Visitor “randyloubier”who, using what may be his name, and linked it to a website “HeART for God”, tried to add a comment on a nine-month-old post, “American unbelief on the rise”. I thought it was worth highlighting because it discusses the importance (or lack thereof) of faith (my bold):
I see this is an old thread, but better late than never. I was an anti-Christian for 50 years–I know every argument against Jesus and the Bible. But it turns out, I was wrong. And, John, I wish someone had just stopped me on the street and said, I know some things you don’t. Not some emotion, but some facts. I would have been curious enough to at least listen. Jesus told the unbelievers that they did not and could not know the things of God. He repeatedly pointed out that if we knew the gift of God and who Jesus is, we would want His gift. Not knowing something doesn’t make it unreal. And there are a few facts that unbelievers are missing–facts I wished I had known all those years of unbelief. Faith does not come by facts, but faith may never come if the head is missing facts and stubbornly wont let the heart go where it wants. Our free will–our head that is missing facts, or worse, full of lies–will keep us from being open to the things of God. God will let us continue down a path of ruin, giving us little nudges here and there, but will never force us to love Him. May the peace of God well up in all unbelievers a desire to lay down their emotions of self-righteousness and be open to the humbling facts of Jesus life and free gift to them.
Let us leave aside the clear notion of dualistic free will here, ignore the basic incoherence of the comment, and concentrate on the distinction between “faith” and “facts.” Those of us who argue for the incompatibility between science and religion often concentrate on the observation that science relies on reason and observation, and religion on faith—with “faith” defined as some version as “belief in the absence of evidence.” (For one specimen, see Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”)
That notion of faith is dismissed by many Sophisticated Theologians™, who say that faith is more complicated, more nuanced, than that. But it isn’t. All the Grounds of Being, the Being Seized by the Universe’s Inexhaustible Depth, the Basic Beliefs—in the end, they all come down to accepting things without any good reason for doing so.
What I think randyloubier expresses above is the tension between religious people wanting good reasons to believe (i.e., facts), but then, when those facts aren’t forthcoming, to believe anyway, extolling that unsupported belief—faith—as a virtue. When the believers are more sophisticated, they pretend that faith is something more than belief without evidence. But it isn’t, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. In their hearts people realize the deficiency of a worldview in which terribly important consequences rest on unevidenced beliefs, and so are consciously seeking “other ways of knowing” to fill the lacunae.
I think a lot of the mental gymnastics of theologians and apologists, as well as the anger of believers when their faith is questioned, comes from this internal conflict. Part of our evolutionary heritage is to look for reasons for what we accept as true (or what we’re taught as true), and when we don’t have them we become uncomfortable. That, I suspect, is behind a lot of the tremendous anger evinced by religious people when New Atheists point out the evidential weakness of their beliefs. How many times have we pressed believers to explain why they believe as they do, and then have the conversation end in anger and a claim that they don’t need reasons?
There is reason and observation, and there is faith. There isn’t anything in between.