Any criticism of faith causes a lot of defensiveness. It's hard to talk about it and the more I think about it, the more I find that it is rightfully so that its defenders speak up. I usually talk about it as the main source of unthinkingness. And I am aware that there are many ways that we can potentially arrive there. But faith/religion is worthy of special consideration because of the many news stories which suggest it as a vector for heinous actions.
Part of what tempers my discussion of faith and helps me to treat this this as an exploration with curiosity, is that I have two dear friends I know and love and they self-identify as people of strong faith. One comes from Islam, the other is a broad-based interfaith minister. Their hearts are made of gold, and their lives are an inspiration to me. They are personified counterarguments that keep me from believing that faith must always become mental poison.
And so I declare that this will be an exploration that will be conducted with respect and compassion. The word "Faith" doesn't refer to a single concept. Like the word "Love", it refers to a constellation of feelings, emotions, practices, mental and emotional states. "Love" is the subject of a lot of writing and has been unpacked many times. "Faith" deserves some similar unpacking, because it includes way too many things to say that all of it is either good OR bad in all contexts. Either of these would be throwing out a nursery of babies out with the bathwater.
This is my introduction to a multi-part series I am calling "Desconstructing Faith" to explore the aspects of "Faith" that support life, which ones are antagonistic to it, and the circumstances under which it lends itself to enable heinous action. My hope is that I will present novel ways of understanding the aspects of faith that deserve defense and the aspects that deserve our criticism and opposition.
The goal is to identify and describe the virtues and shortcomings of the mental technologies we use... the tools that we engage to make decisions: intuition, emotion, and reason. No human being uses all of these at the same time, nor do we use them in equal measure in all contexts. But they are all a part of our decisions to act and it is my hope that a nuanced understanding of faith will permit more people to engage their rationality in new contexts to ensure that there is always an eye on outcome and that we check and correct our ideas and actions.