Scott wrote:My question is simple. Is faith just another word for self-delusion? Or in another way of saying, if someone claims to believe something merely out of faith, is that person simply admitting to being in denial?
Faith as depicted by your examples would seem to be synonymous with delusion, but faith as defined by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, is something different:"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."-- Hebrews 11:1
The faith spoken of here has substance, i.e. it has weight. Think of it like this: in any situation where you have placed on the scales all the evidence for and against a proposition, but the scales remain in balance, faith is what you throw on to tip the scales towards the outcome you prefer.
It is a completely rational approach to any problem not to continue in a state of indecision.
We scientists make a distinction between basic and applied science, referring to our motivation as we invest scientifically in a question. In basic science, we are driven by pure curiosity, with no conscious eye towards solving any recognized problem. But we argue that our curiosity is birthed in an intuitive sence that the discoveries we make will be useful in ways we can not presently fathom. When we do applied science, we have some problem in mind and are looking for a solution. In this, we discover how to use the findings of basic science.
The two parts to the Hebrews definition of faith parallel this distinction. Our foundational motivation is to fix some problem. We hope to see a satisfactory resolution. The applied science seeks such a substantive, effective solution. But, we recognize that an intuitive, basic, approach is often valuable in generating evidence that, once before us, makes the unseen parts of the problem manageable. Thus, faith works to get such evidence, of God at work, which when we have it (the experience with the evidence), we see how to substantively "save" in the troubling circumstances. Get what we were hoping for done.
Twisting the meaning of faith into dogmatic, evidence-less, opinion renders this wonderful, solution-finding, process impotent. So does equating it with self-delusion. Both the history of faith, and the history of science, are rich with examples of such foolishness.