Argument from faith

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An argument from faith asserts that we can know of the existence of God through faith. Even if it were true, this argument suffers from an obvious limitation; in order to accept the argument, one must already have accepted it.

Contents

Formal statement

p1. Faith is a unique method of knowing.
a) Nothing can be known for certain or proven from scratch.
b) Instead we must rely on certain assumptions which we take on faith.
c) Through faith one can know these truths that cannot otherwise be verified.
p2. I have faith in God.
c1. Therefore God exists.
c2. It is useless to insist on evidence for the existence of God, because He must be taken on faith.

Counter-arguments

Faith is not necessary in everyday life

Most skeptical atheists will probably reject the idea that faith is a way of knowing anything. The things which atheists supposedly take on faith, such as the reliability of the senses, are in fact generally not taken on faith in the same way as religious ideas are. For one, we are constantly bombarded with new evidence regarding the reliability of the senses, as each one confirms the others, and as new experiences prove to be consistent with old ones. The world could be Matrix-like or a dream, but Occam's razor recommends the straightforward explanation, which is that the world is what it appears to be and not an elaborate illusion created by unknown means. Furthermore, it is a practical necessity to live life based on the best information one has, even if it is not absolutely certain.

That said, even this acceptance is not absolute. Most people are willing to accept the possibility that illusions, hallucinations, or dreams may fool their senses, at the least from time to time. This is in strong contrast to religious belief. Theists often feel such a strong loyalty towards their beliefs that they are unwilling to seriously confront the possibility that they might be wrong. What such people call "faith" is most certainly not a way of knowing that everyone relies upon.

Faith is not reliable

This should be obvious to anyone who takes even a brief moment to think about the subject, but sometimes it must be stated aloud. Cult members and even conventionally religious people often have strong convictions that lead them to commit murder or suicide, even when their beliefs are demonstrably false. Different religions contradict one another, yet they are often based on similar degrees of faith. It's clear that having faith in something, however strong, does not force it to be true.

The atheist has no direct access to faith in God

By definition, no atheist has faith in God, and it is usually not possible to make yourself believe in just anything for just any arbitrary reason (although this is often what theists seem to be demanding when they require an atheist to have faith in God). As a result, no atheist has any way of evaluating this argument except by noting that other people have faith (in which case she will notice that faith is not a reliable source of knowledge).

In fact, this is a counter-productive argument to use on any kind of atheist. Since it insists that faith is the best or even only way of knowing God, it implies that anyone who cannot have faith should immediately give up on discovering anything about Him. It also encourages theists to give up on ever justifying their own beliefs with solid, objective evidence or reasoning that they could use to shore up their own faith or to convince others.

Self-justifying/circular nature of the argument

This argument is utterly unconvincing to anyone who does not already believe the conclusion. However, it does provide a way for a believer to reaffirm her faith through circular reasoning (my faith in God is justified by my faith in God). This makes the argument effectively a defensive tactic, one which has no power to convince, but which becomes unassailable through sheer stubbornness. That is, an atheist confronted with someone who sincerely makes this argument may give up, simply because the theist in question appears totally unreachable through rational discussion.


v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Consciousness argument for the existence of God|Consciousness argument · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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