Questioning the very notion of faith itself

November 4, 2007 at 10:09 am 19 comments

QuestioningYears ago, as a younger Christian, I had serious doubt about Christianity, but I decided to hold onto my faith in Jesus. Most Christians doubt their faith at one time or another, so what I was doing was pretty normal. Many Christians, in fact the vast majority of them, admit there is really no evidence to believe in God. However, they are quick to point out, that is where faith comes in. We believe, because God wishes for us to believe without any evidence. That is the importance of faith, and as a scientist who is conditioned to rational thinking, I clung to living by faith for many years.

About a year ago, I was really struggling to hold onto my Christian faith. I was reading every fundamentalist’s favorite Gospel, the Gospel of John. Several places in that Gospel, Jesus praises people who have faith based on no evidence, and trashes people for not believing without a sign. This all culminates with the classic scene at the end of the Gospel where Thomas refuses to believe unless he sees the risen Christ for himself. Jesus appears to Thomas, and what does Jesus say to his dumbstruck disciple?

“Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

I remember reading this with the realization that Jesus was not telling this to any of his disciples but to the readers of the Gospel of John. Why would Jesus tell his disciples, who were looking directly at him, that they were blessed if they believed without seeing?

Baloney. This verse is directed at the reader and taught me a valuable lesson. Whoever wrote this knew there was no good reason to believe – even way back then. So it is blessed to believe without seeing – this is the beginning of belief by faith alone. Believing without any evidence whatsoever.

Why would this be? Why would God require us to have faith in his existence? Loving your neighbor and loving God, sure, I get that – but faith? Why does God require us to have faith in his existence without evidence if he in fact does exist? I checked the Old Testament, and could not see faith as an imperative anywhere. It seemed to start with the claims about Jesus.

So I asked myself a question that I could never answer, and which no Christian has ever been able to answer for me. How does faith, in the sense of gullibility, in the existence of God make us better, more loving or more morally virtuous? What is the point of emphasizing faith unless …. .. .. unless……. …

As a Christian, I never questioned the need for faith until then. I think few Christians ever do, despite their many other doubts, because they have been conditioned to rely on that faith. But when I saw the – let me be blunt – the scam that faith really is, the need for belief without evidence, the desire of God for us to be gullible, and all for no reason; I realized if God truly did exist, well, that is when faith had to take a back seat. I began to read furiously to look for solid evidence for the reliability of Scripture.

So I think that is one reason why I left Christianity where I would not have otherwise – my questioning the very notion of faith itself. I can think of a few other reasons, but that is a big one.

– HeIsSailing

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Why me, Lord? Why did I de-convert? To sin or not to sin: Is it even possible?

19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. vjack  |  November 4, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I really enjoyed this post. The questions you raise about faith are unanswerable. It seems that an important difference between nonbelievers and those who still cling to faith is a willingness to ask the questions. If faith was truly neutral, I’m not sure this would matter much. But the fact that faith is harmful changes the picture dramatically.

  • 2. HeIsSailing  |  November 4, 2007 at 11:03 am

    This article was originally a comment on Karen’s ‘Why Me Lord, Why did I de-convert’ article, but I guess The de-Convert made it into an article on its own merit. Thanks.

  • 3. Samanthamj  |  November 4, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Nice post HeIsSailing. I wonder the same things. I have friends who want me to “just believe”… but, I don’t know how to do that.

    It does make you wonder about the old “God Gene” debate, doesn’t it? If some people and their personality’s are just more genetically made to be able to have faith? or is it all just a matter of conditioning, personal experience & reasoning (or lack of it), or choice?

    I’m sure I don’t know.


  • 4. marie  |  November 4, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    It is always really interesting to learn more about your jouney, HiS.

    It totally seems that the author knew that there would be no reason to believe. It seems like another one of those parts of the Bible where the readers (confused that the apocalypse did not come within Jesus’s lifetime) scramble to make sense of a failed apocalyptic prophet. He didn’t do what he said, but he is god, so we just have to believe anyway. or something.

    Also, I really don’t understand why Christians think it takes MORE faith to Not believe in God. It doesnt. It just takes less delusion

  • 5. loopyloo350  |  November 4, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I tell you I saw Jesus after he was resurrected and you believe me, but you think those who believe but didn’t see should not be blessed. How many times a day do you take things on the faith that they exist. I don’t mean to say you are wrong but I find your logic, well illogical. We take many more things for granted that they exist today and your arguement would fit any number of them.

  • 6. Curmudgeonly Yours  |  November 4, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    As far as I’m concerned, faith is nothing more than an excuse to believe in the absence of a valid reason. It excuses God’s questionable behaviour at every turn, thereby allowing Christians to cling to the security blanket of wishful thinking.

  • 7. HeIsSailing  |  November 4, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    loopyloo sez:

    How many times a day do you take things on the faith that they exist.

    For example….??

  • 8. Lorena  |  November 4, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Great post Heis.

    loopyloo350 said:
    ‘We take many more things for granted that they exist today and your arguement would fit any number of them.”

