Faith vs. Belief

Posted: June 20, 2007 in Atheism, Evolution, Religion

I have often scene statements like the following;  “Science is just another religion.”,  “Evolution takes just as much faith as Creationism.”, “You believe in Evolution, I believe in God’s will.”, etc.   You get the general idea, I am sure.   Of course, anyone seriously saying any of the both is demonstrating a distinct ignorance of various kinds but for now I only tackle but one of those.

Faith, by it’s very definition, is blind.  It is something which someone has confidence or trust in but actually has no proof or evidence to support that.  For the sake of the example, I can have faith that Elvis Presley is still alive but in the form of a slightly deranged duck.   The idea is ridiculous and there is no possible way I can readily prove it … therefore, it is nothing but faith.

A belief is something which could be thought of as similar but practically it is a vast improvement over faith.  A belief is not the same as faith as it requires some sort of evidence or past experience to support it.   As such, if you have no evidence at all for something, then you can not believe in it – that’s back in faith country.  Again, an example:  I can believe that if I step outside my front door that a giant rock will not fall out of the sky and strike me.  I can believe this because there is no evidence to suggest that it will happen and also, that in my own experience, it has never happened to me before.   Of course, no belief deals in certainties of any kind, therefore while the chances of said rock smiting me are extremely small to say the least, it may still happen.  It’s plausible if next to unlikely.

So how does this all tie into religion, god, evolution and so on?

By and large, religious belief is not that at all.  It is not a belief, it is faith.  There is no evidence at all, for example, which supports the literal truth of the various versions of the Christian Bible while a large amount exists which disproves such claims of literal accuracy.

While those who claim to have personal experiences with God/Thor/Vishnu/Whatever may claim that their faith is a belief because that person experience is evidence, that is still a false claim.  Personal experience which can not be proven or is empirical evidence is still not a valid basis, else mentally disturbed people who think they are Napoleon could say that their belief is a valid one (which, of course, isn’t – unless they happen to be immortal, a time traveller and very clever).

So having faith in the Theory of Evolution is impossible.  There is a great deal of evidence to support it and none yet to disprove it, so it can be classified as a belief.  But yet it is more than a mere belief, it is a Scientific Theory.

Just what a Scientific Theory is, however, is for another time.

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Comments
  1. Joe says:

    Hey Matt,
    I disagree on your definition of belief. A belief is simply anything which someone thinks is true. People certainly do believe in god. But I agree that those beliefs are based on faith which is nothing to base a belief on at all.

  2. rbirtell says:

    You said, “A belief is not the same as faith as it requires some sort of evidence or past experience to support it”

    My question to you is what kind of “evidence” is permissable to you in your framework for your definition of belief? How do you determine what facts are valid?

  3. Keith Brooks says:

    Earlier you said: “Faith, by it’s very definition, is blind. It is something which someone has confidence or trust in but actually has no proof or evidence to support that.”

    Can you cite any reputable Christian theologians who believe this? I don’t know any Christian philosopher worth his/her salt who would say something so ludicrous.

    Earlier you also said: “Personal experience which can not be proven or is empirical evidence is still not a valid basis, else mentally disturbed people who think they are Napoleon could say that their belief is a valid one (which, of course, isn’t – unless they happen to be immortal, a time traveller and very clever).”

    This is awkwardly worded. I will assume that you meant that personal experience that cannot be proven (empirically?) is not a valid basis for justified belief. What then of various memories that you have had? Let’s say two weeks ago you had a dream about a woman you met. Obviously this is a personal experience that cannot be verified empirically. So then, what happens to your belief? I would reason that since such a dream obviously happened, there is something wrong with your criteria for justified true belief. Your criteria for true belief is too narrow.

  4. Actually, I find your distinction between “faith” and “belief” to be quite workable, at least for the purposes of this discussion. While there is much that I deplore about organized religion, a fundamental belief in some kind of higher power is not such an unreasonable one.

