"Well We All Have Faith, Right?"
How many times have you witnessed to somebody about the truth only to hear this response: "Well I think as long as people have faith in God that is all that matters." This is an easy back door for those who are not ultimately too concerned about truth. How should we respond to this? What we must do is focus our attention on what faith is, and what makes faith valuable.
When someone responds to you in this way you ought to ask, "Why does it even matter that one have faith?" Go on to explain that faith has no value in itself. It derives its value from its content. Does the content of that which is believed correspond to reality or not? Some beliefs can be both irrational and destructive. I could believe myself to be a bird and jump off the Empire State building in an attempt to fly, yet this would be stupidity, not faith. If certain 'faiths' can be destructive in the physical realm, what about in the spiritual realm? Could it not be equally destructive if the spiritual realm is as equally real? The condition, of course, is that the spiritual realm is real. If there is no reality to the spiritual realm then it does not matter what one believes because all religious beliefs are mere fantasy anyway. We are assuming that the spiritual realm truly exists, and thus what we believe about that spiritual realm truly matters.
Faith has a content and it is the content/object that makes it valuable and virtuous. Virtuous faith is faith whose content corresponds to reality. It describes the way things really are. If one's faith is in Allah, and yet Islam's description of Allah is not the way God is in reality, then faith in Allah is faith in a non-reality. While one may have truly put their faith in this non-reality, it is a non-reality nonetheless, no less fictional in nature than is Superman. A faith not corresponding to reality is a misguided faith devoid of real meaning. Such 'faith' is no more virtuous than my belief that I am a bird who can fly.
All religions make truth claims that must be accepted by faith, yet different religions and religious sects make conflicting truth-claims. If reality is one, and yet the various truth claims represent different and contradictory realities, not all those truth claims can truly correspond to reality. For example, different religions teach contradictory things about the afterlife. Many Eastern religions teach reincarnation, while Christianity teaches resurrection. While it is possible that neither could be right, both cannot be right at the same time and in the same way. It's the Law of the Excluded Middle. There is no middle ground to be taken. It is either reincarnation, resurrection, or something else.
So how do we determine which faith corresponds with reality? We do so using the same tools we use to discern between truth and falsehood in the physical realm; i.e. reason and rationality. The same rationality that tells me not to put my hand into a fire because it will give me bodily harm can be used to discern truth from error in the spiritual realm. We believe things because. There is always a because behind our faith commitments. Some 'becauses' are justified while others are not. I can have reasons for believing in evolution, but are my reasons justified? Are there other reasons out there that are superior to my own that would cause me to abandon my original reasons as misguided and false, and believe in creation instead? Not all reasons carry equal authority. Some reasons are logically superior to others and thus should be preferred over others.
We use logic and rationality to determine which beliefs we are justified in believing. Not all beliefs are equally justifiable, because not all beliefs are true. True beliefs will have more justification than false beliefs. How am I justified in believing what I do, and how am I justified for refusing to believe the things I refuse to believe. For every thing that we choose to believe in, we choose a whole host of other things to not believe in. If I choose to believe that Christianity is true, I conversely believe that Islam, Buddhism, and New Age are false because they contradict the truths of Christianity. To embrace one belief is to reject another. Even the person who says they believe all religions are true has to reject the religious position that believes there can only be one true religion. One not only has to justify how it is that they know all religions are true, but also justify how they know that one religion cannot be true. It is the reasons they present that can be evaluated and critiqued, and through good use of our God-given rational faculties in the end it will be manifest as to which beliefs we are more justified in believing, and which beliefs we are more justified in rejecting as not corresponding to reality.
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