Yesterday, one ex-Christian blogger wrote a post attacking what he calls “faith.” As a person of faith myself, I actually agree with most of what he says. But I think he (like many Christians and anti-Christians) completely misunderstands the meaning of faith. Below is my response.
You define faith as “an exercise of the Will to Believe something to be true without sufficient evidence…” I think that’s a really shallow definition of faith. That version of “faith” doesn’t come from the Bible. It’s actually the relatively recent product of two cataclysmic events in Western Europe:
- The Reformation and the bloody conflicts it inspired – Protestants and Catholics slaughtered each other for decade after decade, each side claiming that its beliefs were right and the other side’s beliefs were wrong. For everyone involved, Christianity became all about beliefs.
- The Enlightenment – This great intellectual movement was obsessed with supposedly objective, rationally-derived facts. The West has never been the same since.
Naturally, when post-Reformation, post-Enlightenment Western Europeans (and their kids in North America) tried to understand faith, they assumed that faith is all about believing a set of supposed facts. Unfortunately, their (understandable) mistake has survived in this region of the world for centuries, down to the present one.
But why must we follow their lead? Why would we let such a tiny minority of Christians define “faith” once and for all?! According to historians who study the Bible, the modern Western definition of faith (which you echo) would’ve been totally foreign to the Bible’s authors. To most Eastern Christians and those born before the Reformation, your definition of faith would seem totally bizarre.
I hope you succeed in convincing Western Christians to stop being willfully ignorant, to stop arrogantly supposing that facts don’t apply to them. (It would also be great if you could get your message to the White House while you’re at it.) No one should be ignorant on purpose. But let’s not kid ourselves; “belief without evidence” is not, and never was, the only available meaning of faith.