Sunday, February 25, 2018

That Isn't What Faith Means

Note: the following post is not meant to stir theological argument although such discussion could become interesting. It is just where my thoughts took me in response to a question, or two questions really. See if you agree. This post is not meant to demean those who have religious faith but to explore what the word does and doesn't mean.

I saw this question posed on FB: "Without faith, how do you find purpose in life? What gives your life meaning? What gives you hope?"

There were any number of responses, and unlike what is often the case on that site, they were mostly pretty calm and rational. And that is not where I am heading in this post.

But in the course of comments and replies, I saw this response: "Doesn't everyone exercise Faith everyday?"

I think I know what the person means. Things like this.
Don't you have faith that when you hit the light switch that the lights will come on?
When you're driving the car and put on the brakes, isn't your trust that they will engage, faith?
I wouldn't call that faith in the sense of the original question; we're talking about something different than that concept of faith..

I assume that the original question has to do with heaven and a personal God with a personal plan for your life. The belief that you will see all of your loved ones and live in eternal bliss gives meaning and purpose. Or something like that.

Maybe you believe that or not, but that's neither here nor there for the moment.

What I am getting at is that that sort of faith is based on hope or at least belief. You might think that you've thought it out and that your belief is well considered and totally rational. And maybe you have and  maybe it is. But it is not based on experience or palpable evidence. At least not the light switch or brake analogy kind of evidence.

On the other hand, experience has taught us that we have a legitimate expectation that the lights will come on or that the brakes will work. Occasionally, the bulb may have burnt out, but we know where to get another one, and we expect based on experience that the new one will work. The light will come on, even if not immediately in a few rare cases.

The same with brakes. Have you ever had yours fail? I grant that it must surely happen on extremely rare occasions, but most likely not really to any one of us. Based on countless repetitions, we have a most reasonable expectation that our brakes will work. Every time.

To answer the question above, the second one I mean, that is not the same kind of faith as believing in unseen things for which you have no concrete evidence. So no, in that sense we don't exercise faith everyday. In point of fact, in the humdrum everyday course of life, I suppose that most of us exercise faith hardly at all.


Marie Smith said...

I’d say my mother lived the religious faith kind, and to a lesser extent, my father. He was quieter about it anyway.

We hear about faith in the system etc. which is not as demanding of faith as the religious type. All require trust. There isn’t much people can trust these days. Faith of any kind can be a challenge today.

Joanne Noragon said...

North Korea
Much of the African continent


Kay said...

I have a relative who was a staunch Catholic. When her grandson ended up being blind, she lost her faith because she couldn't understand why God would do this. People always ask God to grant them wishes, to keep them safe, etc. Sports teams ask God to help them win. What if both teams ask for the same thing? What about all the wars? What about the Holocaust? What about all the nature related tragedies? It bothers me when people on TV say God saved them from a certain catastrophe when so many other people died. Are they inferring that God loved them more than all the others who perished? Sigh... I'm sorry I got off on a tangent here.

Silver Willow said...

My understanding is that Christian faith IS faith because you trust in that which you cannot see and cannot be proven. Hence the term “leap of faith.” You trust because you believe, not because it can be proven.

Ginnie said...

"Without faith, how do you find purpose in life?" Whoever wrote that obviously has already closed their mind to any alternatives. Every church or type of religion has their iron-clad idea of what faith is and does that mean that you find your purpose in life by following what they preach matter what that is? I much prefer to find purpose in life by keeping an open and inquisitive mind ... not easy in this horrendous political era ... but critical.

Debbie said...

i love my life, i have great purpose in my life, every single day....and i have faith that my brakes will work, every, single time. enough said!!

Jenn Jilks said...

I think you are talking more about trust! I trust that my brakes will work. Otherwise, one panics.
Faith I associate more with religiosity. Confidence in a system of faith. I've lost all confidence in organized religion. sigh.
Thoughtful post!

Vicki Lane said...

Such a condescending remark -- to imply that without faith, one has no purpose in life. I am a non-believer but have never felt purposeless or hopeless. I try to live my life fully and treat others kindly. I like the saying (don't know its origin) "Live as if you would live forever and live as if you would die tomorrow." Also I like the Zen master's response to the student who asked how to live a good life: "Brew the tea properly; make the room cool in summer and warm in winter."