Is Faith Dangerous? A Question for Believers...

by AllTimeJeff 85 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • AllTimeJeff

    I hope this will be as respectful a debate as possible. Here is the premise: many of us (most) seem to be ex JW's on this board. That means, whatever your motivation, for a time you bought into the theology of JW to one degree or another. Doubtless, we all had to have some faith in an unseen god, believing that he has revealed himself through the bible....

    Since that time, (if you have left) you have re-examined what you believe, and why you do so. Many still believe in god upon leaving, others feel that they either can't or shouldn't. For my part, I consider myself an agnostic, and by that, I mean that I haven't yet ruled out god, but have seen no evidence put forth that would persuade me to believe in god. Does it matter what one believes or not? Do we have the right to believe whatever we choose to?

    I would argue that we do not, esp if one believes and then ACTS based on beliefs that are indefensible and dangerous. That is what I want to talk about. I read Sam Harris book, "The End of Faith" several months ago, and am getting ready to purchase "Letter to a Christian Nation." I think that his arguements are very solid and respectful. After several months of thought, I do believe that his suggestion of a world that is no longer divided by religion truly is mans best hope in a time of terrorism and war. (btw, if you have read much of what Harris has to say, you will probably recognize much of what I write below as his arguements, but I think the arguements themsevles are so powerful that they merit some discussion for those leaving JW's)

    His arguement, which I agree with, is that religous moderates are as much to blame for the fundamentalists and extremists that cause so much damage today. Moderates will acknowledge that they cannot defend everything they put faith in. Since most people consider themselves religous and Christian, they have no choice but to accept many propositions on the basis of faith. They were born and raised in a theological tradition that profoundly affects them on at least some level. But these believers are also moderates, so for example, they will not keep women down and deny them their civil rights, (rights that were denied to them until the 20th century because of religous traditions found in the bible...) or propose that disrespectful children be stoned to death, or that someone who commits fornication be stoned, as Dueteronomy commands. Why don't they obey the bible in these cases? Because it is offensive and non sensical. Could anyone who is a believer today make an arguement for stoning of children or that women should be viewed as the property of their husbands? Yet, you can't argue that it isn't in the bible. But moderates will disobey this passage out of a sense of enlightenment. What about other untestable claims that the bible and other holy books claim? What scrutiny and testing are they held to? That is a key question to me.

    I think a good way to illustrate the power and danger of faith is what we see in the religion of Islam. For sure, there are moderates, esp in the West, who condemned tge 9/11 attatcks. But look at the terrorists and the jihadists themselves. Even Bin Laden. These aren't stupid, dumb, men. They are educated, often in the West, with billions of dollars. What caused them to hate the West, give up their fortunes, kill themselves and give up their fortunes and comfortable life? Their own holy book, the Koran. What caused 19 men on 9/11 to kill themselves and 3000 others? FAITH in a concept from an ancient book that gave them license to do what they do. FAITH that at the time of their death they would live again and have several dozen virgins take care of their every need in heaven..... Of course, Christianity has no freeness of speech here. They might be 3-500 years ahead of Islam, but it wasn't that long ago that because of their own peculiar faith and understanding in the bible, we had witch burnings, book burnings, and the supression of free and scientific thought (as Galileo famously experienced), all because of FAITH in an ancient book that described god exisiting in a certain way..... What about Christian terrorists today, who feel totally free to kill homosexuals or bomb the occasional abortion clinic. Why? What could motivate them to do such things? They are just as rephrehesible as Islamic Terrorists. And of course, you have to have your head in the ground to be unaware that the current Pres of the USA is so resolute because he has FAITH that the actions of the USA in the fight against terror is approved by Jesus.... WHAT? WHY?

