From an Outsider Perspective

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As one without faith, this is an intriguing question. Being social animals, the need to belong is innate and fundamental to our natures. One could likewise say that the need to behave is essential as well, for without this our species would be self-destructive. Faith certainly serves to foster both of these, but not always in a productive way.

Faith provides community on a local level, but on a global level is very divisive. This is made evident by the countless wars and feuds waged in the name of faith. This, of course, ties into behavior. Now, by and large, many religions advocate moral behavior , but unfortunately under a moral theory of divine authority (or more crudely might makes right), which is easily abused. Equally dubious is the motive for behaving. For many faiths, behaving is often cast in terms of reward and punishment. Certainly both reward and punishment are integral to our learning to behave, but at some point, one would hope that doing good becomes a good in itself and without regard to some potential eternal reward or threat of divine punishment.

Perhaps the most objectionable is belief. I can’t understand the merit of committing one’s self to an unwavering acceptance of some set of beliefs for the sake of believing. To a great degree, this is the primary focus of many faiths. One’s belonging is very often dependent upon a commitment to believe central doctrines. Even behaving is often thought to depend greatly upon accepting a faith’s beliefs.  Such a commitment to believe is antithetical to truth and understanding.

For me, each of these things is important. Beliefs are important because they affect who we are and are the conduits of our understanding of the world. But we must always examine and even challenge beliefs, revising them as we learn and gain new information. We must first and foremost seek true beliefs.  Behaving is important so that we are not self-destructive, but morals should be based on reason and empathy as opposed to assumed immutable standards. Finally, belonging is important because we have evolved to need each other, to need acceptance. Suffice it to say, I am not convinced that that faith is the best way to properly address these matters.

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