Faith Isn’t Evidence
As a former believer I used to enjoy extensive discussions with one of my work colleagues about God and his kingdom. I have since stopped believing, but my colleague and I still talk… Only now, about how it’s possible for me to have lost my faith, the meaning of life, evidence of God and the origins of the universe etc. I particularly enjoy our discussions, because unlike most believers I have reasoned with, he is very tolerant, patient, and secure in himself.
The following is an extract from a discussion we recently had, where he asked some of the defining questions often asked by Theists. I have attempted to answer every question as best I can.
“Without faith you will never see God!! If you could prove God exists, then faith is not required.”
“Faith” is not something that anybody can use to prove something is true, in other words, faith isn’t evidence. If we were able to measure if something is real purely by using faith, then it means that ALL the gods worshiped by mankind must be real, because they all require their subjects to have faith. That would also mean that the tooth fairy, elves, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real, because millions of kids believe in them.
If faith were a reliable method to distinguish truth from a lie or fact from fiction, why has no court or any other secular institution ever adopted it to determine a result? Would anybody ever receive a fair trial in a court of law if faith were adopted as a means to establish evidence or truth? No. People would get accused or acquitted based on beliefs and perceptions, and not on what can be proven or disproven. Think about it for a minute: If you were a law abiding citizen who got implicated in a serious crime by some powerful people who didn’t like you, would you want to be judged according to faith, or according to what can be established as fact?
The bottom line is that faith cannot be used to prove if something is real or not. To state it plainly, here is what British author, religious and literary critic and journalist Christopher Hitchens stated:
American public speaker and internet personality Matt Dillahunty said the following:
How can we know God is real if there is no tangible way to prove he exists? Saying “I feel Him in my heart” is simply not good enough, because people from all around the world feel all sorts of different things in their hearts. There needs to be a reliable, repeatable, sure-fire way to prove that something as important as a Creator is real, making it possible for even people who are born with skeptical minds to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that something bigger than themselves is out there, looking out for them, and being able to point other skeptics to this same, undeniable evidence.
As you probably know by now, unbelievers do not acknowledge the Bible as “evidence”. Just like the holy books from all the other religions, they consider the Bible to be simply a book written by an ancient civilization in which they attempted to make sense of certain unexplained occurrences and justify the killing of the people from neighboring countries in the name of their God. There is also no evidence available from any of the Egyptian historical archives that the Jews were ever held captive as slaves in Egypt – surprizing for a nation who kept very accurate records of everything in their history.
“Science has been proven wrong so many times.”
Science is simply a METHOD that is used to test the authenticity of claims. Science is not a religion or a creed as such, neither is it trying to compete with any of the world religions. The scientific method is probably one of the most amazing things mankind has ever stumbled upon, because it allows us to continuously improve our understanding of how the world works. Yes there have been many scientific theories which have been proven wrong,, but that’s exactly the beauty of it – as better information becomes available (due to improved technology or more reliable data) we are able to adjust our views on certain things.
Take for example heliocentric theory (the scientific theory that all the planets in our solar system revolves around the sun). A few centuries ago it was still believed that the sun revolves around earth (geocentric theory). This was based on observation (the sun comes up in the East and goes down in the West) and because the technology did not yet exist to know any better. Fortunately we developed telescopes and mathematical models and today we know that heliocentric theory is an undeniable truth. This is just a simple example of how science corrects itself as better information becomes available. Science continually adjusts its views, making it the best tool we have to continue learning about the universe and the world.
“Why are we here? What is a human being’s purpose? Why do we exist? Is there a purpose?”
That is a question every person needs to establish for themselves. You essentially create your own purpose – no two people on earth who have the same purpose. Every decision you make during the day has an influence on the outcome of your journey. Why does “purpose” have to be defined as something we can point our finger to and say “There it is! That is the purpose of life!”? Why do we feel the need to narrow the answer to this question down to something that only fits into the paradigm of only a small percentage of the world’s population?
Even among Christians the answer to this question is as different as night is from day. Here are some typical answers:
“To have a relationship with God.”