    I highlight FAITH because frankly, what other reason is there to belive that Muhammed flew away to heaven on the back of a horse, or that Jesus was born of a virgin, died for our sins, was resurrected, and will return to judge the earth? People believe in such things for a variety of reasons, but why? Isn't it a fact that we all assimilate the faith and culture of our land of birth? We have to be honest and say that if we were born in the middle east, we would likely be Muslim, and many of us would probably in all sincerity think Islam was THE way, and that Christians were pagan, desrving of death through Jihad. Those of middle eastern descent who are born here in the west and absorb western culture, values, and religous beliefs, so they too believe in the cause of the USA against terrorism...... Other then the accident of ones birth, how can one quantify claims to faith and truth? Look at the damage it causes.

    I look forward to a lively debate on this. I think about it often. Please note that it is not my intention to attack believers, but rather, to ask believers to defend their beliefs. I hope that it will not be taken personally. I leave here with a quote from Harris that I hope will further stimulate this discussion. Thanks!

    "It is time we conceded a basic fact of human discourse: Either people have good reasons for what they believe, or they do not. When they have good reasons, their beliefs contribute to our growing understanding of the world. We need not distinguish between "hard" and "soft" sciences here, or between science and other evidence-based disciplines, like history. There happen to be very good reasons to believe that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Consequently, the idea that the Egyptians actually did it lacks credibility. Every sane human being recognizes that to rely merely on "faith" to decide specific questions of historical fact would be both idiotic and grotesque-that is, until the conversation turns to the origin of books like the Bible and the Koran, to the resurrection of Jesus, to Muhammad's conversation with the angel Gabriel, or to any of the other hallowed travesties that still crowd the altar of human ignorance.
    Science, in the broadest sense, includes all reasonable claims to knowledge about ourselves and the world. If there were good reasons to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that Muhammad flew to Heaven on a winged horse, these beliefs would necessarily form part of our rational description of the universe. Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe such propositions when reasons fail. The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments and a passionate unwillingness to do so. The distinction could not be more obvious, or more consequential, and yet it is everywhere elided, even in the ivory tower."
  • Narkissos

    One of my favourite topics.

    As I have said here a number of times, I believe every remedy is also a poison (two of many meanings of the word pharmakos). What is not potentially harmful cannot be helpful.

    But imo the potential good or bad of faith has little if anything to do with a belief being true or wrong. You can be a nice, kind and helpful person with absurd beliefs, and a dreadful inquisitor with correct beliefs.

  • RAF
    Narkissos : But imo the potential good or bad of faith has little if anything to do with a belief being true or wrong. You can be a nice, kind and helpful person with absurd beliefs, and a dreadful inquisitor with correct beliefs.


    Since faith is a personnal thing - to me it should stay as a philosophy forme seen from outside.
    The fanatics are Dangerous in many ways

  • JamesThomas

    If we worship as the "most high" an image of a god which kills, then the highest morals set before us are extremely low and very dangerous. It's a small step for us to kill in the name of our ruthless little deity.



    Depends what you put faith in !!

    There is a saying Put faith in the dentist when he say's this is not going to hurt!!!!


  • AllTimeJeff

    Interesting thought Narkissos. I believe that all remedies are poison when they needlessly follow the same premise. If insanity is doing the same things over and over again expecting different results, then it is clear that to look to faith based intitiatives to solve complex social problems and war isn't likely to get us very far. That being the case, if all the remedies have been based on faith and religion, (and I think you can make that arguement) then it is time for a broader, inclusive world view, one that desgnates and relegates religion of any stripe, belief and faith of any stripe as subordinate at best.

    My question continues to be, what criteria do you subject your beliefs and faith system? The fact that a nice person may have absurd beliefs doesn't make his beliefs any less absurd. Nor does it suggest that a person acting "nicely" in one context will turn into an "un-nice" person in a different circumstance.

    The fact that there are people who don't believe in god or lack faith in religion and yet engage in criminal activities doesn't mean that they are wrong to not believe that god doesn't exist. The purpose of this thread isn't to highlight divisions as to what people believe or to charecterize them. Rather, it is simply to put belief and faith under a microscope, get under the hood, and find out what reasons believers have for believing, and if these reasons stand up to scrutiny, worthy of being believed.

  • nicolaou

    Voltaire said something like; "Doubt is not a pleasant state of mind, but certainty is a ridiculous one."

