Faith is Irrational

I've been writing about faith lately, claiming it is an irrational leap over the probabilities. I'm not saying people who take the leap of faith are irrational, only that it's irrational to take that leap. But once they take the irrational leap of faith they can be very rational based on it. It's rational to conclude, as Pat Robertson does, that national disasters are God's judgment for our sins. The problem isn't that his utterly ignorant conclusion isn't rational. The problem is his faith. Faith is irrational. It's also rational for Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church to say "God hates fags." The problem isn't that their utterly ignorant conclusion isn't rational. The problem is their faith. Faith is irrational. The Inquisition was a rational conclusion too. The Church believed heresy was a leavening influence in society and as such was the worst crime of all. It could send others to hell. So they concluded the heretic must die. The problem isn't that their utterly ignorant conclusion isn't rational. It was their faith. Faith is irrational.

To see this for what it is consider what psychiatrist Valerie Tarico wrote. "It doesn’t take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase,” she argues. Then she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a person the perceived persecution by others sounds real. “You can sit, as a psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible.” (Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, pp. 221-222).

The false assumptions of the Christian faith make believers appear to the rest of us like they are mentally disturbed, just like a paranoid schizophrenic. No wonder we call their faith a delusion and say they are deluded people.

To further illustrate this consider the story of the man who thought he was dead. He went to his doctor, who tried to reason with the man that he was really still alive. Finally the doctor asked the man, "Do dead men bleed? If you cut a dead man, does he bleed?" The man replied, "No. The heart is not beating, there is no blood pressure, so if you cut a dead man, he does not bleed." The doctor then took a scalpel and nicked the man on his finger, and he proceeded to bleed. As the blood continued to come forth, the doctor said to the man, "See, you are bleeding. What does that tell you?" And the man answered, "Well, I guess dead men do bleed after all."

This hypothetical story illustrates what skeptics see over and over again, and why faith is irrational. Believers will either deny the evidence or they will reinterpret their faith to adjust to the evidence. Only a very rare few of them will ever seriously question faith itself.

This is what I know about faith:

1) Faith has no method.
2) Faith cannot settle differences between faith-heads.
3) Faith does not lead to new discoveries.
4) Faith cannot solve any problems.
5) Faith cannot explain anything.
6) Faith depends on mysteries.
7) Faith can and does lead to a denial of the evidence.
8) Faith is pretty much immune from debunking.
9) Faith is rooted in fear.
10) Faith is rooted in ignorance.

I don't expect believers to agree but it is crystal clear to the rest of us that faith is irrational. All it would take is for Christians to see this same phenomena in the religious faiths of others. That's all. It's the same thing. Just as the religious faiths of others are considered irrational to Christians, so also is their own faith. Just as Christians think the religious faiths of others are held despite the cold hard evidence, so also is their own faith. The problem is faith. It's irrational. All religions share the same fundamental basis: Faith. With faith as a basis anything can be believed and that's simply irrational.