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    Thread: Define Faith

    1. #1
      D.V. Editor-in-Chief Original Poster's Avatar
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      Define Faith

      I could rez a thread from '06 but I'd rather just start fresh.

      The dictionary definition of Faith is believing in something without proof. This strikes me as wrong on an intuitive level. Because if you close yourself off to other points of view, experiences and possibilities, you aren't displaying any sort of faith at all. You're displaying fear. You are afraid of being wrong. Worse yet, you are afraid of being corrupted by something that's wrong but makes too much sense to deny, and thus excluding yourself from whatever posthumous reward you believe in.

      It appears to me that the core of this problem is fear of death. At least it was for me, back when I was a (very) young christian, I clung to religion out of fear of death. I remember the conversation in my head vividly. I realized how quickly time passed, I realized if I was already 6, and it felt like a fraction of an instant of time had passed since I used to dream about being 6, then soon I would be 7 and it would also feel like absolutely no time at all had passed when I hit that number. And so on it would go, until I'm 60 or 70 and my life is in its waning moments. And then I'd be gone. Before I even knew I was ever really here. This thought terrified me. I needed eternity, so I used God to find it.

      This is my personal story, I present it in case it relates to anyone else. But of course we all have our own specific stories. The point is, for me personally, I used God and Faith to secure my confidence in immortality. So to me, the root of faith as the dictionary defines it is fear of uncertainty. But this is not how I define faith.

      To me, faith means reveling in uncertainty. Faith is an attitude much like existentialism as described in the Myth of Sisyphus. As Alan Watts would say, if we could ever be truly certain of anything, the universe would immediately stop existing. The ever receding mystery enables the experience to persist.

      So I don't believe one can have faith in a concept. One cannot have faith in God, for instance, unless they are defining god as inconceivable. One cannot have faith that they follow the one true religion, unless they define their religion as love of the mystery and encompass all other religions within it. One can merely have faith. One can only realize, to paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, that the present demands their attention, and when the future comes they will have the necessary tools because they are focused on the present. To paraphrase Aristotle, a skeptic believes real truth is impossible to understand, but never stops searching for it.

      One can merely have faith that they carry the flame. This flame is not the flame of Christ, or of Buddha, or of Reason, but of all these things. Of Love, or Truth, or Space, or God or whatever you choose to call it. We think, therefore we are. We see, therefore we are. We see, therefore what we see is.

      So yeah, that's my rant of the week. Sorry if it's stupid. It was between this and paraphrasing the arguments proposed in The Story of B, which I may still do some time later.
      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 05-04-2012 at 09:02 PM.
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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


    2. #2
      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      I know you've already mentioned Alan Watts and you've probably heard this before, but when I think about the definition of faith, I automatically think back to something he said about it, one of the most poignant things I've heard him say. He sharply contrasted "faith" and "belief".

      I do wonder about the semantics of these two words, what different groups mean when they use them. Many of those under religious persuasions seem to conflate the two; one might say, "I believe x, and I have faith that it is true"; as if they mean basically the same thing.

      A person committed to reason might ridicule such a statement, assuming they understand faith as your dictionary definition puts it. When asked about their own faith and beliefs, they might admit to having beliefs, but not to having faith. But I wonder - if the wording were put just right, might it be shown that they really had faith but not beliefs? First, they would have to admit that their beliefs are subject to being overturned. If evidence is presented that shows that one of the beliefs they've held is false, they must be prepared to let go of that belief. In fact, a person committed to reason should understand that not a single one of the beliefs they hold is immune to this requirement.

      As for faith, it's simply a matter of saying the right thing to the question- faith in what exactly? How about faith in truth. "I have faith that my life is ultimately best served by making truth my top loyalty, no matter which of my favorite beliefs might be overturned, even if they are foundational". "I have faith that man will be better if you show him what he is like".