    In this context, my belief in the existence of a higher power (you can call it God, if you like, but I won’t insist on it) fits very nicely with your definition, which is “A belief … requires some sort of evidence or past experience to support it.”

    Do I have any conclusive, empirical data? No, of course not. If I did then it wouldn’t be a belief, it would be a fact. And I don’t presume to call my beliefs facts.

    But as far as “experience” goes, yes I do believe there exists circumstantial evidence to support the notion that there may be some sort of higher power going on. Whenever I contemplate how marvelously elegant the universe is, from the lowest single celled organism to the galaxies themselves and everything in between, I simply have a difficult time with the idea that it’s all just the result of a series of happy coincidences. The whole thing simply works way too well. Not enough hard evidence to convict, M’Lud, but perhaps enough to make you stop and think a bit.

    I have no problem reconciling ideas like the Big Bang and Evolution with the notion of a higher power. If there is a God (a big if, mind you) then perhaps these things are a truer manifestation of his existence than anything you’ll find in so-called Holy Writ. Frankly, the idea of a God with an attention span of billions of years strikes me as far more impressive than the petulant Jehovah of the Old Testament.

    You say there is no evidence that God (I’ll call him that since it’s easier to type) exists. To which I reply that there is no conclusive evidence that God doesn’t exist. You say that one can’t prove a negative. To which I reply: that’s exactly my point. You can’t PROVE your point any more than I can PROVE mine, therefore your atheism is really just another form of faith.

    However, I make no futher assertions other than my belief in a higher power. One of the things that I hate about organized religions is how they usually take the position that theirs is the One True Religion. We’re not even sure God exists (I do allow for that , by the way) and these people act like they have His cell phone number. Since we really don’t know, one religion is just as valid as another. If worshiping the Flying Spaghetti Monster brings someone some form of comfort, good for them. Everything else is just window dressing, after all.

    Sorry to take up so much room on your blog, but you hit a chord and I felt a need to express this.

    -Smith

  5. GoodWill says:

    I have FAITH in the promises of GOD because I BELIEVE in JESUS CHRIST. This is why I BELIEVE in JESUS:

    10 of the 11 remaining disciples (after Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, committed suicide) were matryed. The disciples died brutal deaths: plunging from the top of the temple in Jerusalem only to be beaten to death with a club, crucifixion, crucifixion upside down, hung from a cross and skinned alive, beheadings, stoned to death, and speared to death…all while refusing to deny the resurrection and Lordship of Jesus Christ.

    Tell me Matt, would you die for what you believe in even though it’s just a theory or myth?

  6. Joe says:

    I don’t find being willing to die for a belief particularly admirable. Of course, creating a situation where it might be necessary is even less admirable.

  7. Matt says:

    People have died (or been willingly killed) for all manner of beliefs throughout human history (Aztec sacrifices, Egyptian pantheon, Norse pantheon, etc), that however certainly does not mean they were right. Indeed, in the modern day a number of the followers of Islam die for their beliefs – by ‘Goodwills’ logic, Islam must be a correct faith because a lot of people have chosen to die for it.
    Which is logically absurd.

  8. Brian says:

    First of all, your definition of faith is completely erroneous! And, your definition of belief is also erroneous. So your entire article falls apart. How can I say this?

    Let the Bible itself define faith :
    – James 2:14-26
    – Hebrews 11 (Note verse 1) (chapter 11 is the hall of faith)
    – Romans 1:5 and 16:26

    And many other passages that I forget. these are the passages I remember off the top of my head only.

    FAITH is NOT a belief despite the emptiness of evidence.
    FAITH IS obedience to God (and the assurance) despite the Consequences.

    So Faith is based already in your belief in God, it goes together. Plus, Belief does NOT require evidence. Anybody can believe anything without any evidence!

    In fact, read Acts 1:3 ( It tells us that Jesus Christ appeared to the disciples for 40 days while giving them infallible proofs that his resurrection was true).

