You have to have faith, or so I’m told. People who don’t have faith are somehow deficient, missing out on all that life has to offer, and maybe even morally suspect.
Why is that? What’s so great about faith? What do you get from being faithful that you don’t get from being skeptical? There are a lot of answers to those questions, but the most accurate ones aren’t as flattering as the PR might have you believe.
Suppose someone tells you something that might not be true. So you look into it. You find out other people also believe it, but you don’t stop there. You go back to the verifiable facts behind what people believe, and decide whether or not to believe based on whether or not you can verify the alleged facts behind the belief. In a way, that’s a kind of faith, because you’re trusting in the principle that truth is consistent with itself. But most people don’t call that faith, they call that skepticism, because you don’t believe things unless they are consistent with real-world factual truth—and you check!
Faith, on the other hand, is when you take the non-skeptical approach to believing what people tell you. You decide what to believe based on how many people believe it, and how persuasive they are, rather than on the objective facts. This reliance on conviction rather than facts is what distinguishes faith from skepticism.
And even when you do look at the evidence, you make no distinction between verifiable evidence on the one hand, and mere fantasy, intuition, superstition, and hearsay on the other. When you hear contradictory evidence, it doesn’t make you doubt what people say, it makes you think up ways their claims could still be true. And when you’re done defending these claims, you feel like you’ve accomplished something by not letting external, real-world circumstances dictate your beliefs.
This kind of faith enhances your ability to believe things that people tell you even when these things have no connection whatsoever to reality. It strengthens your ability to believe what people tell you even when they say things that flatly contradict verifiable facts. It equips you to believe whatever people tell you even when they contradict themselves.
In a word, faith empowers you to be more gullible.
This is the virtue of religious faith. It takes ordinary, embarrassing gullibility, and elevates it to the status of virtue. People who would otherwise feel bad at how easily others take advantage of them can now gloat over the superiority of their spiritual insight. They’re not just gullible, they have faith.
And you gotta have faith. Everyone says so. You believe what people tell you, right?