Faith Is IrrationalApril 20, 2011
Faith in God is irrational. There I said it… Now take a deep breath, and relax… It’ll all be OK. Breath in. Breath out… Good.
Now that you got past my somewhat sensationalistic first sentence, let me be upfront about what this blog post is NOT about. It’s not about God’s existence and it’s not about Christian vs. Atheist. The goal is not to convince someone to change their belief system. I’m hoping that this article will shed some insight on something that Christians take for granted, and therefore tend to loose perspective on. While primarily written for Christians, even Atheists might learn a thing or two.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines faith as “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”, and this is my preferred definition. I think that most of us would accept that definition, but disagree on what constitutes proof. After all, what convinces one person might not convince another.
What constitutes proof for me lies in the Scientific Method. In a nutshell, the Scientific Method is a way to prove a hypothesis in a way that’s immune from human interference. In a previous post, Bad Witness! No Cookie!, I talked about how the human brain and senses can mess with what we think is the truth. This makes anecdotal evidence very untrustworthy. Using the Scientific Method is the best way to avoid human error in generating and interpreting data– thus solidly proving or disproving a hypothesis.
So, logic follows that for me: faith is the belief in something for which the scientific method cannot provide proof.
At this point, some Christians are probably ready to burn me at the stake. Others would probably picket my house with hateful signs. Before you start sharpening the pitchforks and lighting the torches, lets look at what does the Bible actually say about this.
Hebrews 11:1– Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
John 20:29– Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
So in these two passages, the Bible establishes that faith is the belief in something we can’t see (i.e., don’t have proof) and that this kind of faith is a good thing.
It is interesting that humans, on a whole, have a mixed up sense of proof. For some things, like nuclear power and medicines, we want absolute proof that something is safe– and sometimes even that is not enough. But other things, like, oh, say, eternal life, we are willing to take anecdotal evidence as “proof”. To me, this is illogical. (Please note, I’m not saying it’s wrong. Just illogical.)
My definition of the word irrational is something that is not logical. In my opinion, faith in the God of the Bible is not logical and therefore is irrational.
Saying that faith in God is irrational is not the same as saying that faith in God is bad. The world is a huge place, and each individual cannot be an expert in absolutely everything. At some point we must believe in something that we can’t prove. But admitting that faith in God is irrational has some interesting and far reaching effects.
Many Christians are determined to show that proof of God exists. They write all these scientific-sounding articles and papers in an attempt to make people believe. But if faith is the belief in something without proof, then what does that say about their faith? Maybe they are compensating for their lack of faith! And what does that say about those who convert because of this “proof”? The reality is that there has been zero scientific proof of God’s existence, and anyone who has tried to scientifically prove God’s existence has only made fools of themselves and Christians in general.
In a previous post, What Would It Take, I discuss a simple question to ask yourself and others when you get into a discussion. What would it take to change your or my mind? If the answer is, “Nothing can change my mind”, then the discussion will not be productive (in the sense of coming to an agreement).
When a Christian tries to evangelize, he/she is at an intellectual disadvantage. When the non-Christian is asked what would it take, the reply should be “scientific proof”. Which we know that the Christian cannot provide. When the Christian is asked what would it take, due to faith his answer is usually, “nothing can change my mind”. So each side in this discussion cannot sway the other side, and thus the discussion cannot be productive. But the Christian has taken the irrational side, for better or worse.
So where does that leave Christians? Between a rock and a hard place! To have faith you must admit to being irrational. To share your faith you have to own up to being illogical. To defend your faith you must risk being fool. I have no resolution for this. It is what it is. The one saving grace is that most people in this world are irrational, illogical, and foolish so you’ll be in good company.