I have been trying to purge my language of the word faith. In my opinion it creates more confusion than clarity. Secularists accuse the religious of acting on faith, by which they mean acting irrationally. The religious accuse secularists of denying the pervasive nature of faith—faith in science and progress and whatnot.
Last summer I engaged in a lengthy debate on the nature of faith and rationality with some friends of mine. I wanted to say that faith is irrational. One Christian friend in particular wanted me to define rationality. This is the right question, and I have realized that rationality is acting based on a reason. We all have opinions on what are good and bad reasons. Because the Bible said so is a bad reason in my opinion. Because empirical studies indicate—that’s a pretty good reason.
I realize that empirical studies can’t tell me everything, and even when they do they are indications. In the end, I have to say I believe things for a reason. The word belief encompasses the concept of faith, and I think belief should replace my use of this ambiguous word. People believe for many different kinds of reasons. Discussions about faith versus irrationality are no longer to my liking.
Please notice that I am not saying what is true for you may not be true for me. My opinion about what are good reasons for belief is formed by my understanding of Truth and how one might most likely get there. As I have said elsewhere, I believe there is one single Truth about reality. I just don’t have it in my back pocket.
There is another common use of the word faith that can be replaced by the word hope. An atheist and theist can both have hope while admitting they do not have very good reasons for believing in this particular outcome. A hope for things unseen—what is more human than that?