    Now, don’t get me wrong, Im not proving the bible with this, Im just stating that Faith is NOT what you said it is. In fact, faith is Christ means you already experienced a Proof and evidence of his existence, in many different ways. There’s plenty of evidence for Christ (Not to mention his creation).

    I could go on, but let me stop here.

  9. Brian says:

    Matt said:

    “People have died (or been willingly killed) for all manner of beliefs throughout human history (Aztec sacrifices, Egyptian pantheon, Norse pantheon, etc), that however certainly does not mean they were right. Indeed, in the modern day a number of the followers of Islam die for their beliefs – by ‘Goodwills’ logic, Islam must be a correct faith because a lot of people have chosen to die for it.
    Which is logically absurd.”

    This is right ! However, for Christianity it is different. This is because the disciples and apostles died not necessarily because of their mere belief. They died for what the KNEW was true or false. They were eyewitnesses of Christ. This is QUITE different.

    If what they preached was false, then they died for what they KNEW was false (All of them), which quite questionable. In fact WOMEN were the first witnesses. And in their Jewish minds, women were not allowed to give such testimonies. It is very unlikely that the Gospels were “Made up” by them. Making women primary witnesses was unthinkable to them, if it would have been “invented” or “false”.

    (Be careful with what I mean about christianity. there are plenty of “Christians” that are not real christians. Christianity became very Broad because of those false christians. How do you discern real christians from false ones? Read 1 John! and read 2 Peter. That’s what their epistles are about, about false teachers and christians, and how to discern the real ones from the false ones.)

  10. Joey says:

    Good post, but not your best I like the thought but I think I can punch a hole or two in a couple arguments, forst of all I’m seriously a little confused about claims that dying for what you beleive in isnt admirable. For the record I just want to know where you’re coming from with this opinion.

    If some 1400s christian group held you tied down and told you to “reject your heathen ways, and turn to the only true risen christ” or something like that, would you say something along the lines of ;

    “I’d rather die than bow down to some fictional representation of you’re arrogance”

    or would you say everything they wanted you to say and pray on your knees for God’s forgiveness right there?

    Seriously, which would you do? I personally find the second one as an example of cowardice, but thats my opinion.

    Also a little evidence can be noted for the existance of God, or rather of Jesus, which in turn is evidence of the validity of the bible which is in turn evidence of the existance of God. (Please remeber evidence is NOT proof.)

    By evidence I mean the discovery of what is thought to be Jesus’ tomb and Jesus’ brother James’ tomb.

    The inscriptions have many interpretations and as such can evidence the INVALIDITY of some parts of the bible, but the fact remains that this is is evidence of the existance of various bible people, purpose and true occupation aside.

    wow. my wording there sucked badly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Ossuary
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Tomb_of_Jesus

    Bear in mind if reading that the Documentary: The Lost Tomb of Jesus was a partly fictional film that botched some of the truth surrounding the actual discovery. Many of the inconsistencies between the film and the actual event are given in the entries.

  11. Brian Lopez says:

    Thanks Joey for your reply,

    but I do not agree with half of what you said for some very very good reasons. I will reply with a full response this weekend.

    Later.

  12. Bad says:

    Joey: most non-believers don’t disagree that there was probably a person named Jesus who was the cause of the religion. But evidence for a person is not evidence for any of the supernatural claims made, God or anything else: not unless the existence of Julius Caesar is evidence that HE was a God, as many of his subjects at the time claimed.

  13. Brian Lopez says:

    Joey Said:
    ———————————————————————————-
    Good post, but not your best I like the thought but I think I can punch a hole or two in a couple arguments, forst of all I’m seriously a little confused about claims that dying for what you beleive in isnt admirable. For the record I just want to know where you’re coming from with this opinion.
    ———————————————————————————–
    First of all Joey, what I said about faith and belief is NOT a thought nor an opinion. It is based on what the very Bible itself, since Genesis, defines faith and belief as, especially faith and belief IN GOD.

