One of my jobs as a teacher of bright, mostly Catholic undergraduates is to get them thinking about why they hold their religious beliefs. It’s easy enough to spark discussion about the problem of evil (“Can you really read the newspaper everyday and continue to believe in an all-perfect God?”) or about the diversity of religious beliefs (“If you’d been born in Saudi Arabia, don’t you think you’d be a Muslim?”). Inevitably, however, the discussion starts to fizzle when someone raises a hand and says (sometimes ardently, sometimes smugly) “But aren’t you forgetting about faith?”
That seems to be enough for most students. The trump card has been played, and they — or at least the many who find religion more a comfort than a burden — happily remember that believing means never having to explain why.