Fact vs Faith vs Delusion
Religious groups regularly refer to their belief system as truth. Religious truth is generally a mix of fact and faith. For some groups, truth extends beyond faith and into the realm of delusion.
Facts pertain to knowledge gained in the form of experience and learning. A hypothesis is postulated, tested and if verified becomes considered a fact. For instance, earth's gravity was perceived to be an agency of attraction. This was verified through testing and so it is accepted as fact that earth's gravity causes objects to accelerate toward earth at 9.81 m/s2. Being a fact, there is no dispute as to whether earth's gravity goes up or down. There is no disagreement over the rate of earth's gravity; it is universally accepted as 9.81 m/s2. Factual knowledge is beneficial in making decisions that prevent humans from harm.
Faith is defined as unproven beliefs.
Faith: "Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof." English Oxford Living Dictionaries (Mar 2019)
Unprovable assertions rely on faith to be accepted as truth.
The Bible provides a definition of faith at Hebrews 11:1 saying, "Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen." Whilst advising some evidence should support faith, there is the admission of faith covering things "hoped for." It is the emotional aspect of human desire behind faith that can make it unreliable and manipulatable.
Descriptions of life after death are a common underlying theme in religion, but require faith as no one has proven what the afterlife is like or even if it exists. For this reason, religious teachings regarding the after life vary greatly. Similarly, God has not been proven to exist and requires faith based on observations of "creation" and personal experiences of God in ones life. Due to this, religious descriptions of God vary greatly regarding his appearance, name and qualities.
Delusion is a step further from reality than faith in that it is the deliberate suspension of factual knowledge in favour of belief. Watchtower is a prime example of a religion promoting delusion. For instance:
- Watchtower claims its predictions regarding 1914 were directed by God, even though every aspect of the Watchtower's expectations for 1914 failed to eventuate. They now claim they "consistently presented evidence ... that Jesus' presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914" (Watchtower 1993 January 15 pp.5,9), despite followers being able to quickly prove that for generations Watchtower said this occured in 1874, if they are so inclined to do such research.
- Watchtower ignores historical evidence when claiming that famine, disease, lawlessness, earthquakes and war have become worse since 1914 and disregards proof that Jerusalem did not fall in 607 B.C., in order to uphold preconceived notions of 1914.
- Watchtower claims its appointment of elders is guided by holy spirit. Yet, regularly the men appointed are engaged in practices forbidden by the Watchtower Society.
These examples provide unquestionable proof that God or holy spirit does not direct Watchtower teachings or practices and it is delusional to think otherwise, as it is simple to prove these teachings unfactual. Watchtower does not require an acceptance of fact or even faith; it is delusion that is being promoted.
When the Watchtower writes about gravity it is accurately promoting facts. When it writes about God, it presents concepts it followers can accept based on faith. But when it demands not to be questioned because it is being actively directed by God, it forces its followers to accept delusion.
Since faith is not based on proof, it is difficult to reason with a person on why their faith may be incorrect.
As an example, the article "'Tomorrow we'll be in paradise': Islamic State followers speak from besieged enclave" (Lisa Barrington, 13 March 2019) quotes a video released promising paradise to its followers, and a call to pray for forgiveness through adversity. Whilst expanding, Islamic State pointed to battles won as proof of God’s blessing. They have not accepted the corresponding conclusion of a loss as proof God is not behind them. Since little evidence is used to support an opinion, excuses can be found to support continued belief. Even as the last Islamic State stongholds collapsed, the most dedicated followers found support for their faith and the necessity of their cause.
Jehovah’s Witnesses also use alternating lines of reasoning to claim success as proof but failure as irrelevant. When a doctrine is introduced, it is from Jehovah. When it is discarded or changed there is no admission that it was obviously not from Jehovah, but instead excused as human error, eagerness, a refinement, or even a test from Jehovah.
Such avoidance and skirting outside the edges of logic makes expectation of a reasonable discussion all but impossible. Combine this with cognitive dissonance - the human inclination to avoid the consequences of admitting error - and a Jehovah’s Witness won't be willing to entertain logic that disrupts their prevailing point of view without a culmination of negative events occuring beforehand.
A child cannot proceed through life believing fairy stories are true, otherwise they will make harmful decisions based on misconception. Likewise, Witness lives are damaged when making decisions regarding healthcare, shunning family, or putting off advanced education, marriage or bearing children on the basis of delusional Watchtower teachings. No long term benefit arises in leading a life based on delusion and falsehood.
Written February 2010, latest update March 2019.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2021