“To win souls for God’s Kingdom.”
“To advance God’s kingdom on earth.”
“To love God and my fellow man.”
“To live out God’s plan for my life.”
“To become a Pastor.”
“To preach the gospel to every nation in the world.”
What about all the people from other religions? They will obviously have very different answers to the question of life’s purpose than the Christian. But if they also sincerely believe their god(s) to be the TRUE god(s), does that mean they are wrong?
Dan Barker has a good answer for the belief that life has no purpose if God doesn’t exist:
As a non-believer, I am perfectly satisfied in knowing that today I am forging my own destiny. There is almost a sense of empowerment emanating from knowing that I have to take responsibility for all my actions.
“Why is every person different? Why is every single person’s fingerprints / eyes / heartbeat different? Why are all snowflakes different?”
For the same reason every single other animal on the planet is different from all the others: Our bodies are made up of billions of cells. Bacterial cells are even smaller than human cells, and there are at least ten times as many bacteria as human cells in the body (approximately 1014 versus 1013). An adult human being has approximately 100 000 billion cells, all originating from a single cell, the fertilized egg cell. That’s an incredible amount of cells, and there are only about 7 billion people on the planet. These cells are arranged differently in every human being. It actually becomes a mathematical probability that due to the large amount of cells in every person’s body, the chances are much, much higher for people (and their fingerprints and snowflakes etc.) to be different from each other, than for two people to be identical.
“Where did everything start?”
Here is one of the areas where scientists are still looking for answers. There are a few theories (the Big Bang being the most probable), but we do not have the technology available yet to know for sure. It’s important to keep in mind that the Big Bang theory explains how the stars and planets expanded (and are still expanding), but not how everything came to be (the origin).
The evidence that the universe is expanding comes with something called the red shift of light. Light travels to Earth from other galaxies. As the light from that galaxy gets closer to Earth, the distance between Earth and the galaxy increases, which causes the wavelength of that light to get longer.
This is similar to the Doppler effect of sound waves, which also happens with light waves. I’m sure you’ve heard it for yourself in real life: as an ambulance approaches you, the siren pitch seems to increase, and as it moves away from you, the siren pitch decreases. This is due to how the sound waves increase or decrease depending on the movement of the object emitting the waves relative to the person hearing them. As the ambulance approaches you, the sound waves get closer together and shorter, which results in a higher pitch. As the ambulance moves away from you, the sound waves stretch out and get longer, which results in a lower pitch. If everything in the universe is moving apart from everything else, then those light waves should move further apart and get longer. Longer wavelengths of visible light are red, and that is why it is called the red shift.
This red shift of light gives scientists information on the speed and direction that a star is moving. This in turn tells scientists that stars are not only moving away from us, but they are also moving away from each other.
Here are two fairly simple articles explaining how we know the universe is expanding (and if it can be proven that it is expanding, it can be proven that at some point everything was converged in one place):
The evidence for the Big Bang is fairly solid, because it makes use of several proven scientific principles of light and microwave energy. The explanation for how the Big Bang started however, is still a mystery. In cases like this (where we are limited by what we can prove with our current levels of technology), scientists are comfortable with saying “We cannot don’t know for sure yet, but possible theories are…” Science will then stick with the most plausible theory until better facts or information becomes available.
This is one example where science and religion actually faces the same problem. Science cannot answer how everything came into being. Religion claims to know the answer to this question, but is then stuck with a similar problem: “If God created the universe, where did God come from?” The answer that “God has always existed” can also be used by science to say that “the universe always existed” or “the parts that make up the universe have always existed”. Either way, there is no answer from either side that can give a convincing explanation to this conundrum yet.
Probably the biggest difference between science and religion is that science allows room to correct itself, whereas religion doesn’t. Science is simply a tool that uses the best available evidence at the time to formulate answers for certain mysteries, subject to correction when better information becomes available.
Religion claims to have the answers to these mysteries, but requires the use of “faith” to make these answers believable. As we’ve mentioned earlier however, we cannot use faith as a means of establishing what is real.