“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” ― Benjamin Franklin
In the wake of the recent election, many of us have been trying to figure out the “why” of the thing. Why did so many people vote, if they did at all, the way they did? Why, oh why, did they vote for him!? Well, many of his followers have stated loudly and often that they have faith that he will make America great again. Regardless of a total lack of specifics or any real proof of his ability to govern, fifty plus million people decided to put their faith in a man who lost a billion dollars in one year. This stupefying occurrence has baffled the so-called political experts and left the rest of us searching for that oldest of questions,
The answer is that faith as a philosophy is intrinsically flawed, and those who practice faith as their primary means of decision making are behaving in an unjustifiable manner. A bit of a heavy-handed claim to be sure but in this time of unreason, with its distinct lack of rational decision making, we must search for the source of our many woes. After all, we can’t blame Trump for everything. At least not yet.
Let’s start with an agreed upon definition of faith. After all, if we can’t quantify what it is, how can we say that there is something wrong with it? My E-dictionary has the following two definitions:
1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
Two rather distinct interpretations of a concept, no? This dichotomy of meaning is part of the problem with faith. When I, an open Atheist, say that I have faith that America will eventually recover from the next four years of inevitable mismanagement and stagflation, I say this without any religious connotations. I do not believe that god will descend from the heavens and save us poor souls from the great evil that is the Trump administration. I have faith that the people of this country are essentially good, and I can back this up with facts. The fact that more than two million more people voted against Trump than voted for him. The fact that thousands of my fellow protestors are espousing love in the face of hate all across this country and the fact that America has survived McCarthy, Nixon, Reagan and two Bush’s and we’re still here. These are the secular and factual truths that I have, nearly, total trust and confidence in.
And yet, even with all this evidence, my faith in this country may prove false. That’s another pitfall of faith. Faith can be broken. People cheat on their spouses all the time. Lance Armstrong had more juice in him than the Koolaid man! So the secular incarnation of faith, like respect, must be earned. We need proof before we put our faith in something.
In the case of religiously orientated faith, this logical progression is unnecessary. You simply need to believe in something or someone for it to be true. So Trump will make America great again because, well, he will. This is an example of circular logic, where the person starts with the answer that they’re trying to end with, and it’s this sort of defective reasoning that has led us to a Trump presidency. What will he do to make America great? I don’t know, but he can’t make it great unless he’s president, so let’s put our faith in him, regardless of whether or not he’s proven capable of the task at hand.
Does this seem like a reasonable way to go about your life? Making decisions based on nothing substantive, on essentially gut reactions? I’m all for spontaneity and spur of the moment experiences, but as an actual means of governance?
I think not.
This bipolar understanding of faith as a concept is a major factor in why we as a nation have such difficulty empathizing with one another. Truth has become subjective. We shout our truths into an echo chamber of like-minded individuals. Our Facebook feeds reassure us that our respective viewpoints are correct, without bothering to fact check the source of these digital pats on the back. Without the ability to discern fact from fiction, to objectively view the world around us as it truly is and not how we wish it to be, we can never be free of the nonsensical trappings of our past, i.g. racism, misogyny, and tribalism.
We are one people, not just Americans, but humans. Religious faith has been used since its nacency to control not just the actions, but the minds of it devotees. And when you can shape the reality of the world around you, what’s to stop you from taking advantage of this power? The history of faith is chock full of abusive tyrants, genocidal conquerors and unholy despots who claim that their regimes are annointed by some god or another and therefore nothing that they do is wrong. When we allow this sort of baseless claim to go unchallenged, be prepared to face the always grisly consequences.
In this post-truth world we find ourselves in, it’s up to us to stand sentinel against this sort of predatory group think. Because if we stand idly by and watch our rights, and the rights of our less represented fellows, we are culpable in whatever comes next.
I have faith that humanity will not let this come to pass.
“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” ― Albert Camus
Semper Pugnare Tyrannis