We don't need faith.
Freethought values inquiry and real-world evidence. I don't see faith as evidence for a position or justification for action.
So what's faith? Let's look at some quick definitions:
Paul of Tarsus says in his letter to the Hebrews in the Christian bible: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
The Book of Mormon describes faith: "And now as I said concerning faith – faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."
So faith is the "evidence of things not seen" and having faith is having hope for things which are not seen, but which ARE true.
I know theologians and apologists have written – and will write – countless books, taking apart and putting definitions of faith back together. But I think these two humble definitions, straight from the books of fairly widespread religions, aren't a bad place to start.
The first thing that stands out to me in these two passages is the use of the word "see." I've heard apologists claim that having faith in a god is like having faith in the wind (or something else you can't see with your naked eyeballs). I don't think this comparison works; we can measure wind, we have loads of evidence for the existence of winds. I think the term "see" is probably meant to mean something closer to "detect." I hope that serious people don't mean to claim that knowledge of everything not detectable by the naked eyeball is faith based.
One of Mark Twain's characters said, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." I see faith as belief without or in spite of evidence or proof.
Here's another definition: "a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like."
What has more "ominous significance" than the possible existence of a heavens or hells, or gods or devils, or angels or miracles? This last definition is the dictionary.com definition for the word "superstition." What makes a faith different from a superstition? Respect, or demands for respect?
Is that harsh?
How many times a day are people of no faith told that they can't "really" know right from wrong, or be "truly" good? How often are people of no faith told that they can't "really" know love due to their lack of faith? How many people of no faith, or the "wrong" faith, are told they deserve to be tortured after they are dead, or told that they deserve misfortunes that befall them, due to their relation to faiths?
How many people have hidden who they really are and what they thought in order to maintain their relationships with faithful friends and relatives? How many people have been ostracized and rejected by those who should have been closest to them because of some slight to a faith?
Is THAT harsh?
I think most of us want to do what is right by ourselves and others. We want to take positions that reflect reality as closely as possible. We want to have a meaningful relationship or three. We want to be happy as we go about our life. We can have all of these things without faith.
Faith isn’t noble and it doesn't make one noble. There are millions and millions of faiths, held to dearly, sincerely believed, all differing from one another. There are vague faiths, specific faiths, kind faiths, hateful faiths, peaceful faiths, violent faiths, tyrannical faiths, groveling faiths, happy faiths, sad faiths, on and on.
Each one is as valid as the next.
Faith is used to justify charities and atrocities, kindnesses and horrors. If faith really justified a position or an action then all sincere faith beliefs and faith actions would be justified. But we all look at actions taken by one faith group or another, and condemn them. We all look at the faith based positions held by some others and find them strange, or ridiculous, or appalling.
We don’t need faith to justify the kind things we think and do, and we can’t afford to have faith excuse the rotten things we think and do.
I had a co-worker years ago who I would sit with, along with others, now and again at lunch and breaks. One day, she said her “sweet” niece had come out as gay, and my co-worker now saw in her niece an “abomination.”
She had presumably known, loved and thought much of this person all her life. And now, through the eyes of faith, she was tempted to see, in that same person, an “abomination.”
How many times have well-meaning people been led into mindsets similar to this? There is certainly an abomination in this story. The abomination is the "F" word...Faith.
We don't need it.