People use the word “faith” interchangeably with “belief” but in actuality, faith is a special case of belief. The dictionary defines faith as a belief that is not based in proof. You can believe the sun will come up each day because there's a lot of evidence to suggest it will such as past behavior, astronomical observations, knowledge of Newton's laws of motion, etc. On the other hand, you need faith to believe that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. Why? because the only evidence you have that it's true is subjective; mainly testimonials from Mohammed and his followers. Testimonials are, unfortunately a low-value form of evidence. People can misinterpret things, be dishonest, deluded or just plain wrong. Anyone that's ever been in a courtroom knows different witnesses can interpret the same event in drastically different manners. That's why courts require corroborating evidence.
Virtue too, is a subjective concept. It's generally defined as moral excellence, righteousness and goodness - things that we humans assign values to. Some virtues we may think of as universal such as not killing other people (at least, not without good reason!), but are they really universal? Does a groundhog care about what we value? Or a stone? Or the universe? Still, we care and that's reason enough to have the concept and explore what is and is not a virtue.
So, going back to the original question; is faith a virtue?
Almost everything in our culture screams that it is. Believe me, I have your best interests at heart - Trust me, I wouldn't steer you wrong - Take my word for it, I'm your father - If you can't trust a cop/priest/president, who can you trust? - 40 million Frenchmen can't be wrong - Vote for me. I have a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam - I love you so of course I'll respect you in the morning... All the time you hear things like “have faith in God, Love, Democracy, the president, Mankind or FILL-IN-THE BLANK and everything will turn out fine. You can find it as an underlying theme behind whole genres of fiction like those that make the Frankenstein assumption that There Are Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. Why? I dunno, but I believe it. Mad scientists don’t have faith, but I do.
Exhortations to have faith are everywhere. Of course, some say that, well, there are unworthy faiths, mistaken faiths, bad faiths and even evil faiths, but hey, you can’t have the right faith if you don’t have faith at all, right?
So... Is it smart; is it wise; is it morally excellent, righteous and good to believe in things not based in good evidence? In other words, is faith a virtue?
You tell me.
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