This is the final part of a 3-part guest post by long-time commenter Richard S. Russell. Read part 1 here.
This analysis of decision making brings me to my take-home point: faith sucks.
Faith is the world’s worst possible decision-making method.
Nobody ever uses faith to decide anything that really matters. You wouldn’t rely on faith to pick out a used car or your kid’s college or even what brand of soap to use.
For sure nobody—no, not the most ardent fundamentalist—would slap on a blindfold, put sealing wax in his ears, and rely on faith to decide when it’s safe to cross a busy highway.
No, the only time faith ever gets trotted out as a justification for anything is when there’s absolutely no other justification whatsoever. Nobody ever uses faith when there’s a better decision-making method available.
Not surprisingly, then, faith is the primary thing cited by preachers for why you should mortgage your brain to buy the huge crock of, let us say, fertilizer that they’re peddling. What else can they point to? Reason? Evidence? Common sense? Hardly.
Centuries ago, Christian leaders must have realized that they had an uphill struggle to get people to believe the enormous whoppers they were trying to sell. So they decided to back the process up a step and, instead of touting the conclusions they were pushing, speak glowingly of the process by which they arrived at those conclusions. That is, nobody in her or his right mind was likely to believe, from a standing start, that anyone would be able to change water into wine. But, soften them up ahead of time by conning them into thinking that faith is a wonderful thing, then the whole water-into-wine thing becomes an exercise in faith, “… and didn’t you already say you were one of the faithful?”
To give credit where it’s due, Christian charlatans—with aid from the rack, the thumbscrew, and the stake—have been hugely successful in their efforts to create a wholly undeserved good reputation for faith. Lutherans name their churches after it. Musicians write hymns of praise to it. Proud parents name their baby girls after it. It’s entered the popular lexicon in phrases like “Keep the faith, baby!” and “Ya gotta have faith.” (though nobody ever explains exactly why).
Perhaps the most widely quoted such phrase is “Faith can move mountains.” This cliché is always intoned with great solemnity, and everyone in the vicinity is expected, as a matter of social convention, to nod knowingly, as if some great and profound truth has just been uttered. It’s considered unutterably rude to do what I always do, namely ask “Oh yeah? Name one example!” Having hard reality intrude into the socially approved delusional circle jerk of mountain-moving faith is something that is Not Done In Polite Society.
Oh, please. Get over it. Look, let’s put it this way. If you and I were to sit down on opposite sides of a table, and I were to point out a speck of dust on that table, and you mustered all the faith at your disposal—maybe even called in old markers of faith that you’d lent out to your friends—do you think you could get that grain of dust to so much as twitch? Of course not. You know better. Faith can’t do squat. If it can’t move a speck of dust, whence cometh this grandiose claim about mountains?
Well, here’s my unresearched take on it. I think it’s a classic example of what stage magicians call “misdirection” and what street hustlers call “the old switcheroo.” It’s akin to advertising puffery, which no thinking person takes seriously. “Cleaner than clean”? Say what? But mindless ideas like that are evidently effective on the unthinking, which is why they continue to get used.
Same deal with references to faith. Preachers bundle it together with truly admirable virtues, such as hope and charity, expecting their favorite scam to benefit from good associations. And, as George Orwell warned in his essay on NewSpeak at the end of 1984, they also use “faith” where the proper term is “trust” or “confidence,” trying to trick the gullible into thinking of them as synonyms.
But war is not peace. Slavery is not freedom. Ignorance is not strength. Faith is not trust, nor confidence, nor even hope. Faith is the decision-making technique of last resort, the bottom of the barrel when it comes to reliability, the “F” on the report card of worldly wisdom.
As I said, nobody ever uses faith for anything that actually matters—and certainly not for anything that can be tested, let alone measured. It’s the pernicious basis of not only religion, with all its attendant evils, but also homeopathy, astrology, objectivism, ufology, conspiracy theories, climate-change denial, false accusations of ritual satanic child abuse, anti-vax movements, a host of superstitions, personality cults, jingoism, imperialism, racism, quackery, Chinese traditional “medicine,” feng shui, and the insidious brain parasite that leads people to endlessly obsess over anyone named Kardashian.
Frankly, you have to be an idiot to take anything on faith.
As it happens, billions qualify.
See also: “Faith, the Other F-Word”
Christians are obsessed with the lifelong goal
of earning permission to move back
into their heavenly father’s house and live on his dime,
yet we’re the ones who need to grow up.
— commenter TheBookOfDavid
Image credit: U.S. Army Photography Contest, flickr, CC