    It seems to me that faith - religious faith - tends to breed certainty. Certainty that there is a purpose to life, a meaning to existence, that we are here for a reason. Certainty that the 'righteous' will be rewarded and the 'sinners' punished. Certainty that a form of divine justice will see to it that things will all work out in the end.

    Bull pats!

    Faith is an absolute necessity in so many areas, within a relationship, during times of personal stress, when a doctor tells you he's doing all he can for your loved one. But religious faith is dangerous. It fosters this unhealthy certainty that suppresses the impulse to take care of the problem for oneself.

    Don't throw your burden on the Lord, share it with me and your fellow human travellers.

  • AllTimeJeff

    Hello RAF. I want to use a comment that you made to illustrate a point and ask a question:

    Since faith is a personnal thing - to me it should stay as a philosophy forme seen from outside .
    The fanatics are Dangerous in many ways

    Faith is personal, until someone acts on the precepts of their faith. Whether islamic jihadists, abortion clinic bombers, homosexual bashers, or even the turning down of blood based medicine by JW's, faith as I just demonstrated is never personal, it always seems to be inflicted and enforced. If a political party is more identified as having faith, like is what happening within the Republican party in the USA, can we in all intellectual honesty make the claim that THEIR faith is PERSONAL? Isn't the opposite true, that they are ENFORCING their faith on others?

    What if religous moderates admitted: "In all honesty, we have no clue whether Jesus was born of virgin, other then the fact that these old scrolls tell us that." Then the fundamentalists would have no curtain to hide behind. They always had as their arguement, "Its in the bible." But because no one holds the claims the bible makes to the same standards we use to accept belief in anything else, the fundamentalists get a free pass. "We just need to have faith." Thus, the extremists hide behind the fact that most people believe, but the believers don't know for sure why...

    If muslims around the world would say "In all honesty, the conversion of Muhammed is unproveable, other then the fact that the Koran says it happned, and the fact that we mistreat women all over the world by the millions and treat them as property is immoral. We need to examine our beliefs and see if they stand up to scrutiny." Where would Bin Laden hide behind? He would have no allies, and it would 1000 times easier to arrest him for his murderous crimes.... You would have hundreds of millions of women who would be able to contribute as world citizens. It is often the ones who are oppressed who make the greatest strides in the world when it comes to human rights and living conditions, because they understand, they haven't been living the high life. What a great thing that would be.

    But we won't have that as long as religion of any stripe enforces ancient, immoral ideas that keep people down and enforces discriminatory ideas. The fact that moderates have pruned a few discrininatory ideas doesn't get rid of the rest of them. Why should we believe in such a circumstance? It doesn't promote world citizenship, it promotes a narrow minded view of the world that puts millions of people down without any rights whatsoever. That is the legacy of faith, right?

  • BlackSwan of Memphis
    BlackSwan of Memphis

    Faith in a higher power of sorts (fill in defnition of your choice) is not dependant on any holy book.

    Before holy books there was faith. Was it absurd? Depends on how you define absurd. To them it was not. To millions who practice earth based religions be it a form of celtic paganism or Native American spirituality, faith is based on the certainity that is found in the cycles of life and death and rebirth. Is that absurd?

    I don't think so.

    Faith in itself is not dangerous. It just is a matter of what you have faith in. A Christian can claim to have faith in the Bible as the word of God and be a murdering, son of a bitch asshole. On the other hand, a person who claims to be a Christian can read the works and teachings of Jesus as expressed through the various gospels and come to the conclusion that peace with neighbor (yes that teaching is in there) is the only way and be antiwar. I know several Christians who are anti war and are peaceful, beleiving that there are many ways to God not just one. Does that go against the Bible? Don't think so myself, but that is one belief. So is faith in the form of Christianity dangerous? Would the world be a better a place without it?

    There are hundreds, maybe thousands of Christians who take seriously the notion of love thy neighbor and go out of their way to serve their fellowman, out of faith in Jesus. Is this a bad thing? The same goes for each form of religion and faith. It can be good and bad.

