Faith. Real, legitimate, not-imaginary faith.

As opposed to the unreal, imaginary sort.

FAITH /feɪθ/ n. Complete trust or confidence in someone/something.
2. Religion: A system of beliefs and practices about God.
3. A strongly-held belief or theory, maintained despite a lack of proof.
4. A name Christians like to give their daughters. My niece, fr’instance.
[Faithful /'feɪθ.fəl/ adj.]

“Faith,” wrote Mark Twain in his travelogue book Following the Equator, “is believing what you know ain’t so.” Nontheists consider this their very favorite definition of faith. It’s the definition your average pagan also holds to. And, sad to say, many a Christian. “Faith” is the magical power to believe in goofy rubbish.

According to them, if I “have faith,” I have the power to believe in everything. I can believe in God, in angels, in fairies and elves and leprechauns, and I can fly like Peter Pan. I can believe in TV preachers, in pastors with bad comb-overs, in politicians with bad comb-overs, in giving all my money to some nonprofit which doesn’t actually do anything useful. I can believe in UFOs and space aliens, in the Left Behind novels, in conspiracy theories, in the same things as “truthers” and “birthers” and Holocaust-deniers and Objectivists. I can believe in ghosts, poltergeists, mediums, psychics, and faith healers. I can believe climate change isn’t real, that dinosaurs and cavemen co-existed Flintstones-style, that the earth is flat, that the moon landings were faked, that the stars are glued to the back wall of the cosmos. I can believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, monsters under the bed, unicorns, fairytale endings, and that racism was cured in the 1960s.

All you gotta do is believe really, really hard. You’ve read The Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio. Wishes do come true! That’s faith.

But as Christianity defines faith, no it’s not. The writer of Hebrews defined it thisaway.

Hebrews 11.1 KWL
Faith is the solid basis of hope, the proof of actions we’ve not seen.

This verse is written in Hebrew poetry, where we repeat concepts instead of rhyming words. “Solid basis for hope” and “proof of actions we’ve not seen” is the same idea said different ways. Faith is where we believe something to be true because we put our trust in an ypóstasis/“foundation.” Something solid. Not something stupid.

Okay, you might think it stupid. And you might even be right: It is stupid. Plenty of people put their faith in ridiculous people or iffy ideas. Plenty of my fellow Christians believe God will do all sorts of things he never promised, based on bad bible interpretation and a whole lot of wishful thinking. Humans in general, Christians included, are really bad examples of faith in action.

So let’s not follow them. Let’s stick to what Christianity teaches.

How real faith is practiced.

I’ve never been to Antarctica. Have you? Statistically, no you haven’t. Other than certain explorers, scientists, and those who took cruise ships which skim the coast (and froze their keisters off in so doing), you’ve never seen Antarctica for yourself.

So how do we know Antarctica exists? Well, ever since childhood, we were shown globes, or world maps, which had a big white continent on the bottom, and were told this is Antarctica. We were told it’s cold, and desolate, with nothing on it but ice and penguins. Sometimes scientists stay there for various reasons. They took photos and video, and we were shown these things. Google Earth has pictures.

So we know it’s there. So much so, if anyone told you Antarctica isn’t real—that there’s been a massive global conspiracy to make everyone believe in it, because what’s actually there is way better (or far worse)—you’d think that person is looney. Because your faith in Antarctica is that strong.

Yes, faith. That’s what it’s called when our knowledge isn’t based on personal experience. It’s based on what we were told. Sometimes by trustworthy people, like scientists and historians. Sometimes not; there are plenty of junk scientists who want you to embrace their unproven beliefs, and plenty of fake historians who have a political axe to grind. But if we learned it in school, we tend to accept it. We figure their claims are reasonable, so we believe them. We never verified their claims firsthand, ’cause we never felt we needed to. We just trust ’em. And trust is the same thing as faith. They’re synonyms.

If you thought faith was way more mystical than that, it’s not. It’s just that simple.

And here’s where irreligious skeptics are gonna object. Because they put faith in things too. Everybody does. But the irreligious hate to use the word “faith” to describe what it is we’re doing. To them, “faith” is a religion word, and they’re not religious, so what they do can’t be faith. It’s trust. And faith is not a synonym for trust; it’s a synonym for… well, unproven trust. Misplaced trust. Or wishful thinking. Which they never do. They practice logic and reason and critical thinking. Even when they buy lottery tickets—’cause statistics aside, somebody’s gotta win, right?

Thing is, when you actually read the bible, particularly the New Testament, you’ll notice the authors seemed to think proof, verification, eyewitness accounts, and reason were kinda important. John vouched for the testimonies in his gospel:

John 19.35 KWL
The one who saw this testified, and his testimony’s valid.
He knows he told the truth: You can believe him.
John 21.24 KWL
This is the student who testified about these things, who wrote them down.
We know his testimony’s genuine.

