Faith: Is It Immoral
As Well As Irrational?
Ed Infidel

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Ed Infidel"
Subject: Re: Ethics of Faith
Date: October 05, 2001 2:29 AM

This is a tough one because the term "moral" can have any number of shades of meaning, and because morality is intricately tied into the notion of choices: everything that can be called moral or immoral is the result of a choice, and one must look at the choices available plus the information available with with to make the decision.

At first glance, I would consider faith to be immoral only in an academic sense: faith in and of itself certainly does not hurt anybody, but I consider it immoral to tell somebody (including oneself) that something is true when one does not have ample reason to beleive that it's true.

I refuse to hold people accountable in any way for faith simply because there is such thing as being deceived. True, one can avoid this by refusing to say that something is true unless she or he can show it to be true, but most people don't follow religious claims through that thoroughly. Nevertheless, I will never hold someone acountable for faith in and of itself, but will only look at the behavior which may or may not result from faith.

This is the same way I look at intoxication: I think drug use itself is not properly seen as a crime, though drug use often inspires criminal behavior. When this happens, I think we do best to address the criminal behavior, not the drug use. If and only if we decriminalized drug use (for the sake of responsible drug users), then it would be fair to make drug use that leads to criminal behavior an aggravating factor. This would be like saying, "Look, we let you take drugs but in so doing we expected you be responsible in your use of drugs. Since you did not act responsibly, we will add two years to your five-year burglary sentence for the crime of abusing drugs. Had you simply used the drugs and not gotten into this other trouble, there would have been no crime in your use of drugs."

With this model (sans the aggravating factor), we need only look at the outcoming behavior and don't need to even think about the faith. It would be one thing to warn people about faith (or drugs or whatever), but it's another thing altogether to make either or both illegal. People tend to have an easier time seeing this in regards to faith, and tend to have a blind spot with drugs, but really, we're talking about the same thing: why bother with behavior which in and of itself is not destructive? Why not deal exclusively with behavior which is directly destructive?

Another thing, there is a point where just about everybody will justify being untruthful and will call it the most moral choice available. Where are you going to draw the line? Is the matronly grandmother immoral for pretending to remain a Jehovah's Witness, knowing that if she copped to her atheism she would never see the kids again? This is why I don't even talk about the immorality of faith except when asked.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.