The following quote was originally posted in the Speak good of Muslims and those of any faith
thread, but because we were getting off topic, with the permission of the other poster, I decided to create this thread. For context, see this post
. I'm going to try to respond in a way that both addresses points previously made, and allows for other people to join in the debate. With that said, let's get started.
Emotions and feelings have a great deal to do with reality. People live and die based on emotions. Countries are toppled by what feelings they can invoke in another nationís populace and in their own people. When confidence is high inside a nationís borders there is a surge of productivity and benefits to the economy and to social welfare. The same goes for when there are good feelings and emotions inside the workplace. Peopleís lifespans increase based on their emotions and feelings, their healing process in the hospital shortens if they are feeling good and have positive energy. Emotions and feelings most certainly affect reality. If atheists seek to foster change in the religious community, then caring about their emotions would have an effect on their progress.
Scientific scrutiny has upheld that belief does guide human interaction and assumption oils the machine of social welfare and government. Research into authority figures (i.e. police officers, medical personnel, higher ranking soldiers) has shown the effectiveness of their presence simply because people feel a boost to confidence and a belief in the abilities of that figure. Erwin Goffman did a great deal of research about social cues and interactions whereby belief in various symbols affected the interaction of two people. Symbolism in society is another field that discusses how belief in various cues and objects affects people. Institutions have the faith of people such as the Supreme Court. Once judgment is based down from the Supreme Court, the majority of people accept that judgment. They may not like the judgment, but they accept the judgment.
Here I think you're conflating belief in something tangible with faith in the supernatural, and feelings in general. I'm not denying that there's an emotional component to all of human existence, but I am denying that this component, if at odds with what we know or don't know, is reason enough to justify believing in something.
If we're going to get into "faith" in authority figures, then I think that, actually, skepticism is far more important for a well-functioning society. A Supreme Court can have the faith of the entire population and still be thoroughly corrupt, if no one questions that faith. By questioning, you force these institutions, or the economy, or whatever else you may have faith in, to prove itself. At that point, we're no longer talking about faith, but a justifiable belief.
With religious faith, there's no justification. Various religions ask you to take dubious answers to important questions purely on faith, and I don't see the value of it. Because I don't think certainty, in and of itself, has any value.
Also, stating that my points do not hold up to scrutiny and then contending that blind faith lead to economic collapse seems a poor choice. Economy did fail through bad faith, but at the same time was created by faith and belief. Credit and currency are two prime examples of this belief. Faith has been betrayed in the recent economic collapse, leading to a great many reforms and restructures in an attempt to restore faith and confidence in the system. Economics affects all aspects of society.
My point in bringing attention to your particular point about the economy was that it's an example of a situation where faith proved extremely dangerous. I didn't
say that blind faith led to economic collapse, I said that blind faith and people willing to take advantage of it
contributed to the economic collapse. Because, while there is a difference between religious faith and faith in something like a model for the economy, they're both examples of situations where faith ( I won't say "blind faith" again - all faith is blind by definition ) can prove to be misplaced.
As for the discussion on helpful and truth, we can end that discussion then I suppose. In my opinion a useful and helpful tool does not lose value because the item does not work as people imagined.
Sam Harris pointed out, at one point, that if the usefulness of a belief should be taken into account when deciding whether or not to believe in it, then we could just as easily make up our own religion right now which would surely be better than the ones we have. We could include things like commandments to protect the environment, to try hard to do well academically, and so on. And we'd get rid of every hateful, bigoted commandment that so many religions today have.