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Can Faith be an Intellectually Valid Category of Belief

Or is it Always Intellectually Deficient?

Faith is such a successful brainwasher in its own favour, especially of children, that it is hard to break its hold. But what, after all, is faith? It is a state of mind that leads people to believe something—it doesn’t matter what—in the total absence of supporting evidence. If there were good supporting evidence then faith would be superfluous, for the evidence would compel us to believe it anyway. It is this that makes the often-parroted claim that ‘evolution itself is a matter of faith’ so silly. People believe in evolution not because they arbitrarily want to believe it but because of overwhelming, publicly available evidence... There is no way of way of preferring one article of faith over another, because evidence is explicitly eschewed. Indeed the fact that true faith doesn’t need evidence is held up as its greatest virtue; this was the point of my quoting the story of Doubting Thomas, the only really admirable member of the twelve apostles.

Richard Dawkins

‘I believe in order to understand.’ In the light of my early mental development, this would appear to be the strangest confession for me to make at the end of my life. If anyone had told me when I was twenty-one that I would do so, I should have felt insulted. I was then an aggressive unbeliever. I felt violently repelled by any view of life which was not established and justified by the intellect, and by it alone. I was born and brought up in Hinduism...but I lost faith in the gods and tenets of Hinduism by the time I was eighteen...and aired that arrogantly even before my elders. They only replied with contempt: ‘Let the hot blood of youth cool, and we shall see.’ Instead of being abashed by that I replied: ‘Perhaps I shall also walk with crutches. But would that be anything to be proud of, or would it prove anything?’

Faith has not come to me as a result of physical decay. Of course, I have seen that happening to others. Most of the early acquaintances of my life, who then swore by Comte, Marx, or even Trotsky and Bertrand Russell, have made ample amends. Some of them have not only taken shelter at the feet of Krishna, which would not have been dishonourable, but grovelled at the feet of imposters who could be easily recognized as such, and should have been. I have not followed their example in recovering faith. I not only persist in my disbelief in Hindu religious tenets, but have gone further and lost faith in all the great established religions. I did not reject Hinduism as religion in order to believe in Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam. My recovery of faith is not recantation.

It became necessary with a painful realization of the inability to live in hope without it. I began to suffer for my loss of faith almost with the loss itself, and yet remained incapable of going back to any of the existing forms of it. I could not retrace my way and yet I saw no road before me. I suffered for decades, and through that suffering discovered that all living faith has to be acquired. That can be done only by passing through mental experiences which either revalidate one or other of the old faiths, or create a new one. I was not able indeed to return to the old religions, but I learned from them that faith is as necessary for a man’s mind as food is necessary for his body; of course if he has the true human nature.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

The absolute element in culture is always provided by some positive faith, whether that faith is religious in the full sense, or is intellectualist (eg. Buddhism, Platonism, or any system derived exclusively or principally from pure reason), or takes the form of a social idealism (eg. Comptism, Marxism or Nazism). If that positive faith disappears the vitality of a society disappears with it.

Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact. The ‘scientific proof’ that you are right may not be clear before the day of judgment (or some stage of being which that expression may serve to symbolize) is reached. But the faithful fighters of this hour, or the beings that then and there will represent them, may then turn to the faint-hearted, who here decline to go on, with words like those which Henry IV greeted the tardy Crillon after a great victory had been gained: ‘Hang yourself, brave Crillon! we fought at Arques, and you were not there.’

William James (from Is Life Worth Living?)

Thoughts about Faith

All science requires faith in the inner harmony of the world.

Albert Einstein

If we have better grounds for believing something to be true than for believing it not to be true, it is not irrational to invest a certain degree of faith in it. There is nothing unscientific about such an attitude because the question at issue, concerning as it does the untestable, is not a scientific question. It is not a matter of possible knowledge.

Bryan Magee

Atheism requires as much faith as belief in God since, obviously, proof is not available for God’s non-existence.

Faith is the free element in thought, logic the necessary element.

Belief mean[s] being able to feel the existence of the spiritual, to know God and not just to know about him.

Douglas Hyde

Purely human conviction is not faith. Faith is supernatural certainty, the gift of God.

Arnold Lunn

Everything that logic can tell us about the world is ultimately founded on something other than logic, and that something, call it instinct or intuition or insight, can only be accepted as a matter of faith or common sense.

You can’t live on reason. However you can live on faith, even false faith. But to live a fully human life you need both reason and faith.

Faith begins as an experiment and ends as an experience.

W. R. Inge

According to Simone Weil faith is the experience that the intelligence is enlightened by love.

Faith declares what the senses do not see, but not the contrary of what they see.


I define Faith as the power of continuing to believe what we once honestly thought to be true until cogent reasons for honestly changing our minds are brought before us.

C. S. Lewis

Faith is a kind of knowledge.


There is a kind of Knowledge which does not exclude Faith; and a kind of Faith that does not exclude Knowledge. Man needs this balance between his Knowledge and his Belief in order to ‘live’ humanly.

Jean Charon

Faith is intense, usually confident, belief that is not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person.

Walter Kaufmann

A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool.

G. K. Chesterton

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

H. L. Mencken

Reasonable faith doesn’t mean believing in spite of the evidence or in the absence of evidence: it means believing on the basis of indirect and non-conclusive evidence.

Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as sparingly as possible.

E. M. Forster

It is better to doubt than to believe.

Bertrand Russell

He who wishes to learn must believe.


Everybody has faith. But not everybody is conscious of having faith.

Intellectual discipline is the purgatory through which a man must pass in order to reach the paradise of faith, and the passage can be, in fact it often is, a torture.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

The brute necessity of believing something so long as life lasts does not justify any belief in particular.

George Santayana

Life requires love, since love is the source of life both physically and spiritually. But love requires faith. So the loss of faith ultimately means the loss of both love and life.

Christopher Dawson

How passionately I long that one could break through the prison walls in one’s own nature. I feel now-a-days so much as if some great force for good were imprisoned within me by scepticism and cynicism and lack of faith. But those who have no such restraint always seem ignorant and a little foolish. It all makes one feel very lonely.

Bertrand Russell (from letter to lover)

Reason must be perfected by faith.

Karl Stern

Faith is necessary to sanity because logic alone can never anchor the mind, and the mind, to remain sane, must be anchored.

The conception of truth as the end of knowledge is dependent on faith, and nothing else.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

Faith is the most important qualification for the pursuit of truth. Indeed, one soon discovers that faith is necessary to believe that something called ‘truth’ even exists.

We may define “faith” as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.

Bertrand Russell

‘Blind faith’ stands for something that’s intellectually deficient. It means arbitrarily believing something because you want to believe it, without benefit of evidence or rational reasons. But many people talk as if all faith were intellectually deficient.

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