unexplained visions, experiences and miracles could all have natural explanations, but you have prematurely and irresponsibly dismissed this likelihood in favor your favorite magical one.  The real concern here is… Why would you, an intelligent person, let anonymous and unverifiable messages dictate a truth to you, when they could easily be false?

4.  “You don’t know and can’t prove that experiences, visions and miracles ARE NOT God’s doing.  How do you know I’m not right?”Mostly because you simply guessed about the sender/causer based on your family’s, community’s and country’s influence of popular god myths, with zero validating evidence.  You probably relied on stories, authority figures or even historical conclusions to decide what your experiences and/or mysteries are revealing.  Further, your choice is merely one myth of thousands, while you conveniently and baselessly have excluded the possibility of natural causes (which are the only verified type of causes).  So its a joke that you attempt to justify your choice as anything but ignorant and blind.  You are much more likely to be wrong than, by chance, happen to be close to correct. 

Ultimately, YOU have made a claim and I challenge you to show the evidence that you are correct. Believers often say “Atheists can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, so I can still believe.”  but their claim still remains unproven and their belief unjustified.  Not being able to prove that the Faerie King doesn’t exist, lends no evidence of him existing and provides no justification for believing in him.

5.  “Why do you try to force me to abandon my faith?  It’s a form of oppression!  Don’t you believe I have the right to believe?”  – The reason most atheists, secularists and some theists even bother to debate stubborn believers is because dogmatic ideas and laws, based on faith alone, threaten the well being of innocent people.  Yes you may not be imposing the harmful dogma in question, but until you reject the validity of religious faith, you are at least in part supporting those who would impose by it.  This unfortunate situation regarding the imposing tendencies of religion arguably requires a reality check.  Enter the atheist, humanist, secularist and concerned theists to challenge the validity of stubborn, insistent believers and their religion.  And NO, its not oppression to question ridiculous ideas and to try to inspire changes through reason.  It’s dishonest to say we are forcing you to ditch your faith, when you are just being asked to think about your belief.  So, please understand the stakes and put forth some real evidence that your God exists and his inspired word is valid, or think about leaving it all on the curb.

6.  “God is beyond our perceptions, measurements and tests.  Doubters want to use human senses and empirical methods to verify God, but he is beyond such things.”  – If He’s in-perceivable in every human way, that’s the same thing as believing in and worshiping NOTHING!  Correct, God and Nothingness would therefore be indistinguishable from each other!  Further, any believer saying this is admitting that believers have zero evidence justifying their belief in God.  Worse for you, it also means that not believing in gods, (the atheist position) is the only justified position.  Well done.

Alternately, defending your lack of evidence by claiming God doesn’t leave evidence, is saying that miracles, visions, disasters and the whole universe IS NOT evidence of your God.  Care to revise your position?

7.  “You won’t know or prove God’s existence until you open your heart to Him.”  – So let me get this straight. You now contradict your position by revising God’s utter imperceptibility with the simple fix of having an open heart and just believing in him?!  So… to see “evidence” of God, I have to IGNORE the glaring LACK of empirical evidence for God, by SUPPRESSING my perfectly justified skepticism and disbelief?  Then I have to BLINDLY believe some virally popular myth and open my mind to it… for no reason other than your word?  Yes, let the brainwashing begin as follows:  I am to be compelled to accept the “truth” suggested by my family and community and not question it.  The more I blindly accept those stories of experiences, visions and miracles, the more likely my own brain will interpret events in that way.  My conditioned brain is even being primed to let me have visions of my own, which will likely relate to my constantly reinforced beliefs!  The evidence contradicting my belief system would be mentally compartmentalized and explained away by authority figures and fallacious arguments.  My position becomes solidified more and more until rational people sound absurd to me… just like atheists challenging beliefs based on somebody’s word with zero evidence.  No thanks.  That ploy may work on children and the emotionally needy, but I prefer to NOT open myself up to coercive influences and baseless claims.  If a god did make us, then he would expect us to use our advanced reasoning abilities to stay clear of such obvious manipulations.  As an atheist and skeptic I see right through your position for what it is… a baseless and outdated belief system.

Thanks for reading, @FreeAtheism on Twitter

Claim: “God answers my prayers all the time.”

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