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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact


by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: As Taber writes (though I've reversed the order...):

Faith is uninvestigating, unreasoning, benighting, terrorizing.

Nothing has so antagonized science, retarded civilization, discouraged learning, and repressed kindly feeling.

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OF all the absurd and illogical positions assumed by religion none seems more so than that which makes faith the basis of belief.

No belief can, by any possibility, be founded on faith alone; there must be the understratum of the rational faculty to give faith proper direction and intelligent exercise.

“Reason must be the rock-bed of our faith. … We should submit every article of faith to the test of reason.” (Rev. R. Heber Newton.)

No matter how parsimonious a use is made of this faculty, it is absolutely indispensible that it should (to however limited a degree) precede faith, even with the most credulous of zealots.

A transposition of the proposition (that belief is by faith) is the correct one, faith being dependent upon belief rather than belief upon faith; faith is a consequence of belief rather than that belief is a consequence of faith, belief leading rather than following faith. Even Cardinal Manning (N.A. Review, Oct., 1888,) says: “The last act of reasoning precedes the first act of faith.”

Reason and faith are distinct qualities, independent in their action.

“Reason, subjected to faith, ceases to be reason.”

Belief is not a function of faith. It is the office of reason (and of reason alone) to determine on matters of belief.

“No one can teach belief in things unknown (or urge to) faith in that which reason fails to see or justify.”

It may be said of faith, that to the extent reason is convinced of the truth of what is believed, it intensifies belief. This is all that can be legitimately claimed for faith.

There is naught so ignorant, irrational, indiscriminating and cruel as blind, “Unquestioned faith, unvitalized by thought,” as the history of fanaticism in all ages of the world has demonstrated.

“Blind faith is the one unpardonable sin.” — (Huxley.)

There is no fact more patent than that belief is involuntary. You cannot believe by the mere exercise of the will any more than you can possess yourself of riches by a similar exercise.

A remarkably clear and convincing treatise on this subject is found in Dwight H. Olmstead, Esq.‘s, book, “The Protestant Faith,” but which may be, for the present occasion, summarized in one quotation from it, viz.: “Belief is simply the result of thought.”

“Belief is not the child of volition, but of conviction.”

“Belief is, in no case, directly dependent on the will.” (Rev. Mark Hopkins, D.D.)

“Belief is not a matter of will, but evidence.”

“Faith is the result of evidence.” (Rev. Wright Robertson.)

“Faith is an effect, not a cause.“ — (Judge Westbrook.)

“Faith should be rational, rather than scriptural.-“(Prof. Smyth, of Andover.)

The Christian Church falsely assumes that to believe is a meritorious act. “It is neither a virtue nor a vice. To believe can never be a duty.”

Greg, in his “Creed of Christendom,” says: “Belief is an effect produced by a cause. Being therefore an effect and not an act, it cannot be a merit. The moment it becomes a distinctly voluntary act it ceases to be genuine. It is then brought about by the will of the individual, not by the bona fide operation of evidence upon the mind, which brings us to the reductio ad absurdum that belief can only become meritorious by ceasing to be honest.”

Belief by faith, which religion exacts of its devotees as a pledge of fidelity, is immoral in its tendencies, cruel in its practices and degrading in its consequences.

Through “belief by faith” the Parsee lacerates his flesh until the blood flows in streams from his wounds.

Through “belief by faith” the Hindoo mother casts her offspring to the Ganges and the Hindoo widow climbs the funeral pyre of her husband.

Through “belief by faith” in — and to appease — the gods, the Carthagenians put to death the most promising children of their nobility.

Through “belief by faith” the torch was applied to the literary treasures of Alexandria; once by Muslim and once by Christian bigots.

It was “belief by faith” that urged a fanatical and brutal mob, led by a Christian patriarch, to the murder of Hypatia, one of the most gifted women of either ancient or modern times.

Through “belief by faith” intellectual darkness pervaded Europe for a thousand years.

Through “belief by faith” Copernicus was intimidated, Galileo terrorized, and Bruno burned.

Through “belief by faith” in the Sacredness of certain days the charge for absolution for marrying on days appointed by the church was two pounds, while that for killing a human being was but three shillings.

Through “belief by faith” the Romish devotee presents the painful and humiliating spectacle of ascending holy stairs (!) on bended knee.

Through “belief by faith” intelligence is insulted by the claim that bread and wine are transmuted into Omnipotence.

Through “belief by faith” the sprinkling of water betokens an eternity of happiness.

“Belief by faith” takes young men and young women from under the parental roof and incarcerates them in prisons — called monasteries and nunneries.

