On the Importance of Terminology: Blind Faith
by Ken Mann
The subject of this post has been bothering me for a while now. What I will address is whether or not “blind faith” is myth or fact. Does it afflict all of humanity or only particular worldviews? What I would like to offer is a different way at looking at this unfortunate combination of words, “blind” and “faith.” In so doing, I want to expose a significant conflict between worldviews like theism and atheism that is masked by this increasingly silly and superficial expression.
The expression “blind faith” is a useful shorthand for a variety of criticisms against Christians to claim that their beliefs are lacking, or even against, the prevailing evidence. As someone studying apologetics, I know this accusation is a bluff that is easily refuted. One can also find Christian blogs and videos where the opposite claim is made, that is that atheism is an exercise in “blind faith.”
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Before I continue I want to suggest two things. First, I want to offer a word substitution that may clear some of the rhetorical and emotional noise. Simply use the word trust instead of faith. In doing so, you remove all the anti-theist, anti-church baggage that the word faith has built up around it. Many irreligious persons deny having faith but everyone puts their trust in a myriad of things. From a chair, to a car, to an airplane, everyone puts his or her trust in things. Second, I want to state, categorically, that “blind faith” is a myth. There has never been an example, aside from possibly the mentally ill in the length and breadth of human existence, of someone putting their trust in anything with no evidence.
So what is going on? In short, this is a dispute about what people use for evidence to ground their beliefs. The myth of “blind faith” is grounded in the simple idea that no one puts their trust in anything without reasons. What is at issue is what counts as valid evidence. In a sense, conflicts between worldviews have never been about truth per se, rather atheism and theism differ on what is a valid sources of knowledge. The philosophical materialist rejects the sources of information the theist uses. Their dismissal rises to the level of denying such sources even exist. This is an error I fear theists are capable of as well…