I used to tell some of my Christian friends that I don’t have faith in deities, but that I do have faith in people. This was and still is often my opening line in many conversations with religious believers.
At one point, I mentioned this to an atheist friend of mine and he disagreed with me. Not on the sentiment necessarily, but on the term “faith.” He had a good reason too. Few atheists are comfortable with that term and I am not generally one of them. I generally put my stock in reason not faith.
My friend told me that he prefers the phrase, “reasonable expectation” instead of faith. He thinks that we have reasonable expectations when we put our trust in the hands of friends who have earned that trust. I like that phrasing, but that is not what I am talking about when I talk about having faith in people necessarily.
I do have a reasonable expectation that people are generally reasonable when they want to be. That is to say that everyone can be reasonable about some things in their lives. In fact, generally speaking people are reasonable about most things in their lives. It just happens that religion and a few other things can cloud a person’s reasoning so that they become unreasonable about those particular things.
Even a perfect stranger with no reasonable expectation of built up trust, can be trusted to be reasonable about most things. So I do actually have a reasonable expectation that this perfect stranger is at least open to reason even if he or she does not realize or acknowledge it.
Since religious believers value faith, I like to use their value — their word — against them. By letting them know that I don’t have faith in deities but instead have faith in them, I am setting them up to be reasonable. I am making them work to meet me half way. I am making them work to be better people and everyone wants to be a better person.
Here’s the rub; it isn’t just a rhetorical trick. Whether you want to call it a reasonable expectation or faith in a fellow human being, it amounts to the same thing. It amounts to my belief that the religious believer is smart enough to reason through their religious belief and come out an atheist. They just need to abandon their low self-esteem.
Christianity preaches that we are all evil sinners. It preaches that human beings are wretched, no good, depraved beings. No one deserves the heavenly reward; we are only saved by grace alone. I disagree. I teach that we are all good enough, smart enough, and deserving enough to save ourselves and each other. And gosh darn it, people like us. Everyone has a friend or family member who cares about them. All I ask is that they care about themselves too.
I want religious believers to think seriously about their beliefs from an objective point of view. I’m confident in their reasoning abilities and I want them to know it. I want them to be so confident in their own reasoning abilities that they stop making excuses for their cognitive dissidence.
They tell me to sincerely pray to God and I will become a believer. I’ve done that multiple times in my life. Now I am asking them to sincerely research and reason their beliefs. What do they have to lose? They have faith that their beliefs are true. Let’s test that faith. Are they afraid to test their faith? Isn’t their faith strong enough? What do they have to be afraid of? I thought they said that their faith was unshakable and yet they are afraid to reason about their faith. They should have enough faith to be open to researching their faith seriously and reason about their faith seriously. Got them!
This is why I have faith in people. This is why religion is dying.
- The Hard Truth About Religion (skepticink.com)
- Criticism Of Religion Doesn’t Equate To Hate! (skepticink.com)
- Coming Out As An Atheist At Work (skepticink.com)
- Global Vision (skepticink.com)
- Interview: Katherine Stewart author of ‘The Good News Club’ (examiner.com)
- Religion Is Comfortable With Science… Only To A Point (skepticink.com)