When I was first being taught to brush, my father told me not to use toothpaste at night. 18 years later, someone noticed me brushing so. He asked me about it.
You’re only supposed to use toothpaste in the morning.
Why? I don’t know. Why not?
The fact that I’ve followed that instruction without question for over a decade is not very significant. I mean, who even brushes at night? What did strike me was that I’d never brought myself to question the rationale behind it. After all, it was my father telling me, there couldn’t possibly be a more competent authority to depend on. And it wasn’t like your dad could ever be wrong.
There are a lot of things we’ve been told at ages we cannot think for ourselves, that we just take for granted. Some, like the toothpaste thing will probably never assume importance in our lives. Others, like showing undue respect to elders who you absolutely know to be wrong in a particular instance can significantly influence it.
It is amazing how a lot of people are able to stay convinced of their concept of God. Believers (theists and atheists alike), have an extraordinary conviction in what they believe. Whether or not one would characterize it as blind faith, religious devotion does often leave little room for reason. Admittedly, it might give one ‘peace of mind’ to be able to assume that his life has hope and it does matter in the grand scheme of things. But we should not be giving up our ability to think for ourselves for the ego boost that his denial or ignorance feeds us.
This isn’t to say we’d be any better off wantonly deciding we don’t have faith anymore. Neil deGrasse Tyson in his numerous interviews questioning theism always brings up the question of human suffering. To him, a personal and benevolent God would simply not allow for that to happen. Religious people come at you with plenty of responses to that. Not a lot of them seem to derive from reason.
It is the strength of this conviction that can be argued isn’t healthy. A person is ready to debate, fight, die, and (worst of all) even kill for what he believes in. That comes out of blind faith. When we are in internal conflicts with our faith (or lack thereof), we ask questions. These questions are often uncomfortable and hard to answer. The consequences of not asking such questions and not being able to doubt your own convictions is something that we as a nation have painfully gone through, more than once. Faith does not require saving. If God really is omnipotent, why would he need defending by humans from other humans? And if he is just a figment of our imagination, why exactly are we defending him?
Incomplete as we are, we can’t really hope to find answers. To draw liberally from Euripides: question everything.
The most important thing is to keep engaging yourself. Existentialism in its own right is not harmful. Neither is nihilism. Our convictions should not be a part of our lives by the accident of birth. It is not easy to come to terms with the fact that we are tiny aliens in an obscure planet in an unimaginably huge universe, and that all that we do in life would not matter in the bigger picture. It is even harder to contemplate that a bountiful afterlife (the hope of which is what helps most of the majorly monotheistic world sleep at night) could also very well not be a reality.
Faith is a wonderful thing. It transcends logical boundaries, and makes people hold on when their better judgement advises against it. But as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) once told a man who refused to tether his camel to a tree because he ‘trusted God’ to take care of it, “Trust in God, but tie your camel.”