The fact that the terms “faith” and “dogma” and “morality” have different senses makes this a difficult question to answer in a way that would be compelling to most readers. For example, consider the term “faith.” As Richard Dawkins understands it, faith is believing against the evidence (or believing in the absence of any evidence) – presumably evidence of an empirical variety. According to Immanuel Kant, one must put limits on theoretical reason in order to make room for faith. If he is right, then having faith is a matter of having a belief on a question that cannot be answered by the application of theoretical reason. Thomas Aquinas seems to use the term “faith” as a mode of knowing – in particular, it appears to be a mode of knowing (which is sometimes called a deposit of faith) that is distinct from the knowing that comes by way of natural reason alone (unaided by divine revelation). Framing the question in terms used by the three thinkers just mentioned, we get a variety of readings.
Dawkins would put the question this way: Is there a distinction between believing in God against the available empirical evidence (or in the absence of empirical evidence) and dogma and morality? In the case of Dawkins, I suspect the answer would be “no” when considering dogma (because he is likely to see all dogma as nothing more than religious belief held in the absence of evidence – perhaps where that belief is codified in some manner). Unfortunately, Dawkins provides no empirical evidence that this is how faith must be understood. Given this, it is a definition of faith that can be accepted only on the basis of faith – which is, obviously, a problem (given his view that faith is an intellectual vice). Dawkins’ writings on moral theory are so inarticulate that the second half of the question becomes meaningless.
Kant would frame the question this way: Is there a distinction between believing in God (when theoretical reason cannot be applied to this issue) and dogma and morality? In the case of Kant, from the perspective of theoretical reason, belief in God is just one faith-based dogma among others – so there is no distinction. However, Kant goes on to say that the existence of God is a necessary postulate of practical reason (that is, of moral reason). On this view, there is a distinction between belief in God and morality (with the latter providing a non-theoretical certification of the former).
Aquinas would state the question as follows: Is there a distinction between belief in God that is brought about by divine revelation as a part of the deposit of faith and dogma and morality? According to Aquinas, belief in God is a part of the deposit of faith, and it can also be the conclusion of reason. Thus, belief in God as a part of the deposit of faith (construed as dogma) is epistemologically distinct from belief in God based on philosophical argument. The first principles of morality, for Aquinas, can be self-evident to reason. So, with respect the self-evident propositions of moral theory, Aquinas will hold them to be epistemically distinct from one’s faith in God.
So, one can see that simply stated questions are sometimes not nearly so simple as they might first appear. We have considered only three authors (two philosophers and a biologist who dabbles ineptly in philosophical issues), and that is just the tip of the iceberg (given that we could have easily considered the idea of faith in the works of Kierkegaard, Calvin, Swinburne, Augustine, and others). For those interested in getting past overly-simple questions and probing a little deeper into the issues, one could consult some of the following resources. The general issue of faith and reason is treated in Terence Penelhum’s book, Reason and Religious Faith (Westview Press, 1995). On the issue of God and ethics, see the collection of essays (both pro and con) in Is Goodness without God Good Enough?, edited by Robert Garcia and Nathan King (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009). For a development of the Kantian moral argument for God’s existence, see John E. Hare’s book, The Moral Gap: Kantian Ethics, Human Limits, and God’s Assistance (Oxford University Press, 1996). For a critique of the theoretical side of Kant’s epistemology, see the first chapter of Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford University Press, 2000), pages 3-30. Finally, one could find much worse on the issue of faith than Richard Swinburne’s book, Faith and Reason (Oxford University Press, 1981).
– Dr. Robert Sloan Lee