    Real faith in God means you already know him in the sense of having converted and knowing him personally in many different fashions. I experience this myself in my life, and it adds credibility to this belief. You would have to live with me to see it I cannot prove this over the internet.

    Faith is obedience to God no matter the consequences. Abraham is one of the examples that the Bible gives for this.
    Faith is not what we see (Hebrews 11:1). HOWEVER, it IS based on what we experience and observe in different ways which shows us that what we cannot see is real and true.

    The Disciples and Apostles were not persecuted and put into prison what what they BELIEVED to be true. They were put to death and were persecuted during their lives for what they KNEW was true or false.
    It raises the bar above any other mere belief.

    Joey Said:
    —————————————————————————–
    If some 1400s christian group held you tied down and told you to “reject your heathen ways, and turn to the only true risen christ” or something like that, would you say something along the lines of ;

    “I’d rather die than bow down to some fictional representation of you’re arrogance”

    or would you say everything they wanted you to say and pray on your knees for God’s forgiveness right there?

    Seriously, which would you do? I personally find the second one as an example of cowardice, but thats my opinion.
    ——————————————————————————-
    What Christians are you describing? What you are describing are Wolves and Apostates, they are false Christians and false believers. 1 John and 2 Peter talks about these ” Christians “.

    I would do neither, because your example is a faulty one. Paul and Peter in the Bible tells us to present the Gospel and to refute false teachings with “LOVE AND RESPECT” never by force. God will not force in, never. But you will suffer the consequences at the end if you refuse the truth.

    Joey Said:
    ——————————————————————————
    Also a little evidence can be noted for the existance of God, or rather of Jesus, which in turn is evidence of the validity of the bible which is in turn evidence of the existance of God. (Please remeber evidence is NOT proof.)
    ——————————————————————————-
    A little evidence ?? NO! There’s no little evidence for God. In fact there’s plenty of PROOFS for God.
    You are right in saying that evidence is NOT proof. I agree.

    Evidence will only support a conclusion, whether Proof is factual information that can be verified and conclusively report something to be false or true.

    There are PLENTY of PROOFs for God buddy, plenty! But, EVEN with proofs you will not believe, unless you put your Pre-non-belief aside, like I did.

    I will continue in another reply box……..

  14. Brian Lopez says:

    ……………….continuing from my last reply box:

    Anyways, we are not saved by Sight, nor by physical evidence (although there is physical evidence and proofs for God). We are saved by faith.

    If you would read the Bible carefully, you should not fail to see that if God would show himself up, your judgment would be greater because your are then more accountable to what God reveals to you. Faith and Belief in God means obeying him, it doesn’t limit itself to ” his existence”. What saves you is not the belief in his existence, it is the acceptance and repentance in Jesus Christ, which HE alone obeyed the Father Fully and Perfectly, thus accomplishing the law for US. In Him we are justified:
    – Galatians 2 : 16 and more….

    Now regarding the Tomb of Jesus Christ. Again you are in wrong grounds. Why?

    Because the disciples THEMSELVES did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ simply because the tomb was empty or simply because they ” Hear ” that Jesus Christ was resurrected ( When the Women reported this to the disciples).

    They did not believe ! So what convinced them ?? The actual apparitions of Jesus Christ!

    -Read Luke 24 : 36-44 and Acts 1:3.

    The proof of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ does NOT at all limit itself to the Tomb of Jesus. Not at all.
    ——————————————————————————–
    BAD:

    Bad, on September 28th, 2007 at 13:25 Said:

    Joey: most non-believers don’t disagree that there was probably a person named Jesus who was the cause of the religion. But evidence for a person is not evidence for any of the supernatural claims made, God or anything else: not unless the existence of Julius Caesar is evidence that HE was a God, as many of his subjects at the time claimed.
    —————————————————————————

    Of course evidence for a person is not evidence for the supernatural claims of made ! This is a good reasoning from Bad, but false in its accusations because they are evidences for the truth of Jesus Christ and proofs of God existence.

