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For more information, see the Wiktionary article:

There are various concepts of faith which have different connotations. In the dictionary there are multiple limiting definitions across a common theme:

  1. Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
  2. Belief that is not based on proof.
  3. Belief in god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion.
  4. Belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.
  5. A system of religious belief.
  6. The obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.
  7. The observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.
  8. The trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.

All are legitimate definitions, possessing thematic inter-relation.

Mark Twain also created a classic definition in his book, Pudd'nhead Wilson: "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

this is similar to Nietzche's definition:

"Faith means not wanting to know what is true."

Many atheists regard faith as the act of coming to a conclusion first, and then filtering the facts to match your expectations. In a sense, this is the opposite of science.


Faith in the Bible

In one classic Bible story, Doubting Thomas does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus appears to Thomas and gives him the opportunity to touch his wounds, after which Thomas becomes a believer. However, Jesus admonishes Thomas' skepticism, saying: "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29 Bible-icon.png).

This anecdote demonstrates the view of faith that belief in the claim without requiring evidence is righteous, compared with requiring evidence to believe.

In Hebrews 11:1 Bible-icon.png, it says: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," it also says "[e]xamine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" in 2 Corinthians 13:5 Bible-icon.png. Clearly the writer of Hebrews is simply stating the obvious, that faith is complimentary to a lack of omniscience. The writer goes on to make examples of other Biblical characters who demonstrated faith. Each had faith in something yet unseen, but not necessarily without reason; Noah had the promise of protection; Abraham, the Covenant; Joseph, his father's blessing; the list goes on. They were able to maintain faith because of a lifetime of evidences that God would fulfill His promise. Furthermore, Paul's account in 2 Corinthians 13:5 Bible-icon.png shows that indeed faith is to be tested and not dogmatically held.

Arguments for faith

A number of arguments exist in defense of faith.

  1. Faith is a virtue: Faith is something to be desired, in and of itself.
    • The idea that premises should be accepted without evidence and that the premise is better without evidence can be used to justify any claim. One could just as easily believe that God wants you to love your neighbors as you could that God wants you to kill them for working on the Sabbath. For example, faith is often used as a justification for suicide bombers.
      • "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." – Voltaire
      • "Faith is a cop-out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits." – Dan Barker
      • "A casual stroll through an insane asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." – Friedrich Nietzsche
  2. People have faith in other things — wind, love, quantum mechanics — without people questioning them.
    • Wind demonstrably exists. Beyond secondary effects and weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes, we also have wind turbines which harness wind power into electrical power. Even more obviously, one can directly feel wind when it blows or by waving their hand back and forth.
    • Love demonstrably exists. We actually feel love. We can easily witness the change in behavior people display while in love. We can measure the neurotransmitters in the brain. We can observe the brain changes via MRI machines.
    • The ideas of quantum mechanics demonstrably work. We use quantum mechanics in everything from cell phones to laptop computers, and have measured quantum phenomenon to "a degree equal to measuring the width of the United States to the width of a human hair."
      • "I'm getting rather tired of Christian arm chair physicists waving their hands around in the air, muttering about the "mysteries of QM" and invoking a similar mystery for their god. If God were understood as well as quantum mechanics, we would have already miniaturized him and put him in a device to carry around on our wrists." – Ozy666 (About Atheism/Agnosticism forum)
  3. Faith is trust
    • Faith is not trust. Trust is generally justified. Appeals to faith would be unneeded if the faith were justified initially.
    • This is equivocation. Comparing my belief that "my family will not murder me during the night" with believing in "unjustified, unevidenced religious claims" is simply equating the two words when they do not properly equate. Attempting to justify religious faith by appealing to a more justifiable claim, which is itself justified by evidence and reason, and ignoring the justification in order to assume no justification is needed, is not a cogent argument.

Belief in belief

Rather than directly justify faith, often arguments will defend the belief in belief. That though, faith may not be itself justified, faith is itself useful. These arguments are largely irrelevant to the question at hand. Sam Harris addresses these argument by comparing the argument that "faith brings comfort" and "faith gives purpose to people's lives" to the claim that "I have a diamond the size of a refrigerator buried in my back yard". Such a belief could provide a person with purpose, and could be a comforting thought, just as it could give their life meaning. However, none of this has anything to do with the truth of the statement.

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