      So Alan Watts said that belief is the clinging part, that it is a desperate hope that the world turn out to be thus. To have faith is to let go and swim with it.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 05-05-2012 at 11:04 AM.
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    3. #3
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      I think I've heard him say that, actually. And it's quite true. When you have a desperate clinging that the world is a certain way; when you know something is true, no matter what experience may contradict it, you do not have faith.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


    4. #4
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      You can have faith in someone in a sense of trust. I'd say generally faith would be an earned kind of trust.

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      Rational Spiritualist DrunkenArse's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      To me, faith means reveling in uncertainty. Faith is an attitude much like existentialism as described in the Myth of Sisyphus.
      Why do you feel the need to confuse matters? The dictionary definition of faith is perfectly adequate and describes what the majority of people mean when they have faith.

      It seems as if you're redefining faith so that "faith" can still be a good thing. It's prettty clear that faith as regularly defined is stupid. So why not speak of the love of the mystery as being good and point out that faith is at best a crutch and at worst a cage?

      One can merely have faith that they carry the flame. This flame is not the flame of Christ, or of Buddha, or of Reason, but of all these things. Of Love, or Truth, or Space, or God or whatever you choose to call it. We think, therefore we are. We see, therefore we are. We see, therefore what we see is.
      But here you're reverting to the standard definition of faith and these are all stupid things to have faith in. What is "Truth", "Love", "Space", "God" or "Whatever"? What I choose to call it is incredibly irrelavent. What is it?

      So yeah, that's my rant of the week. Sorry if it's stupid. It was between this and paraphrasing the arguments proposed in The Story of B, which I may still do some time later.
      It's not much dumber than usual if that makes you feel better

      I just read The Story of B. I'd read Ishmeal many years ago. I feel about Daniel Quin much like I feel about Ayn Rand. I agree with almost every piece but disagree with the major conclusions. Also Daniel Quin is fairly irresponsible with drawing "scientific" conclusions.

      So if you want to do the work of paraphrasing, I'd love to have a discussion about those ideas.
      Previously PhilosopherStoned

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      Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and beholds the impossible

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      Half Vulcan DreiHundert's Avatar
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      I'm going to try to define faith in the sense of non-religion. AKA: I don't mean "Faith in god"

      In my opinion... Faith is to believe in something even if you have doubts.
      If your friend wants to borrow your car - and you know that driving a car is one of the most dangerous things we do, and you know that you will have no control over what happens, AND you're risking several thousand dollars of your own property... You have to have faith that he will bring your car back.

      ^ Mhm, heard 'dat.

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      Faith can vary in definition depending on the individual. When a person has faith - true faith - the world itself almost becomes meaningless, as the feeling and connection becomes so overwhelming that the very definition of faith alone cannot do this feeling justice. The same can be said about Love; when you find true love, the word itself loses all meaning, because the feeling and assurance becomes so strong that it transcends any definition available. It's not entirely exact, and there are different levels and degrees of faith too. And I do believe people can have faith in religion, withins its teachings and its people.

    9. #9
      Member Photolysis's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Oceanboy View Post
      You can have faith in someone in a sense of trust. I'd say generally faith would be an earned kind of trust.
      Except on closer reflection this turns out to be based on evidence, or sound reasoning.

      When I walk past someone on the street, I trust them not to be an insane lunatic who's going to turn around and stab me in the throat, which some would twist into 'you have faith in people'. No, the reason is simply because nutjobs who stab people on the streets are comparatively rare compared to the many many people who don't engage in such behaviour, thus making it statistically unlikely that this random stranger is going to harm me.

      A more conventional example is where someone claims to "have faith" in their SO on the subject of fidelity. Again, when you look at it beyond the superficial level it's all based on evidence and reason. You trust your wife not to cheat on you because of decades of earned trust, and displayed love and loyalty. It's not faith because you have very good reasons to trust her.

      Strip away the misleading language and you end up with people making reasonably accurate and rational judgements based on facts, evidence, and logic. There's no need to drag 'faith' into the equation.
      PhilosopherStoned likes this.

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