Faith and False Consciousness
Agellius says I’m splitting hairs when I raise the possibility that a person’s faith, while showing signs of authenticity, may in fact not be faith at all. If we make decisions in accordance with our faith and know we’ve made these decisions, then there’s no need, according to Agellius, to question whether we have faith. At this point, it doesn’t matter if, say, fear rather than faith is at a person’s psychological core. Faith is as faith does.
I differ to beg. False consciousness about one’s faith still matters even if the observable outcomes are much the same as those of authentic faith. Here’s why. As persons, we’re capable of free, conscious decisions. We act most as persons, as who we are, when we act freely and consciously, when we’re not enslaved to our appetites, passions, prejudices, and desires. Knowingly making free, conscious decisions requires rigorous, critical, honest self-reflection. Faith, I submit, is an act proper to us as persons. It’s an act that ought to be done with as much freedom and consciousness as possible. Therefore, it’s worth exploring one’s psychological core for signs of false consciousness.
I also submit that people deluded into believing they have faith are more likely to embrace and espouse perversions of faith such as fundamentalism or superstition. Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche—whom Paul Ricoeur called “the Masters of Suspicion”—were wrong to reduce all faith to some form of false consciousness, but they were not wrong to understand that what people think of as their faith can be and perhaps often is the fruit of false consciousness. I unhesitatingly subject my faith to their analysis because each of their critiques, in its own way, puts me in a better position to separate the wheat from the chaff. By doing this, do I put my faith at risk? Absolutely. But you know what they say: be not afraid.