    I cannot show everything here, it’s impossible. I know I am just claiming, but I cannot write everything in these boxes……….

  15. AV says:

    I experience this myself in my life, and it adds credibility to this belief. You would have to live with me to see it I cannot prove this over the internet.

    I doubt you could prove it in real life, either. Just because you believe something, or believe that you have experienced it, does not make it true.

    The Disciples and Apostles were not persecuted and put into prison what what they BELIEVED to be true. They were put to death and were persecuted during their lives for what they KNEW was true or false.
    It raises the bar above any other mere belief.

    No, it doesn’t. It lowers the bar significantly. You can’t demonstrate what you have just asserted, and you can’t present the Bible as evidence either: just because something is written down does not make it true. (Nor is something made more true by being typed in CAPS LOCK.)

    But you will suffer the consequences at the end if you refuse the truth.

    Argumentum ad baculum. And, again, completely unsubstantiated.

    There are PLENTY of PROOFs for God buddy, plenty!

    Such as?

    But, EVEN with proofs you will not believe, unless you put your Pre-non-belief aside, like I did.

    If you want to know how ridiculous that sounds, simply replace “God” with “The Flying Spaghetti Monster.” “There are PLENTY of PROOFs for The Flying Spaghetti Monster buddy, plenty. But, EVEN with proofs you will not believe, unless you put your Pre-non-belief aside like I did.”

    Now, you tell me: what’s the problem with your reasoning here?

  16. AV says:

    Anyways, we are not saved by Sight, nor by physical evidence (although there is physical evidence and proofs for God). We are saved by faith.

    If you would read the Bible carefully,

    Stop right there. You are making two assertions here which contradict each other:

    (a) You need faith to believe in God.

    (b) The Bible provides evidence for the existence of God.

    If you must needs rely on the Bible to provide “evidence” for God’s existence (no matter how shonky that evidence is), then belief in God can’t be a matter of faith.

    But if you insist that it is a matter of faith, why bother pointing people in the direction of the so-called Biblical “evidence” at all?

  17. Brian Lopez says:

    To AV:

    AV said:
    ——————————————————————————
    Anyways, we are not saved by Sight, nor by physical evidence (although there is physical evidence and proofs for God). We are saved by faith.

    If you would read the Bible carefully,

    Stop right there. You are making two assertions here which contradict each other:

    (a) You need faith to believe in God.

    (b) The Bible provides evidence for the existence of God.
    _——————————————————————————

    No they do not contradict each other. You dont know what faith is. Faith IS NOT belief despite the evidence.

    Faith is OBEDIANCE despite the consequences. I already answered this in my prior posts and you just replied with stupidity:

    Read what I mentioned above before you make false assertions.

    Yes Theres plenty of Proofs for God. I cannot write them down here I will take the entire web page. Understand that. I cant write an article in this box.

    Evolution and Spontenous generation are both The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    AV said:
    ——————————————————————————–
    The Disciples and Apostles were not persecuted and put into prison what what they BELIEVED to be true. They were put to death and were persecuted during their lives for what they KNEW was true or false.
    It raises the bar above any other mere belief.

    No, it doesn’t. It lowers the bar significantly. You can’t demonstrate what you have just asserted, and you can’t present the Bible as evidence either: just because something is written down does not make it true. (Nor is something made more true by being typed in CAPS LOCK.)
    ——————————————————————————

    Completely wrong buddy ! It doesnt lower the bar it raises it because if the disciples and apostles lied or the resurrection was false and they KNEW about it, that means they ALL lived and DIED for it. IT RAISES the bar buddy, how can you come up with such invalid arguments?????

    I KNOW that just because the Bible says something doesnt make it true. I never said it does. How can you reply in this way. None of your arguments were real arguments AV, none.

    And yes AV I read these types of article before. They do not depict the truth. They are not arguing the facts they are side-stepping the reality.