It was “belief by faith” in the teachings of the Christian Church, that recently prompted an ex-priest in Canada to abandon his lawful wife and two innocent babes, because he had repented (!) of having violated his priestly vows in entering the marriage state.

“Belief by faith” sends millions of weary pilgrims to Mecca, and other millions to Treves, for a glimpse of the holy (!) coat.

“Belief by faith” rejects the fact of natural causes for famine, pestilence, earthquakes and tornadoes, and bows in abject fear before some supposed spirit of evil.

“Belief by faith” opens the portals of the “Heavenly Jerusalem” to the murderer, whose last hours are comforted by the assurances of his “spiritual adviser,” that eleventh-hour repentance is as efficacious as a whole life of uprightness.

Through “belief by faith” the Italian brigand bows in adoration to the Madonna, and straightway plunges his stiletto into the heart of the wayfarer.

The doctrine of “belief by faith” plunged the knife of the Pocassett imitator of Abraham into the heart of his innocent child.

”Belief by faith” in the Romish Church bestows the attribute of infallibility on a man, and “belief by faith” in the Protestant Church bestows the same attribute on a book.

“Belief by faith” in the Bible injunction, “Thou shalt not permit a witch to live,” has been instrumental in the persecution, torture and murder of (it is estimated) nine millions of human beings.

“Belief by faith” in the words, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword,” so stimulated fanaticism, in the days of the Crusades, that (it is estimated) twenty millions of lives were sacrificed.

“Belief by faith” in the teaching of the “gentle Jesus” — “They who will not that I shall rule over them, bring hither and’ slay before me”  —has cost the world, probably, not less than fifty millions of human lives.

“Belief by faith” in the Bible text —  “If any are sick, call for the elders, and let them pray over him“ — has sacrificed many a life which medical treatment would doubtless have saved.

 “Belief by faith” in the examples and teachings of the Bible sustained polygamy in Utah and slavery in the South, and has retarded the progress of temperance.

Through “belief by faith” in the astronomy of Moses the heliocentric system was rejected.

“Belief by faith” in biblical biology, repels the scientific fact of evolution.

Through “belief by faith” we have become heirs to the Puritan bigotry of the seventeenth century, as especially exemplified in our atrocious Sunday laws.

“Belief by faith” lit the fires of Seville, of Smithfield, of Geneva and of Salem, and “carried fagots to the feet of philosophy.”

“Belief by faith” induced the absurd utterance of Tertulian – “I believe because it is impossible” — and the equally absurd utterance of Rev. T. De Witt Talmage, D.D. — “I believe certain passages in the Bible because I cannot understand them.”

The injunction to “believe by faith,” had its origin in ignorance, and was nurtured by superstition and fear. It fosters injustice, arrogance and tyranny. It is responsible for more persecution, oppression, cruelty, sorrow and loss of human life, than any other single cause.

Nothing has so antagonized science, retarded civilization, discouraged learning, and repressed kindly feeling.

Faith is uninvestigating, unreasoning, benighting, terrorizing.

John Morley says: “Those who dwell in the tower of ancient faiths, look about them in one constant apprehension, misgiving and wonder; with the hurried, uneasy mien of people living upon earthquakes.”

“Faith has burned libraries, closed schools, anathematized science, martyred philosophers, stayed the progress of the human race, wrought incalculable evils to civilization.” — (Rev. R. Heber Newton.)

“The greatest curse to a nation, is a form of faith which prevents manly inquiry.“ — (Inman.)

“The attainment of faith (says the cleric), not the ascertainment of truth, is the highest aim of life… Every great advance in knowledge has involved the annihilation of the spirit of blind faith.“ — (Huxley.)

“— faith, once wedded fast
To some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last,”—Lalla Rookh.

A thousand religions there are (according to the late Rev. Dr. Hitchcock), embracing all shades of differing faiths — and all equally ignorant. Each is the offspring of environment and education, and neither are capable of the slightest proof. The adherents of each are equally confident that theirs, alone, as the true faith.

All faiths are, to their own believers, just,
For none believe because they will, but must,
By education most have been misled:
We so believe because we so are bred.
The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the boy imposes on the man.” — Dryden.

“Religions are opinions; prove but one
And all men mingle in a common faith.”

There is, however, a higher sense than in its reference to religion, in which the word faith may be used. A faith

“not pent within a book,
Or buried in a creed,”

but in all that is good and grand and beautiful and useful in the illimitable universe ; faith in truth, in principle, in integrity of character, in human affections, in noble deeds, in the inspired volume of nature, in the vitalizing forces which science is revealing to us in the ever-widening and ceaseless flow of intelligent thought.

“For modes of faith let pious zealots fight:
His can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.” — Pope.

“There lives more faith in honest doubt,
… than in half the creeds,“-Tennyson.


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