    Lorena responds:
    Yes, we, in fact, take a lot of things in faith. For example, we marry or date a person because we trust they’re good people.

    But later, when we find out that it ain’t so, most of us don’t continue to believe “by faith.” We realize we made a mistake, we change our minds, and we move on.

    Not so with religious faith. When we realize that our prayers are never answered or that Jesus doesn’t really change people, we are asked to persist, to continue to believe, just for the sake of faith.

    That, my friend, is the big difference.

  • 9. HeIsSailing  |  November 4, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    loopyloo, just to clarify I make the distinction of what kind of faith is required in Christianity. It is not faith in the sense of trust that I am talking about. I can trust that my wife will not date other men when I am out of town. I trust her – I have faith in her. But that is not what I am talking about in this article.

    I am talking about faith in the sense of gullibility. I tell you something with nothing to back it up, and you just have to believe it. Just because. Believe it. That is the faith that most Christians rely on and base their religious convictions on. Not trust, but gullibility.

    I hope you see the difference in what I am talking about here.

  • 10. loopyloo350  |  November 4, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    HesSailing, Lorena, You misunderstood what I meant, I think. I do not believe you or anyone should believe without works. I believe because I have seen the evidence of those works. I have had my prayers answered. But again, even that was not quite what I meant. Do you believe in time travel? For a long time it has just been a theory, until recently when several scientists said they have proved it. Like all good theories some people believed it before, some people believe it now, and some never will. It’s is easy for me to believe in Jesus appearing before Thomas because I have never believed God was limited in the time frame he operated in. Other early Christians believed without seeing because those they trusted and loved told them it was so. I agree, there are many people out there that are gullible. Many who believe everything they are told to be fact. But never have I found true Christians who did not question. I truly think what you believe are true Christians are simple sheep who follow the leader that shouts the loudest, or is so convinced they are right and everyone else is wrong that they beat people over the head with sticks until they can’t think for themselves.

  • 11. HeIsSailing  |  November 4, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Do you believe in time travel? For a long time it has just been a theory, until recently when several scientists said they have proved it.

    loopyloo, are you saying you believe in Time Travel?

    I am a physicist, and I can personally vouch that no such discovery has been made. If Steven Hawking himself, one of the most respected and credentaled physicists out there, came out and said he had discovered time travel, guess what? I would not believe him. Not on his word. I need some solid evidence. To believe him for a claim like that, or any scientific claim for that matter, is foolish.

    Yet, Jesus says we are blessed for believing without seeing. Believing without any evidence. That is faith by gullibility, and that is what Christianity demands of us. BELIEF is the highest calling of the Christian, without which, Christians can have no salvation.

    If Hawking himself said there was such a thing as time travel, and told us to just believe it, I would smell something fishy. And I smell something equally fishy when Jesus tells us the same thing.

  • 12. OneSmallStep  |  November 4, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Whoever wrote this knew there was no good reason to believe – even way back then. So it is blessed to believe without seeing – this is the beginning of belief by faith alone. Believing without any evidence whatsoever.

    I’ve often found verses like the whole “blessed are those who believe without seeing” operating as almost escape clauses, or something. It’s setting up the religion, from the very beginning, as finding something fundamentally wrong with requesting evidence. As you say later, HIS, if someone says they’ve proved time travel, do you just take their word for it? No. You request evidence. You ask how they know that, and if you can see what facts they’re using to support their claims. That’s what any credible scientist does, and with the off the wall claims, that’s what most people do in general.

    Although, maybe I should re-phrase. Many believers would say they have evidence, through internal support or prayers being answered. But it’s not the sort of evidence you can point to, or the sort of evidence that doesn’t look arbitrary. For every answered prayer, there’s another unanswered one.

    And if you throw the whole concept of eternal salvation, and the threat of hell into this, shouldn’t evidence be more than readily supplied, due to the consequences? If it’s so easy for Satan to tempt people into hell, shouldn’t there be evidence to make sure one is following/listening to God? Especially the right God?

  • 13. loopyloo350  |  November 4, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    Not so much “time travel” as “time dilation” and Stephen Hawking is a great physicist but he hasn’t stated that Einstien’s theory was wrong, has he? And that is partly my point, I am not a scientist, but I can take a theory and believe in it, such as evolution, but I can also expect people to question. I don’t see everything as is or is not, I can actually believe with my heart while my head questions. That may seem crazy to you but that does not mean I am wrong, or misguided, or gullible. It means based on evidence I have seen, I can have faith, but I don’t have to trust someone else to share those beliefs.

  • 14. HeIsSailing  |  November 4, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    loopyloo, there is great experimental evidence that time dilation does indeed occur. Einstien’s theory of general relativity is one of the verified theories in physics. Without it, you can kiss your geocentric orbiting satellites, GPS navigation systems and probably your cell phones goodbye.

    Can you tell the differene in what I am talking about? I have faith by trusting evidence. But when no evidence is given, what kind of faith do we have but faith by gullibility?

    I have faith in these things based on evidence that is absolutely verifiable. I cannot say the same things about faith in Jesus. I do not know what evidence you have seen to verify the reality of Jesus, but we all can only work with what we are given. And I have to tell you, we ain’t given much.

