Sue Blackmore’s says that blind faith is harmful to rational thinking:
Faith is corrosive to the human mind. If someone genuinely believes that it is right to believe things without reason or evidence then they are open to every kind of dogma, whim, coercion, or dangerous infectious idea that’s around. If someone is convinced that it is acceptable to base their beliefs on what is written in an ancient book, or what some teacher tells them they must believe, then they will have no true freedom of thought; they will be trapped by their faith into inconsistency and untruths because they are unable to throw out false ideas when evidence against them comes along.
The whole point of a university education is to learn to think for yourself, to criticise theories, to compare ideas and to find out the truth by research, exploration and experiment. Whether you are studying French, chemistry, or psychology, you are given tools for thinking independently and ways of evaluating other people’s claims. In this there is no room for faith, and should be no room for faith.
I want to be clear about some things I am not saying. First I am not saying that everything has to be rational. There is much about human life that has little or nothing to do with rationality; there’s love and affection, art and poetry, happiness, beauty and intuition. But none of these things has to be taken on faith. University courses include much that is not rational, not just in arts courses but even in science, where one has hunches or enjoys beautiful ideas, but again there is no room for holding onto religious faith – wherever the ideas come from they must ultimately be thrown out if they are shown to be wrong….
Andrian Kreye has a somewhat different view over at The Edge:
In the early seventies, Scott Atran was already asking why since primeval times humans have worked so hard to overpower their need for rational explanations with their faith. Why, he asked in his book In Gods we Trust, are societies ready to pay such a high price for faith, when it costs them valuable resources like time, energy and materials? What threats to survival could be warded off by means of faith? What function does faith serve to the individual and to the collective? And why have religious communities historically shown better chances for survival? Soon after, Darwinist faith research emerged and placed faith firmly in the realm of consciousness, asserting that it was not the pure product of cultural influence and education. However, they could not identify a function that would make faith an evolutionary advantage. So they concluded that faith must be a byproduct of evolution that originated as the result of some earlier, now-gone function.
Nevertheless, Scott Atran was certain of one thing: religion has always played a role in the history of mankind. This is his biggest critique of Harris, Dennett and Dawkins, with whom he has been in a heated debate over the past year. He argues that he isn’t questioning the motive for their call to free the world from dogmatic belief systems that are barbaric, anachronistic and inhumane. But the Neoatheists are not presenting adequate scientific facts, or conclusions drawn from actual faith research. Belief systems by their nature can be neither strictly true nor false, however meaningless. They can’t be necessary, but they can serve a practical purpose. And often enough, these purposes can outweigh the cost, because faith has the capacity build strong, interconnected communities, which in the world of Darwinian competition can help them outsurvive other communities…continued
Both of these articles are worth a thorough going over by atheists and christians alike.
(sometimes I feel like the schoolyard monitor telling two bullies to apologize and shake hands after a scuffle in the dirt!)