The phrase “taking something at face value” is a simple one to understand. It just means that you accept someone or something based on their outward appearance or your initial assessment of the situation without any further investigation and without verifying that your initial thoughts are in fact correct. You encounter a person or situation and accept them as is. No questions asked. We accept religions in this manner. We accept them on faith and do so without question. We take them at “faith value.” When doing this, a question should arise. A question should be asked. An obvious question that needs to be addressed: What if you are wrong? What if you believe based solely on the desire to believe and not based on facts…and you are wrong?
I’m not asking “what if you are wrong” in a Pascal’s Wager sort of way. I’m not saying that you should live your life and act in a particular manner “just in case.” A lot of religious people (namely Christians) feel like this is a justified way to live. Why? Because if they are right and you are wrong, then your actions/inactions could lead to eternal suffering instead of eternal bliss. No, when I ask “what if you are wrong”, I am concerned about the risks associated with blind faith such as views on homosexuality, slavery, women, and just bigotry in general for example. If you accept a religion based on your first trip to a church or upon the first time hearing the story from another person, then you may be likely (very likely actually) to develop doubts and have regrets later. But in the meantime, you are developing traits associated with discrimination that you might not have otherwise have adopted. Something as serious as religious faith is not something you should take lightly. You need to know the facts before you just accept anything. This is, sadly enough, not the way most of us enter into religion. It is what gets us in, keeps us there and then gets us to try to bring others in with us. So if the belief system you are subscribing to is untrue, wouldn’t it be beneficial to know that?
Most people who are believers are believers for many reasons, most of which exclude research. Parents raise their kids to believe. Villages, small towns and certain social groups have religious beliefs that draw people in and get people on board by assimilation rather than based on the content of their Holy Books. Someone tells someone who tells someone who tells someone who tells…well, you get the idea. People can be quite convincing of almost anything, especially when they themselves are convinced. They become convinced by someone they trust telling them the story and the cycle continues on and on. At what time does one of the people involved in this long line of storytelling stop and ask the necessary questions to determine the veracity of what they have been believing? When does one stop and say, “Hey, how do I know I really believe all of this?” When do they ask, “Am I believing based on fact or on trust alone?” It took me several decades to ask the questions. Some people never ask.
The problem is that very rarely do people in religion ask the questions that might make them rethink everything. Before people who have never been in a religion get involved in a religion, they usually ask questions, weigh the evidence and do the relevant research. People outside of religion tend to be more practical and more skeptical than those already in. This is why religions try to get people hooked while they are still young and before they have a chance to think for themselves. Children are generally more trusting than adults and they tend to believe what they are told, often without question. They accept almost anything on faith alone because of the trust they have of their parents, church members and family friends, etc… When you are an adult and someone presents you with a religious proposition, you are far more likely to reject it at face value. If you are an open-minded person, you may sit through the sales pitch and even do some research later on. But, if you do the research and study the history of religion (any religion), you will often come to the same conclusion I came to far too late in my life; religion is 100% faith driven.
I have spoken with many Christians through my blog and I have listened to many debates involving Christians. I have listened to example after example of Christians calling in to Atheist talk shows. I have read many testimonies by Christians. Finally, I have my own story to tell of my time spent as a Christian. There is one thing that is constant in all of these groups. There is one thing that is necessary to tie all of these stories together. Faith. You can change much of the story as you go along. You can add or remove much of the original message and still believe. To complete this meal of Christianity and get people to swallow it down, one thing cannot change. Faith is the one ingredient of this recipe that cannot be substituted. You can’t make this recipe work and be palatable without faith. Faith is required because the other ingredients are always being changed, left out or only exist in the minds of individual chefs. To others, these ingredients are not real. So faith is sprinkled in. Sometimes just a pinch will do to get someone hooked. Other times may require you to take all of the faith you have and pour it in to keep on cooking.
Faith, according to the Bible, is to be praised. Faith (in the Bible) is not an excuse, but rather proof that you actually have a relationship with God based on trusting him. In John 20:29 Jesus told his followers “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” He was saying that those who believed he was alive without seeing him were to be blessed. People who believed on faith alone. Anywhere else in life, faith is an excuse. Believing without seeing is not how you attain knowledge or evidence. Believing in Jesus by word of mouth only is why people still believe today. It doesn’t mean people know him. It just means that they trust the stories about him. It is most certainly not because they have seen evidence sufficient for belief.