  • 15. Shannon Lewis  |  November 5, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Honestly, I don’t think of ‘belief’ as being the major emphasis of the NT, in the sense of an academic knowledge, but “faith”, and they seem to me to be different things. “Belief” relates to being convinced that certain things are ‘fact’ or real about the universe – “faith” is a living trust in a person. I believe because I am led by certain evidences and experiences to be convinced the core story of Christianity is true and best explains the reality I have experienced. “Faith” is the trust I choose to have in the trust=worthiness of the central character in that story, which I already ‘believe’.

  • 16. loopyloo350  |  November 5, 2007 at 10:30 am

    HelsSailing, If we stop learning I believe we truly begin to die, and hope I will always keep trying. I can’t teach belief and I can appreciate the sceptics. Peace

  • 17. Windy  |  November 5, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Firstly I must comment on a previous blog. In your first account of this series you attempted to justify God was not real. It’s a person’s right to feel this way and I will not judge you in this thought. I feel I must point out what I believe to be a flaw in your justification. It may help you or you may not agree, either way that is up to you. When talking about God you compare him to the human being and believe that he must react as humans do. The only part that could be said to be true is that God is a being. None of us know what type of being, I’ll admit that. But one thing is for sure God is not human. Therefore, the justification you gave doesn’t stand to reason as, from what I gathered, that is saying God is human. For God to be human he would have to have a physical body that we could all see. And he doesn’t.

    Then you lost faith in Christianity, so did I but I did not lose faith in God (although I perceive God as an energy force and believe he is found in everything that is nature).

    I believe if one is ever in any doubt about anything then they are probably right. Here I’d advise search, research, keep an open mind and think again. Keep doing this til the ansers to the questions begin to feel right in the centre of your heart or the pit of your stomach.

    Lost and confused comes to mind when reading this blog. It seems to me you are going down the wrong path. If you keep going further down the wrong path you may never be at peace because the question ‘does God really exist?’ will never go away. It’s an instinct that there is something and one day when you come across it again you may realise that atheism actually doesn’t feel right and you’ll have a long way to walk back before going forward on the right one. From experience I can sincerely say the right path in itself is long and never ending. I feel for you as I was where you are now some years ago.
    Hope you find what feels true to you.

  • 18. HeIsSailing  |  November 5, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    Hi Windy.

    When talking about God you compare him to the human being and believe that he must react as humans do.

    Windy, can you point to where in this article I made this assumption? I do not think that an onmiscient god can react – at all. So if I said that or implied it, it is surely a mistake on my part.

    If you keep going further down the wrong path you may never be at peace because the question ‘does God really exist?’ will never go away.

    If you say I project confusion, maybe that is because I admit that I truly do not know. I was mistaken in my Fundamentalism for so many years, that I dare not be presumptuous and claim that I now have THE answer. But I am not stressed about it either. I don’t even know if there is an answer. All I can do is learn the best I can with what I have been given, be as good a husband I can be for my wife, to leave my little sphere of the world a little better than when I found it, and enjoy life and learn what I can while I am here.

    And believe me, god or no god, I am at peace with that.

  • 19. karen  |  November 6, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks for this, HIS. I too always appreciate hearing more about your journey. I guess I didn’t realize this all started only one year ago for you – wow! You’ve come a long way, baby. 🙂

    It’s interesting that you’d post this because just last night I was thinking of these kinds of “escape clauses” that I started analyzing while deconverting. Suddenly, instead of good apologetics, it became rather obvious to me that they were transparent and convenient excuses meant to keep the faithful sheep in the pen/pew.

    I was trying to list a bunch of them. Surely, “blessed are those who believe, though they do not see,” would top the list since it not only promotes faith but it gives an extra bonus for blind faith.

    I guess I’d have to add “god’s ways are not our ways” next, followed closely by the highly similar “god works in mysterious ways” and “only fools question god” – all of which discourage deep thought and investigation while again encouraging blind faith.

    Evangelicals are famous for the “no true Scotsman” argument, so that when one points to the havoc that Christianity has wrought over the centuries (usually in Jesus’ name), they can trot out the “oh, but they were Catholics/Orthodox/non-Baptists” i.e. not REAL Christians like we are. When one objects to today’s Christianity, the next level goes to “oh, they’re religious but they don’t have a relationship with Jesus” – again, don’t notice any inconsistency in the tenets of the religion and the practical outcome, because “those people” are not true Christians.

    In fundamentalism, this one gets sliced and diced down not only to individual denominations, but individual sects within the various denominations, and picayune doctrinal points of difference that disqualify people from being “true Christians.” Charismatics, for instance, might say someone isn’t a true Christian is they don’t manifest certain gifts of the holy spirit.

    When certain atrocious bible verses are pointed out, many people will say that they’re being translated wrong, interpreted incorrectly or “taken out of context.” When the objection is raised about why the holy spirit’s influence is not manifested outwardly by believers, one usually gets the free will excuse … um, argument. And then there’s the ultimate “the devil made me do it!” – who can argue with that? 😉

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