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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Religious Faith is Not a Virtue

"Religious faith should stop being considered a virtue.
I define blind faith as choosing to believe in something absolutely, without doubt or openness to change, and without proper scientific evidence – i.e. wishful thinking. Though blind faith in itself need not be religiously affiliated, this type of irrational thinking is very common in religious institutions and almost unanimously supported by them. So I will use the terms religious faith, blind faith, and blind religious faith interchangeably.
Religious faith is not a trait to be considered worthy of praise because it blinds those who carry it to live a life that is less responsive to changes. It is unopen to seeing mistakes in its own ways of thinking in order to find new and better ways of living. It is a fundamentally dishonest trait as it does not seek to reconcile belief with reality, and there are consequences to this. It is comparable to driving a car and only being able to see out of the front windshield. Though plenty of people get hurt and killed driving as it is, undoubtedly more would get hurt if they could only see out of the front.
It is obviously true that there are merits to this type of living: a source of comfort and security in this harsh world, a sense of belonging in a community, a faster way of establishing a moral foundation – which absolutely seems to help in the creation of a more intimate character and disciplined style of living, and increased motivation for community service. However, the consequences of holding this trait far outweigh these surface merits. The primary consequence of blind faith is its grave social irresponsibility. Blind religious faith is at the root of some of the worst social problems of our time (and in times past). Some examples include harsh discrimination – oppression of gay people’s rights and punishment for homosexuality; social isolation and sometimes aggressive punishment (even death) for infidels; class distinctions with oppression to those in lower classes; slowing of scientific and moral progress – stem cell research, drug legalization, discrediting the theory of evolution, sex education, birth control; most forms of terrorism – ISIS, 9/11 attacks, Charlie Hedbo attacks, some school shootings; excessive shaming and verbal/ emotional abuse to mothers who have chosen abortion. It even ranges to subtler issues such as refusing to tip at restaurants, social isolation or guilt creation in schools, and creating fear in children needlessly with teaching beliefs in Hell or other variations of this.
There are other ways to cultivate the merits of religion without practicing or supporting any irresponsible forms of blind faith. Some ways include joining non-faith based communities and learning about different spiritualities that do not include blind faith (some forms of Buddhism, Taoism, Unitarianism, Pantheism, Confucianism, etc.). Even learning about different religious philosophies without embracing or supporting the blind faith elements can contribute to a growing spirituality.
To the moderates of religious practice who claim that their faith is not one of the extreme forms of faith that directly causes negative social consequences, the act of supporting these institutions by participating and donating money is perpetuating these issues. It is the sheer number of moderate believers who give even mild support towards these large religious institutions, and thus large social problems, which gives them their enormous power. A quote by the Polish Poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec describes this phenomenon elegantly: “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible” (1). Only by each individual revoking their faith and support in the massive oppressive systems can these avalanches be stopped.
Therefore, one carrying the trait of religious faith is a supporter of unjust social systems - which is quite obviously unvirtuous."
Reference 1. Lec, S.J. (1969). More Unkempt Thoughts. Funk & Wagnalls.

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