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What is Faith?

Believers perceive the world as fundamentally unjust. This perception has two aspects. First, believers see that in a world which is supposed to be ruled by an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God, bad things nonetheless happen. Second, believers perceive that good things happen to people they perceive as bad (unrepentant sinners and unbelievers) and that bad things happen to people they perceive as good (repentant sinners and believers). God/Jesus/Christ is supposed to promise special protection and other rewards, yet the unbeliever appears to lead just as rewarding a life as the believer. This apparent injustice created by an omnipotent omnibenevolent God doesn't make any sense to believers, yet sense must be made of it, because they believe that the universe must makes sense because it operates according to God's rules.

Such cosmic injustice make senses to believers only if it is balanced by a compensatory justice that occurs at a later time. But when? There is no evidence for delayed punishment later in life for non-believers who live it up in the present. No, during their entire lives non-believers have just as much good luck as do believers. So when does the compensatory justice of God take place? The only answer that makes sense, if an answer is required, is that this justice takes place after death.

The forms that this justice takes are in the reward of Heaven and the punishment of Hell. The fact that these forms of divine justice are alleged to take place only after death, where they cannot be examined to be proven or disproven is of great convenience to this theory, thus made tidily coherent and irrefutable. In a kind of circular logic, the existence of the divine justice of the afterlife is amply proven to the believer by the otherwise unthinkable injustice of the world created by God.

Belief in the justice of the afterlife is essential to emotional satisfaction of believers by their religion because it provides psychological defense against the contradiction of an omnipotent omnibenevolent God presented by the unjust world. Believers fear that their needs for control, acceptance, reassurance, and hope cannot be fulfilled without the existence omnipotent omnibenevolent God. Therefore, for these emotional needs to be met within a Christian framework, which is all that believers know, it is essential to believe in both heaven and hell.

However, this solution actually presents a new problem. How can an omnipotent omnibenevolent God allow a place such as Hell to exist? How can a God that is supposed to be ALL forgiving condemn anyone to eternal torment? At first, believers answer that God has given us free will to choose to follow his path or not. But, if God is also omniscient, then it is logically necessary for God to have known that by creating free will he would have condemned some of us to eternal torment. Would not this omniscient God have also known which people and angels would be condemned? Would not this omniscient God have known that Lucifer would fall and become the Devil, destined to torment others? Could not a truly omnipotent God have found a way to enable everyone to have free will and to make choices that would lead to salvation? Was it not the choice of an omniscient and omnipotent God, therefore, to condemn sentient beings to eternal torment? Can such a God truly be regarded as omnibenevolent?

Though such a line of questioning, the attempt to prop up belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God through the invention of the justice of Heaven and Hell falls apart as an internally inconsistent idea. If Hell exists, God is either not omniscient, not omnipotent, or not omnibenevolent. Such an imperfect God cannot adequately provide for the emotional well-being of believers. What is an emotionally needy believer to do?

return to irregulartimes.comThe process by which the crutch of the justice of the afterlife is invented and eventually undermined is not truly rational because it is created for emotional purposes and is not based on observable reality. However, it is based loosely upon the structures of reason, and therefore is primarily logic in its operation. When logic fails to provide emotional comfort, there is nothing left to a believer but to reject the validity of logical, rational thought and submit completely to the command of emotional needs. This submission is what believers call faith.

Summary:

The promise of rewards for the faithful falls away when confronted by the religiously-neutral injustice of the world. Believers invent an afterlife system of justice (Heaven and Hell) to compensate and maintain their belief in a God who provides for their emotional needs. However, the idea of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God is logically incompatible with the existence of Hell. Believers therefore resort to the doctrine of divinely created free will among humans and angels. However, true free will is logically incompatible with the omniscience of God, and therefore the omnipotence, omniscience, or omnibenevolence of God is logically destroyed. Believers, in response, flee from rationality and abandon themselves to a way of life commanded by emotion: that way of life is faith.




Return to Irregular Times' Department of Credulity Studies


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