I used to teach Bible classes to middle & high school students in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) school system. Now, I’m a secular humanist and an atheist. In this series, I review the major ideas I used to teach, in contrast with how I would teach them now.
#3 “Faith is a virtue.”
Nope. Virus-like phenomenon corrupting the logical and critical reasoning faculties of believers, maybe. But not a virtue.
Faith is what Peter Boghossian calls it: ‘belief without evidence,’ and ‘pretending to know things that you don’t know’. I wouldn’t deny that we want to believe in something. The universality of religion demonstrates the pervasiveness of the human craving to put our trust in something. (Speaking of Professor Boghossian, please read his book, which I would adopt as my only required textbook if I was still teaching, A Manual for Creating Atheists).
Now I would teach people to believe in themselves. It sounds trite, and I hate Pinterest-y sayings but hear me out. When you trust God to guide your life, you might as well be trusting a jug of milk to be guiding your life. When you pray to God, expecting those silly answer-choices, “Yes, No, or Wait,” you would actually get the same results if you were to pray to a milk jug. Stop wasting your mental and emotional energy on childish fantasies.
Think like an adult member of the species. The best person to decide what you should do in any given situation is YOU, given that you are the one who has been living your life, accumulating your preferences, and experiencing your perceptions. Get a goal, pursue it wholeheartedly, stay focused on it, and if you change your mind along the way, that’s your right. But don’t pretend there’s some Sky-God up there and you’re one of the pawns down here in his cosmic game of Risk.
And for your sake, (not God’s), don’t ask make-believe friends for advice, expecting them to answer! That will at best be distracting, and at worst be dangerous. Trust yourself.
And while you’re at it, go ahead and think positively, believing that you can do the things you want to do. Remember what you learned about hitting the softball: picture yourself doing it; see yourself cracking that bat hard right through the center of the ball. Don’t walk up to the plate (or up to your next challenge in life) with stinkin’ thinkin’ negative self-talk at full volume in your mind, telling yourself you can’t do it. That kind of thinking is the most effective way to sabotage your progress to your goal. You have a highly evolved imagination. SEE yourself successfully accomplishing the next steps to your goal. OK. Pep talk over.