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The Objective Subjectivity of FAITH

The Objective Subjectivity of FAITH

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Published by Joshua/Jenny Duffy

Written for a 'Philosophy of Religion' course at the University of Prince Edward Island; Dec./12.

Written for a 'Philosophy of Religion' course at the University of Prince Edward Island; Dec./12.

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Published by: Joshua/Jenny Duffy on Dec 13, 2012
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09/17/2013

 
1
The Objective Subjectivity of 
 
Faith
 
Joshua Duffy
 
December 2012
 
1. Introduction
 
If an atheist were so inclined as to begin an argument with a theist, I could think of no
 better subject to start with than „faith‟. To the atheist, such a concept is sheer foolishness, but to
the theist, it is nothing less than divine. This is quite a gulf, and at first glance it is hard toimagine that one could ever attempt to bridge such a gap. This essay is not particularly an
endeavour to do so. Attempting to rationalize „faith‟ to an unbeliever is akin to trying to
rationalize to a patient with Alzhe
imer‟s disease that it is 3:30a.m. and they would do well to go
to bed or else they will be exhausted in the morning and possibly sleep through breakfast, whichis something I have actually rationalized to patients on occasion, much to my chagrin. Pointbeing, the latter does not have the capacity upon which to accept the conclusion. It just does notmake any sense to them, which, given the circumstances, is completely understandable.
 
What
is
hoped to be accomplished in this essay is to determine if there is any basis forhaving faith, and if that basis is enough to validate faith as an objective reason for believing. Thequestion can be succinctly put: Is having faith rational or irrational? This is the question we hopeto answer.
 
In my experience, when most people (be it Christians in the pews, or secularists in the
street) hear the term „faith‟, immediately the notion of „blind faith‟ arises, which basically argues
 
2
that there is no solid basis for faith, just a hope or a wishful thinking that the Bible (or
Qu‟ran, or Torah) is true. Is the foundation of faith so shoddy? Is the notion of „blind faith‟ a misnomer?
With this in mind, we will be dealing with faith from a predominantly Christianperspective, as this is the faith tradition most often associated with the concept in our culture. Wewill consider the opinions of well-known contemporary atheists in regards to faith, as well as acouple of influential Christian philosophers. In finishing, we hope to conclude whether or notfaith has any objective value, or if it is wholly subjective.Faith is a dramatically complex idea, as evidenced by the obscure opinions on both sidesof its agenda. Seeing as that the majority of people on the earth today are members of the threemain religious traditions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism),
1
and that faith is a foundational aspect of each of these traditions, I think it important that some time be given to the issue.
 
2. Opinions to the Contrary
 
Interestingly enough, there are some outspoken atheists who do not seem to be that
enamored with the concept of „faith‟. In fact, most of the time a secularist mentions faith, they do
so with the insinuation that it is
blind 
, meaning that it is founded on wishful thinking, having noobjective proof. This reduces faith to something completely meaningless and reduces thebeliever to a naive nostalgic preferring to forego objective reasoning rather than evaluate realevidence. The notion that faith is blind is taken right from the Christian scriptures. In the Apostle
Paul‟s second letter to the church at Corinth he writes, “we walk by faith, not by sight.”
2
Nowinferring that faith is
blind 
from this verse is exegetically incomplete and will be challenged
1
 
“Religions,”
The World Factbook 
, Accessed November 28, 2012. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2122.html#xx.
 
2
2 Corinthians 5:7, New Revised Standard Version 1989. All scripture references will be from this NRSV.
 
 
3
throughout the course of this essay, but sufficient for the time is to say that this is where the idea
of „blind faith‟ comes from.
 
The battle against faith has taken its contemporary form with the rise of what has beencalled the New Atheism. Leading this movement are Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, SamHarris, and the late Christ
opher Hitchens, who have been termed the „Four Horsemen‟ of New
Atheism.
3
While they may suffer overexposure in the media in response to their views, it seemswarranted, as they are the most outspoken and aggressive in the movement. As such, eachdemands a succinct quote in regards to the opinions atheists have regarding faith.Dennett writes that faith insists upon foundational incomprehensibilities as centraltenets.
4
Dawkins states that reason is the greatest enemy of faith.
5
 
Harris writes that “faith
r
epresents . . . a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible,”
6
andHitchens seems to have believed, as he was writing his book 
god is not Great 
, and even as I am
writing these words now, that “people of faith are in their different
ways planning your and mydestruction, and the destruction of all the hard-
won human attainments.”
7
 
Granted, what has been just presented may seem like biased proof-texting, but it can beassured that no more complimentary sentiments regarding faith are expressed by these authors. It
can safely be said that, in their regard, „faith‟ is not a viable alternative mindset, and they would
like to convince you that this is so. But, are their claims about faith justified? Is faithfoundationally incomprehensible? Does it regard reason as an enemy? Is it possible to discourse
3
 
Alice Gribben, “Preview: The Four Horsemen of New Atheism reunited: Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet,Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris together for the final time in,”
 New Statesman
, accessed November 30, 2012,http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/12/richard-dawkins-issue-hitchens.
 
4
Daniel Dennett,
 Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
(New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 220.
 
5
Richard Dawkins,
The God Delusion
(New York: First Mariner Books, 2008), 221.
 
6
Sam Harris,
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
(New York: W. W. Norton & Company,Inc., 2005), 25.
 
7
Christopher Hitchens,
god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
(New York: Hatchette Book Group,2007), 13.
 

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