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Thoughts on Faith and Reason

By Ben Love ~

I think a worthy question to ask yourself is this: What is your methodology for arriving at philosophical and spiritual conclusions? Is your methodology neutral? Does it have its own investment in your conclusion? Does your methodology include a pre-established bias? And if so, can you really, truthfully say that your conclusions, whatever they may be, were formed responsibly? Did you have a premise through which you filtered the evidence, or did you let the evidence form your premise? This is an important question for anyone on the road toward truth. How do you determine truth? You must have a methodology by which you do this; otherwise, you’re not really doing anything but shooting the shit about “possibilities.” If you truly want to know if there is a God or isn’t one, which religion is right (if any), what the truth is, and how to reach it, then do this: remove all the premises. Do not filter the evidence through anything. Let it be whatever it is. Let it say whatever it is saying. Go where it leads. And let the evidence form your premise rather than letting your premise infect the evidence. That is the best methodology, because it is the most responsible. Oh, and by the way, there is a name for this kind of methodology. It’s called Reason.

Faith, on the other hand, may be helpful to the one possessing it, may make him feel good and fulfilled, and may engender a sense of peace and security within him—all of which is totally fine—but one thing it is not is responsible. I cannot be. No matter how much you might value your faith, it cannot be responsible. Why not? Faith, by its very nature, is invested with your personal feelings on any given matter. If the matter in question is something intangible like God, then your faith is not impartial. It is biased. It exists because you have chosen for it to exist, and thus it will work to preserve itself, or you will work to preserve it. You therefore can no longer look at any issue objectively if you are wearing your faith lens. And this is the very heart and soul of intellectual irresponsibility.

Reason asks for evidence. Faith, by definition, doesn’t need evidence. If it did, it wouldn’t be faith. After all, faith is defined as a belief in something for which there is no justifiable proof. If proof existed, we’d be talking about a “fact,” not “faith.” Therefore, you cannot have both faith and evidence; you can only have one or the other. Thus, faith is based on a foundation other than evidence. What is that foundation? Through my research, I found that foundation to be composed of personal interest, emotional need, societal expectations, religious fervor, the transmission of faulty information, selective bias, private agendas, inherited traditions, theological indoctrination (what you might call good, old-fashioned brainwashing), and, at times, fear. I don’t say these things to insinuate that anyone possessing religious faith is proceeding from an errant starting point; I only mean to assert that since faith is not and cannot be based on an evidential foundation, it must be based on something else, and that “something else” is usually invested with much more dubious set of motives. 

Reason, on the other hand, is neutral. It has no biases. It has no agendas. There are no personal interests at stake. Reason simply says, “Here is the data, be responsible with it.” As such, reason is impartial. It doesn’t have any investment in the outcome of your investigation. It does not hope to sway you in one direction over another. It doesn’t seek to preserve itself by influencing your conclusions. It is therefore far more responsible than faith.

And what does faith really point to outside the individual mind? When you die, your faith dies with you, since your faith is something that is happening within the synapses of your own brain. It has no permanence outside of your individual existence. The Universe existed before you and your faith appeared on the scene, and it will exist when you and your faith have vanished. Truth, on other hand, if it is exists at all, is eternal. Truth is what it is regardless who is here to believe it or even recognize it. Put ten different scientists in a room and you might still have some differing conclusions, but you at least have ten people all moving in the same direction, following the evidence where it would lead, observing the measurable facts, and coming to some sort of cohesive understanding. Science has persevered because scientists, by and large, are coming together in unity, usually arriving at the same or at least at close conclusions. And this is exactly what you would expect with truth. If truth is observable and discernible, you would expect differing people all across the board to basically arrive at the same conclusion. But with an untruth, you would expect all sorts of crazy and varying conclusions, which is exactly what you have with religious faith.

Reason, therefore, is safer. It is surer. It is worthier of attention because reason leads the way. With faith, our predisposed conceptions of what our faith is already in leads the way, and that is dangerous.

Regarding these matters, a friend of mine recently said to me that my conclusions are just as biased as his are. You know what? He is absolutely correct. Any conclusion is, by definition, biased. Why? Because if you concluded something at all, you must be biased that you had a reason to do so. The question is not whether a conclusion is biased or not, because all conclusions are biased. The question is this: When was the bias was formed? Did you start with it and then filter the evidence through it? Or did you let the evidence form the bias? Those are your only two options. And one is worthier than the other, because it is more responsible than the other

Faith [...] may be helpful to the one possessing it [...], but one thing it is not is responsible. And that is really what it's all about: being responsible, keeping your personal investments out of the matter. After all, if you start with “I believe in God,” and then examine the evidence, isn’t it possible that you will view the evidence through the lens of your premise, the lens of your faith? If, however, you start with “I neither believe nor disbelieve in God; I am merely curious at this point,” and then you examine the evidence, isn’t it far likelier that you will arrive at the correct conclusion since you have no motive for arriving at one over other? 

These were the concepts that I began to wrestle with in the days just before my de-conversion. I finally, fully knew that religious faith was bankrupt, shipwrecked, and the sole source of all my spiritual woes over the years. I had been caught in a cycle of belief that never took me anywhere because there was nowhere to go. This is because faith wants to be preserved. The very idea of something being preserved seems to imply a kind of stagnation, a “don’t rock the boat” mentality. There is no room for evolution, for molting, for graduating from one sphere of knowledge into another. No, faith demands that you stay plugged into that object in which it is placed, even if you have no proof of that object to begin with. Faith is therefore, in a sense, the termination of all creative questions and inquisitive musings. Faith simply says, “This is how it is, accept it. Do not ask why. Do not seek a better explanation. Do not ask if there is proof. Just accept it and write off your doubts as useless distractions. No other answer is forthcoming.”