First, I want to say that I appreciate that fact that you have some desire to understand how I came to have my particular worldview. Not everyone in the family is interested. Many, as you once did, claim that there is no point to having the discussion if no one is willing to abdicate their position. I claim that discussion has value beyond the prospect of changing minds. There is value to understanding. It is meaningless for one to say that one disagrees with a position when one has not taken the time to understand that position. And, I appreciate the fact that you have taken that time and expressed sincere interest in understanding. It is likely that you and I may never come to any agreement on any particular issue, but the discussion is worth having nonetheless.
As to faith: If one truly believes that one has a soul, a spirit, an atman (however one chooses to refer it) that is separate and distinct from the physical body; and if one truly believes that this soul continues to exist after the physical death of the body, continues to exist in an eternal afterlife; and if one truly believes that what one does, thinks, and believes in this life determines the disposition of one’s soul in the afterlife, i.e. heaven, hell, purgatory, paradise, etc.; if one truly believes these things … with so much at stake, with so much riding on the fact, with the consequences so dire … then how can one leave that to faith? How can one not investigate all options, examine all evidence, and consider all facts when contemplating the disposition of one’s own soul? The problem is that there are no facts, there is no evidence, and all other options rely solely on faith.
Faith is not a virtue. Faith is the bastion of those with no evidence to support their claims.
It has been suggested that religious faith is not faith in a god as much as it is faith in the book that defines that god. It is faith in the people who wrote the book thousands of years ago. It is faith in the people who have faith in the book. The basis of all religious faith is faith in the people who wrote the doctrine, faith that they knew what they were writing about. The truth is, the people who wrote the book, and the people who have faith in the people who wrote the book, don’t know any more about a god, a soul, and an afterlife than anyone else does living or dead, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, believer or non-believer.
Having once subscribed to faith, I understand it’s appeal. But, being more interested in the truth rather than belief … truth that can be substantiated … I find faith to be the ultimate submission to willful ignorance. Even among those who have religious faith, in no other area of their life do they operate on the basis of faith. Think about in what other areas of your life you rely on faith. Are there any? When you’re sick, do you have faith that you’ll be healed, or do you see a doctor. Do you have faith that the doctor knows what he is doing, or have you evidence that he knows what he is doing?
Note, there is a marked distinction between faith and trust. Trust is confidence based on evidence. Faith is confidence based on nothing. Many times people confuse faith and trust. Some have even remarked to me that everyone relies on faith everyday, and the example given was driving my car over a bridge and having “faith” that the bridge will not collapse. However, this is a confusion of faith and trust. One does not have faith driving over the bridge, one has trust … trust based on the evidence that thousands of cars drive over that bridge on a daily basis, evidence that the building standards require the bridge to support that traffic, evidence that I have driven over that bridge many times before. That is trust based on evidence, which is not faith. So, again, I ask in what other areas of your life are you willing to act on faith? If I know you as well as I think I do, then the answer is absolutely none … or, if there are any areas, then they are those without any consequences.
Once again, having investigated no other options and with your eternal soul at stake, how can you be comfortable relying on faith? Faith is not a virtue, it is the willful abdication of one’s soul to someone else’s claim that they have more information about the afterlife than you do … which is decidedly not the case.