The Manchester Armchair Philosophers Discussion on The Value of Faith Today

What is faith? Do you have any?

The Manchester Armchair Philosophers Discussion On The Value Of Faith Today The Royal Oak Pub Chorlton Manchester 20th August 2013

There are three overlapping levels of human understanding – belief, knowledge and faith.

Belief is what we like to see the World as being like. Knowledge is based on empirical evidence that supports our beliefs. We look at a chair and come to believe that it will take our weight if we stand on it. This is confirmed by the experience of standing on the chair, on this and on previous occasions we and others have stood on the chair.

Faith is often a way of clinging to a belief that seems to fly in the face of the empirical evidence. The chair looks rickety, and in danger of collapse, but the person wanting to stand or sit on it, tries it out anyway. They may be lucky or they may end p falling to the floor when the chair disintegrates under them.

Faith is important in life, and not just in religion. We may stand by someone we believe to be innocent while s/he faces trial over allegations in some kind of a crime, even when the evidence points strongly towards them being guilty.

A relationship partner may commit infidelity or even adultery but the forgiving lover gives them one more chance as an act of faith and trust that mayor may not prove to be the right move. Faith can be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and personal. Faith, by its nature can often seem very irrational. Love at first sight can be a leap of faith, as can a gambler’s lucky streak.

Many religious people claim to have had experiences or deep emotional convictions that they declare to be ‘knowledge of God’s existence’ and influence in their personal lives. This confuses strong faith with knowledge. 

The dangers arise where the state imposes its faith belief on the entire population of its country. Many wars and atrocities are committed in the name of a God and from a declaration of faith in that God. Those who lose a war or die in the conflict will often be dismissed as having had less faith, unless treated as martyrs for the glorious cause.

Faith can have positive consequences too, as in inspired religious music, art, literature, architecture, etc.

Science can also be faith dependent. Many defend the Big Bang Theory as if it was fact and sacrosanct, even when it is challenged by other scientific theories, such as the Steady State Theory. Many scientific hypotheses in string and chaos theory are untestable – the parallel universe we can never get to is not something we can examine empirically.

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