Working Definition of Faith-Based Claims, for Religion, Politics, and Life

Working Definition

Faith-based claims are more frequent and pervasive than most people think. Most people probably connect this phrase with religion, but I believe this is too limiting. Faith-based thinking is a method of thought, an algorithm for truth claims, and humans apply this algorithm well beyond the fence-line of religion. As a prelude to subsequent posts on a few topics, I’m going to propose a working definition for faith-based claims. Working definitions should be simple, and I propose the following two characteristics:

  1. Faith-based claims are grounded in belief without proof and/or sufficient evidence.
  2. Faith-based claims are not open to revision based on contrary evidence.

To qualify, a truth claim or assertion must contain both aspects. Hypotheses in science satisfy Condition 1, because they are guesses ahead of conclusive evidence; but they are tentative and discarded if they fail to survive experimental testing; thus they do not satisfy Condition 2. Much of of our working knowledge in life functions in a similar way. We may or may not know much about the evidence behind a lot of what we are taught or learn. There is nothing wrong with that. But if those views are held dogmatically for any reason, and we are closed to revision, they function as faith-based claims about the world.

I am open to reader feedback on this working definition, so if anyone spots holes or can otherwise improve it, let me know. Bear in mind that this definition is intended for a range of relevant topics including religion, politics, and other subjects of life.

A Few Examples

On this definition, most human minds are positively riddled with faith-based ideas about what is true and false, or right and wrong. We know less of the evidence, and we are less open to revision, than we would care to admit.

A few samples to get the juices flowing:

  • Jesus is Lord.
  • There is no God but Allah.
  • All men are created equal.
  • Life is sacred.
  • People are endowed with unalienable rights.
  • I think for myself.
  • The world is hopeless.

My hope was to create a quick list that would include at least something for every reader to disagree with — a mixture of the religious, conservative, liberal, egotistical, and the nihilistic.

If reader disagreement is accompanied by an emotional component, then Condition 2 may very well be satisfied. It may be something the reader will not consider parting with, even on good evidence. And that spike may be a good indicator that Condition 1 is actually true. Rationalizations follow, but rationalizations do not constitute sufficient evidence.

In any event, this post now exists for reference. First up: Trumpers.

References

Faith: “belief that is not based on proof”, v2

Belief: “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof”, v2

Dogma: “prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group”, v3

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