Hope is found in reason, not faith

As a vocal critic of religion, I’m often accused of engaging religion not because I think it’s intellectually vacuous, but because I want to steal peoples’ hope away.  I usually just let out a maniacal cackle at this point and say that I would have gotten away with it too, if not for you meddling kids!

But it seems to me that it’s just the other way around – faith offers no hope, while reason is hope’s primary vehicle.

First, it’s important to note that the concept of hope would could not exist if we lived in an ideal universe.  It’s easy to see that even our own planet is often out to get us: hurricanes destroy cities unannounced, earthquakes crumble our structures, etc.  There are a myriad of things that assault our well-being, and that give us good reason to fear.  The truth sometimes can be downright unpleasant, since it does not conform to our sense of wishful thinking the way religions do.  So you need to ask yourself what your priority is: do you want your beliefs to be true or simply positive?  They cannot always be the same.  There is a very large (and consequential difference) between hoping you have won the lottery and believing you have won the lottery, and failing to draw that difference would be quite a costly mistake.

Yet this is precisely the type of hope offered by Christianity (and virtually all other religions), which tells us that we have no need to worry about our own mortality – we need only believe the proper things (oh, and we must die first).  But believing that death is not the end of our ability to experience things alone will not make it so.  The same is true of any problem.  To simply close our eyes and pretend it no longer plagues us can only be described, at best, as delusion.  One may cite that such a practice makes us feel better.  Perhaps it does in a quick fix kind of way, but it does nothing to liberate us from the unpleasant circumstances.

Genuine hope involves a little fortitude.  It requires the bravery to acknowledge that we are presently vexed by something we fear so that we can begin to actually work towards fixing it.  If we fear the termination of our lives, we can apply ourselves to finding ways to prolong our time on Earth.  What’s more, we can attack the facts of the universe that do not work in our favor to make more of the time we have.  For instance, no longer must the whole family toil in the fields or on the hunt for the majority of the day only so that they might eat that night.  Now we can spend more of that time actively enjoying the company of our loved ones.  In short, we can begin to make the universe the way we want it to be, and we can seek the best possible solution as a reality – not merely imagine we’ve already found it.

Because it hinges on not accepting reality for what it truly is, faith, and any idea built upon it,  stops us from molding the world to our liking.  In this way, faith is the purest distillation of false hope and the enemy of our own potential.  It is this brand of ‘hope’ that has always fueled the charlatan.  From religion to miracle fixes for all manner of diseases to penis-enlargement pills, con artists have always preyed upon people who seek salvation from their woes, but who also want to take the easy path that doesn’t involve the limitations imposed by good sense and research.  Plenty of swindlers have realized that tantalizing promises of the perfect are often sufficient to rob people of their checks against gullibility (and subsequently their money and time).  In this case the idea of the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.

The genuine hope acquired through a connection with the real world is not merely something that affects the individual; we have collective hopes as families, as societies, and most importantly, as a species – and false hope is merely going to drive us into ground, which is not at all worth the trade off of flimsy comfort we get by ignoring reality.  You want long-lasting comfort and to be truly free of a worry?  Fix it.  That is hope.

  • Intellectual inquisitor

    JT,

    While avidly advancing your personal viewpoint, you have revealed your own insecurity and anger. You’re living a life which is focussed on the now, and tomorrow; but where does your future lie? Like the 100 billion people who have inhabited this Earth, where will you be in 50 or so years? Dead, mate?

    Around one third of world’s population associate themselves with the faith you so vehemently expel. While you may say that it is an archaic belief, professionals, the educated and the well off adhere to a belief which has existed for excesses of time. This belief, which intellectual call their hope, has resisted the angry affronts presented by many, such as yourself, and still grows today. How can this be explained? If it is a futile belief held by the deluded mind, why does it extend over races, cultures, socio-economic classes and times? Perhaps then, there is something more to it.

    If I am to fix my life, with your straight forward thinking, will I be better off? Will I be happier? If I was, for example, to warrant my life with success, attaining fortune and wealth, I would be seen as a successful human being – yet, would I have achieved personal satisfaction and happiness? The bible, and modern psychology agree to say, well, no. Between 1945 and 2000 GNP in the US increased over threefold, yet mean life satisfaction remained constant. Individuals have become more productive, increased their work load; yet they are no happier. This same paper, which is concurring with others, details similar findings [1].

    What difference does it make to the dead man, whether he was rich and successful, or if he was faithful and happy? If we all die and cease to exist, then does it really matter what beliefs we hold (assuming that they do not harm others, as Christianity does not)? If we are to die and to cease to exist, then surely having faith and being filled with joy is a wonderful positive. It differs in no way to any delude of the World, whether it be perceived fame, glory, drugs or money. In your view, once we are done, they mean nothing; and thus, their only meaning is that which we derived from them when we were alive. If these things caused elated happiness and self worth then they are full of meaning, because that is all they could provide. Hence I ask once again, if Christianity brings joy and happiness, why is it to be scorned if it is filling the need to happiness that seemingly is hard to find in other stimuli (e.g., possessions, careers, etc.)? Surely you of all people would see, that in your view, it does not matter what a person believes, as once we die it no longer matters, and thus if it helped them achieve self worth in their life time, then that is all that matters.

    So, you must ask yourself, if there is no difference between the person with faith, and the person without it, when dead; then why be averse to it, and is there logical reason to consider it? Surely there is something to be considered in what 2.5 billion people believe in.

    Ricky.

  • Intellectual inquisitor

    I’m sorry, I forgot to reference that article I cited.

    [1] Diener, E., & Seligman, M. (2004). Beyond Money; toward an economy of well-being. American Psychology Society, 5(1).

  • dfj

    This is incredibly well written and quite profound.
    I really wish that what religions says is true (when it comes to good things coming to you and being freed from your troubles etc) but unfortunately it is not the case. It’s nice to have something positive to believe in, but it’s better for it to actually be true.