Simon Peter appealed to his personal experiences of Jesus:

Acts 10.37-41 KWL
37 You already know what happened throughout Judea,
starting in the Galilee, after the baptism John preached:
38 Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed in the Holy Spirit and power,
who went around doing good,
curing everyone oppressed by the devil, because God was with him.
39 We’re witnesses of everything he did,
both in the land of the Judeans, and in Jerusalem,
who hanged him up on a crosstree to die.
40 God raised him on the third day and made him visible,
41 not to everyone, but to the witnesses God pre-selected, us,
who ate and drank with him after his resurrection from the dead.

Paul, after Festus thought his testimony sounded nuts, appealed to what he considered well-known facts:

Acts 26.25-27 KWL
25 Paul: “I’m not a maniac, as you say, great Festus:
I’m uttering truthful and sober words.
26 The king knows about these things, and to him, I speak boldly.
I don’t persuade so I can hide things from him; things weren’t done in private.
27 —King Agrippa, have you faith in the prophets?
I know you have faith.”

The apostles pointed out how our beliefs on resurrection need to be logically consistent:

1 Corinthians 15.12-19 KWL
12 If it’s preached Christ is risen from the dead,
how can some of you say resurrection of the dead isn’t true?
13 If resurrection of the dead isn’t true, not even Christ is risen.
14 If Christ isn’t risen, our message is worthless. Your faith is worthless.
15 Turns out we’re bearing false witness about God:
We testified about God that he raised Christ!
Whom he didn’t raise, if it’s true the dead aren’t raised.
16 If the dead aren’t raised, Christ isn’t risen either.
17 If Christ isn’t risen, your faith has no foundation.
You’re still in your sins, 18 and those who “sleep in Christ” are gone.
19 If hope in Christ only exists in this life, we’re the most pathetic of all people.

John didn’t just refer to personal experience in his gospel, but in his letters as well:

1 John 1.1-3 KWL
1 He was in the beginning. We heard him, our eyes saw him, we examined and our hands touched—
It’s about the living word, 2 and the life was revealed.
We saw, witness, and proclaim to you the life of the next age,
who’s from the Father and revealed to us.
3 We’d seen and heard; we proclaim this to you so you could also have a relationship with us.
Our relationship is with the Father and with his son, Christ Jesus.

See, the apostles knew what they were claiming—that Jesus is Lord, that despite his crucifixion the Father raised him from the dead, that the Holy Spirit dwelt within them, that they could do miracles and exorcisms and cure the sick, that God’s kingdom had arrived, that Jesus was returning to take over the world—sounds crazy. Sounds like the most delusional myth ever. Sounds like something no sane person would embrace. (The only reason sane people consider it normal, despite its implausibility, is because we grew up with it.) And the only way the apostles could prove it’s not crazy, wasn’t gonna be with clever intellectual arguments. 1Co 1.22-23 It’d only work on people who believe the apostles 2Th 1.10 and Jesus Jn 3.16 —or who see God’s power for themselves. Jn 2.23

Faking faith.

Yeah, there are various kinds of fake faith in Christendom. It’ll take a bunch more articles go to through them all.

The most common sort comes from those Christians who accept irreligious people’s description of faith—that it’s unsubstantiated beliefs and wishful thinking. And not only do they accept that, they embrace it. As if it’s noble to turn off your brain and believe in goofy rubbish.

Look, we Christians don’t believe difficult, even impossible, ideas because we wanna. (And we shouldn’t! If we do, we’re nuts.) We believe ’em because we trust our fellow Christians—the ones who wrote the bible, and the ones who taught us what the bible means. And ultimately, behind all of them, we trust Jesus. If we’re believing things for any other reason, it’s the wrong reason. Our faith must be in trustworthy things. Not in imaginary things.

We don’t just “have faith,” yet never specify what our faith is in. Faith is transitive: Faith has to be in someone or something. “Faith” which isn’t placed, which isn’t in anything, is fantasy. At best it’s “faith in faith,” whatever that means. It’s not solid, not real. It’s imaginary.

Some Christians claim if we have doubts—namely because the stuff they’ve claimed sounds unreliable and implausible—we “lack faith”: We’re resisting God’s magical ability to be gullible, and swallow whatever we’re told. We’re resisting God, really; and you know what happens when we do that. Big scary fiery things.

Okay, folks: Suppressing your doubts isn’t faith. In fact, it’s how fake teachers and false prophets take advantage of Christians. If they can get us to stop questioning their ridiculous teachings, they can lead us all kinds of astray. If you don’t trust them, sometimes you’re entirely right not to. In fact sometimes it’s the Holy Spirit himself shouting into you, “Stop listening to him. He’s got a screw loose.”

We don’t just put our faith in anyone and anything. Let’s not be stupid. There needs to be something substantive to a person before we put faith in them. And there’s always something substantive to people who are truly following God. As well as God himself. It’s why we put our faith in them, and especially him.