    “Eyewitness testimony is never (or should never be) taken at face value in a court of law until the credibility of the eyewitness has been satisfactorily established.”

    But this does not argue the evidence about these eyewitnesses you see AV it doesnt. IN FACT, there are more plausible reasons that I have analyzed to believe the disciples Eyewitnessing is realiable.

    And yes, the Bible is reliable.

  18. Brian Lopez says:

    Be careful people with these articles:

    http://fivepublicopinions.blogspot.com/2007/09/more-unconvincing-arguments-for-god.html

    There’s plenty of them, and they don’t provide evidence for their arguments. Of course, I am not provide evidence for MY arguments here on this webpage, but anyways, people you have to be diligent and go to the bottom of things. Do not just accept these arguments simply because they seem reasonable to you.

    I have not done that with the Bible. And my conversion and experience supports all the internal and external evidence. Thus it all weights heavier than evolution and the origins of sponteneous generations and what have you.

    Anyways, Im off , this will be endless if I keep on.

  19. Brian Lopez says:

    AV,

    I USE CAPS TO EMPHASIZE WORDS, THAT’S ALL.

    hehe.

    I always do that, if it bothers you then get off this page.

  20. Brian Lopez says:

    Actually,

    Im off.

  21. AV says:

    Faith IS NOT belief despite the evidence.

    Faith is OBEDIANCE despite the consequences.

    No, faith is belief in spite of the evidence (or lack thereof). It is not obedience despite the consequences, and no amount of caps locking on your part can make it so. You’re just making up definitions to suit your argument. Brian: that’s stupid.

    Read what I mentioned above before you make false assertions.

    Consult a dictionary, Brian. Start with Merriam-Webster.

    Yes Theres plenty of Proofs for God. I cannot write them down here I will take the entire web page. Understand that. I cant write an article in this box.

    But you should be able to condense these proofs into an easily digestible format, or at least be able to name some of them.

    Evolution and Spontenous generation are both The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    What on earth does that mean?

    It doesnt lower the bar it raises it because if the disciples and apostles lied or the resurrection was false and they KNEW about it, that means they ALL lived and DIED for it.

    People who live and die for their beliefs are a dime a dozen. Remember Sept. 11? Are you suggesting that because the perpetrators believed they were martyring themselves for their Islamic beliefs, Islam must be true?

    And what evidence is there that these people existed anyway?

    how can you come up with such invalid arguments?????

    In what way are they invalid? (And why use 5 question marks when one will suffice?)

    None of your arguments were real arguments AV, none.

    How so?

    And yes AV I read these types of article before. They do not depict the truth. They are not arguing the facts they are side-stepping the reality.

    How so? I keep asking “How so?,” incidentally, because you continue to make claims like these without bothering to substantiate them. “They do not depict the truth.” “They are not arguing the facts.” “They are sidestepping the reality.” Why bother to advance such claims in the first place if you’re not willing to defend them? I’m not a fundy. I’m not going to accept a claim simply because you make it.

    But this does not argue the evidence about these eyewitnesses you see AV it doesnt. IN FACT, there are more plausible reasons that I have analyzed to believe the disciples Eyewitnessing is realiable.

    What are these “plausible reasons” of which you speak? What evidence is there that firmly establishes the credibility of your Biblical “eyewitnesses?”

    In any case, just because someone believes they have witnessed a miracle–a violation of the laws of nature, such as a virgin giving birth, or a human being returning from the dead–does not mean that a miracle has indeed occurred. Google: “Ockham’s Razor.”

    Of course, I am not provide evidence for MY arguments here on this webpage

    Why not? Why do you expect us to just take you at your word that you indeed have such evidence? Because I assure you, Brian, we won’t. We’re not fundies.

    I USE CAPS TO EMPHASIZE WORDS, THAT’S ALL.

    It makes you look like a screaming idiot. I suggest you find another way to convey emphasis. The convention is to use italics.

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