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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Harry Binswanger on "What Faith Is"

It is always galling when someone says, "I have faith" or "I take it as a matter of faith," because the person is pretending that "faith" denotes a channel through which information flows.

But "faith" means engaging in make-believe. So, to take something on faith is a double pretense: it's making believe that the make-believe is real. It's pretending that a pretense is not a pretence.

The man who admits to believing in God "on faith" actually agrees with the atheist that God is make-believe. The difference is that the theist commits himself to pretending that his made-up idea isn't made-up.

Just to make the point, picture an atheist who goes to church every Sunday and even prays (not that these acts would be morally proper). If he holds firmly to the idea that this is make-believe, and does it because he enjoys it as a kind of game, that does not contradict his atheism. (Again, it's objectionable on other grounds.)

When you read fiction, you "suspend disbelief"--i.e., switch on the mental "set" of treating the characters and actions, while reading, the same way you would a report of real characters and actions. But you know fully that that's what you are doing. So no "taking on faith" is involved.

There's nothing wrong with "Let's pretend," because it's identified as a pretense. "Let's have faith" is an act of wiping out the distinction between pretense and perception.

There's nothing wrong (and much right) with imagination. What's wrong--disastrously wrong--is the meta-pretense: pretending that the imagined is real. That's what "taking it as a matter of faith" means.
Faith is pretending that make-believe is real.

(This is from a post by Harry Binswanger in the HBL Platform

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