Monday, July 23, 2012

The Double Bind of Christian Faith in God

Awhile back I wrote an essay on Agnosticism vs. Atheism and the overlap of knowledge and belief. A commenter, Geosch, made an interesting point. They stated:

I'd also argue that all Christians are agnostic theists, as they emphasise faith as the basis of their belief. If they have faith that a god exists, then they necessarily don't actually know. In this way, the common apologetic argument that god refuses to provide proof because he requires faith of his followers actually works against them. —Geosch

This is called a double bind, which is logically related (but not exactly the same as) a Catch-22. It illustrates some logical problems of faith in a god especially if that deity is purposely hiding themselves and then requiring belief and worship.

(a) Have faith that god exists or he will punish you;
(b) Do not doubt or he will punish you".
(or both a and b)

That would make the believer a “victim” or at least a “dupe” due to their god’s imposition of this contradiction. If it were true, then that god’s demands would be unreasonable if not sadistic considering the ramifications.

The claim of belief through faith cannot include knowledge as a basis of belief. If an individual is claiming knowledge of their god then they would not require faith. None of this is surprising to most atheists that ponder such things. It will be surprising to many theists that claim to have faith and know their god is real.  Geosch accurately points out that they are actually agnostic theists since faith requires lack of knowledge. It is incompatible with knowledge; however, doubt is almost universally demonized. 

I’ve heard many atheists state that they do not wish to “deconvert” believers.  I do not understand that stance. If something is untrue and as potentially dangerous as religion, then why would one not want it to end? Regardless, there should be no quarrel with my following point: the next best step is taking the air out of the sails of believers. Take them down a notch. Make them less sure of themselves. Not as people, of course, but as believers who operate via faith. The more they doubt the less likely they are inclined to attempt to impose their beliefs on others, passively or aggressively, explicitly or implicitly, by force, by threat or by inaction. The more doubt is recognized, there is an increased probability for the acceptance of others and a rejection of oppressive or discriminatory religious beliefs. The increasing of cognitive dissonance via doubt is the best chance of decreased religiosity.