A lot of times in my discussions with Christians of various degrees on the wacko scale, I am told that I just need to have faith. Faith is seen by the vast majority of Christians (from liberal to fundamental) as a virtue. Let me re-state that because it bears re-stating. Belief without evidence (the definition of faith) is seen as a good thing. It has been my experience that most Christians (even the liberal ones) would agree that belief without evidence (i.e. faith) is actually a more virtuous thing than belief with evidence and of course the Bible supports this line of “reasoning.”
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.”
John 20: 29
Aside from the problem of faith in relation to faith itself, this “virtue” creates a much larger problem, which Sam Harris has often talked about. Faith is the fuel for Armageddon. While many Christians don’t agree with their more fundamentalist “Brothers in Christ” about a whole host of issues the fact is that it is religious faith itself which provides the context in which we are forced to actually debate in a serious manner whether or not the Devil made someone do it, or whether stem cells have souls, or is it better to die of AIDS and go to Heaven rather than to use a condom, live, and go to Hell. These are extreme examples of course and like I said, there are many Christians who don’t believe homosexuality is a sin or that the world is 6000 years old, but the fact is that it is because of religious faith that people of reason need to tread carefully when we through these ridiculous fictions out of academia and out of public policy.
It is in large part due to the more liberal Christians who don’t believe these things yet who get defensive whenever these ideas of laughed at that we still have to fight against Dark Aged thinking. Faith (all Christian faith) keeps these beliefs in our culture and in our lives. And so the fundamentalists have a silent partner on their side in this Culture War. At the end of the day, belief in Demons, Satan, and Creationism have the same validity as belief in God and Jesus. So when modernity and secular society reject the fundamentalist we are in a sense also threatening the beliefs of those on the other side of the Christian scale. Faith has linked this diverse group of people together against science, reason, and honest criticism.