Faith is the word you use when you either don’t know the answer or are too lazy to find the answer. Just saying that you believe without knowing why doesn’t work for things of science. You can say that you believe science is the answer to all things, but if you don’t know why, then you are treating science as a religion and believing based on what someone told you to believe. The difference between ignorant belief in science and ignorant belief in religion is that even though you may have accepted science just on faith, it can still be verified by other parties who have done the work and the research. You may have gotten it right for the wrong reasons, but that doesn’t make you any less ignorant of the facts. Religion doesn’t work like that. Of course you can be ignorant of the facts. That’s actually a requirement to believe. But someone can’t come in behind you and confirm what you believed on faith alone. All religion can do is provide more stories of more people who also believe on faith alone. There isn’t anyone coming later to verify that the story is correct and showing that you were right by luck as was the person believing science on faith alone. Science is the most reliable way to see what has happened, what is happening and what will happen in the future through testing and demonstrable evidence. Religion relies on stories that cannot be tested and always require faith to believe.
Christianity is something I started learning about as a young child and it continued with me until I was nearly 40. I believed it because I was told to believe it. I trusted those who told me and so I accepted it as it was presented. It was presented as a story without anything to back it up except the earnest belief of my parents. That was good enough for me. My parents were trustworthy so face value belief was justified in my mind. But face value belief only lasts so long, especially as time goes on. Trusting when things in your life contradict what you’ve been taught is hard. You have to either continue believing by burying your doubts deep down inside or you have to investigate and risk apostasy.
If you have a question about science, or if you don’t believe something you’ve heard, you can search for the answers and will be amazed at how much information is out there. You could have a question about evolution, gravity, cosmology, electricity, weather, or any other thing you can think of. One quick search online will take you to an endless supply of studies, testing and evidence by so many different people who are qualified to speak for any of those fields. More importantly, you can see multiple sources. The conclusions aren’t just from one source that is universally trusted by all in the scientific community. You can see the results there in front of you. There is no need to take anyone else’s word for it. Their work speaks for itself. There is actual tangible evidence for scientific questions. What about religion? Can religion provide such evidence? If you look for answers about Christianity for example, what sources will you find? You will certainly find an endless supply of people claiming to be experts who attempt to prove to you why you should believe…but there’s a catch. A problem, if you will. There is but one source and it’s not a reliable one. Their one source is an ancient book called the Bible. The Bible is all Christianity has to go on to prove their story is real.
I have done a lot of research on my own to learn about the history of the Bible and it was shocking to learn. I was still a believer when I started finding things out so it hurt a little to find that maybe my beliefs were unfounded. After looking at all of the data, a picture emerged that is one of the Bible being written and changed by man. No God was involved in the original nor was one involved during any of the numerous alterations made to it. This one faulty source is all Christian “historians” have to show you when trying to prove their story. There is no archaeological evidence for anything supernatural. There is no geological evidence for anything resembling the worldwide flood that the Bible speaks of. There is no extra-biblical evidence that Jesus was Divine and even his existence is still a hot topic of debate. There is no way around it; Christianity needs faith in order to be believed. You need to believe based on words in a book, some of which contradict each other. If you believe on faith alone (blind faith no less) then you can be saved and can reserve your spot in Heaven. If not, then Hell awaits. But this is all based on ancient writings in a book. A BOOK.
You can believe whatever you wish. You can live your life according to your beliefs. You can do anything you like, but that doesn’t make you right. Living a life based on writings in a book based on ancient hearsay and mythology is something many people do. They do so based on their trust of the stories, not evidence. Some say the book speaks for itself and that it can be used without any other outside sources to verify the stories within. That’s absurd of course, but they are certainly welcome to believe whatever they want to. But if you are going to preach from an unverifiable book full of mythology, poetry and just plain weird stuff, be prepared for people to push back. People today have so much information available to them, they are not as likely to believe in superstitious fairytales as their ancient counterparts were. People thousands of years ago believed all sorts of supernatural theories because science had yet to provide proper reasons for phenomena here on earth. Times have changed, yet sadly many beliefs are as antiquated as the book they hold so dear.
Don’t be ignorant of the truth. Don’t take stories at face value. Do the research and ask the questions. Find out what the reasons are for the things you see instead of imagining something unseen to fill that void. Stop taking religious stories at face value or you’ll end up having a worldview derived from that blind faith. A worldview that only has “faith value” is not one based in reality. It is at best misinformed and at worst dangerous. We have the tools necessary to do better. We can find the answers by looking for them instead of imagining them to be whatever we want them to be by closing our eyes, clasping our hands together and getting down on our knees.
If you want to read a book that is more relatable, written by an author that is here to answer questions and explain the motivation for writing the book, you can read my book. It may not be the Bible, but it was written from the heart. It is my story. It is my testimony, if you will. Yes I know this is a shameless plug…and I don’t care. 🙂