    In my most humble opinion, there will never be a world without evil or good, because each define the other. And for some, faith is what helps them through the dark days of their life. To take that away could be defined as evil.

    It's a very very mad world - gary jules

  • AllTimeJeff

    Dear Blackswan,

    Some comments on your reply:

    Faith in a higher power of sorts (fill in defnition of your choice) is not dependant on any holy book.

    Over 2 billion alone believe in Christianity or Islam precisely because of a holy book. While theoretically, what you say is possible, from an honest look at those who have faith, they all base it on religous books. Would Christians know to venerate Jesus if the bible didn't say to do this? The fact that a higher power could exist is not an excuse to put faith in it just because it would be nice. It would make me feel better if I told myself over and over again that I have buried treasure in my backyard that I have never seen, but I am sure that it is there. If I really believed that and put faith in it, that would make my day. Is it right to believe so? Am I justified in doing so? Am I justified in thinking that god exists simply because I am alive? It might make me feel better, but what is the justification for the faith itself? Because I would like it to be so? To put faith in something or someone, again, what reasons should I do this? What can a person of faith tell me on the matter?

    Before holy books there was faith. Was it absurd? Depends on how you define absurd. To them it was not. To millions who practice earth based religions be it a form of celtic paganism or Native American spirituality, faith is based on the certainity that is found in the cycles of life and death and rebirth. Is that absurd?

    History as best man can tell is littered with the solid evidence of ignorance and war that faith promulgated, with or without holy books. As far as the Native Americans go, lets take an example. The rain dance. To be sure it is a part of their culture and history. But with what we now know about weather, are any of us justified to believe that the weather is caused by rain dances of the Indians? Surely if I were investigating the faith of the Native Americans, I would be compelled to ask them to compare their religion and belief system on the weather with what science now knows about it. Who would win that arguement based on fact? Can we base weather forecasts on faith?

    Faith in itself is not dangerous. It just is a matter of what you have faith in.

    Which is what this is about. Lets look at the evidence. Faith in unproven and unproveable assumptions about the spirit world has dominated mankind. The nature of Jesus (not the historocity of Jesus) is a great example. I don't doubt he was real. But there is no data to suggest that how he is described in the bible is in any way real. The same is true of Muhammed with the Koran. Other religous traditions are very quick to point to the inconsistencies and holes in other faith systems, yet slow, almost blind, to their own.

    So is faith in the form of Christianity dangerous? Would the world be a better a place without it?

    To (nearly) quote Ghandi: "I love Christ, but I hate your Christians. They are so unlike Christ." Again, faith based on intepretation of unproveable concepts = war, prejudice and discord. For that matter, is it necesarry that I believe that Christ is my savior before I accept the Golden Rule, or to love thy neighbor as thyself? Is it possible that Jesus had a very enlightened view of how man should treat one another? Sure! Does that mean I have to believe he was born of a virgin, executed and resurrected on the third, day and is now god to follow the Golden Rule? Religion is not necesarry for me to treat someone as I want to be treated. It shouldn't be a requirement for me to believe in something absolutely no one can prove before I am a "nice person". It is amazing to see through the lens of the past how quickly Christians forgot the Golden Rule and to love thy neighbor and turn Jesus into the millenial judge when it came to their own political purposes. All because people had FAITH that he was ruling in heaven, thus unspeakable crimes resulted. Where do they get these contradictory ideas about Christ as lover of man and judge of man? The same source, the bible. The only way then I could accept Christ is to turn off what I look at as evidence and say "I am through looking at the facts and am now willing to believe this ancient idea about Jesus. I don't require evidence. I have faith." The evidence and facts point to something else, that Jesus was nothing more then an unusually enlightened man living in a less then enlightened time of human history. His words were recorded, his works, exaggerated. So I need faith to believe in him, or I won't be able to believe that Jesus is savior at all, because their is no factual reason to belive this concept otherwise. Of course, you probably wouldn't be willing to do that with any other major world religion, but you are more likely to do so with Christianity, as it is the religion you grew up around and are familiar with. That does made a difference, doesn't it?

Share this