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About faith

Every human has a faith. Faith is the result of what a human has learned during their personal history.

What is faith?

faith

The individual set of convictions of a human. The sum of beliefs you rely on, the result of what you have learned during your personal history.

Also called “individual knowledge”.

Faith is our connection to the invisible world. It lies at least partly beyond rational considerations and decisions. It is “stored” in your heart (obviously not in the medical meaning of the word):

Religion is about right relationship to reality, not about the supernatural. – Michael Dowd (via Saturday, September 5, 2020)

Faith has nothing to do with beliefs; it’s about trust. Trust that reality is okay just as it is. Reality is not too tough for me; I was made for reality! This trust gives meaning to our lives. For me to look into the awe-filling fullness of life and pronounce the name “God” means a commitment of my life to reality-based living. That’s why I say, Reality is my God, evidence is my scripture, and integrity (living in right relationship with reality and helping others do the same) is my religion. Life as it really is, with all its warts and glory, this is the primary object of my trust, my loyalty, my love. – Michael Dowd (via Saturday, September 5, 2020)

heart

The parts of our body where our faith is stored.

This is your brain and other parts of your body, including very unconscious parts.

“In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.” – Gaudium et spes, no 16.

Your heart is the physical storage device used by your soul during your lifetime.

Your faith is an integral part of your identity. You tend to believe very strongly in what your faith tells you to believe.

Your faith is a rather stable and immutable part of your personality. It is influenced by your body, your temperament, your metabolism, your culture, your education, your personal history.

“[H]uman beings are notoriously difficult to sway from their beliefs” – Bob Yirka via phys.org

On the other hand every faith can evolve, grow or eventually experience revolutionary changes (“conversions”) as long as we live. Faith is never finished as long as you live. Faith is the result of a life-long learning process.

Faith becomes more and more fixed with age. This effect is natural and unavoidable and similar to why children can learn a language more easily than adults.

Faith is our personal simplified picture of the world. Every faith –of course– reduces reality, because reality is more complex than any heart can store. The faith of Albert Einstein was probably more “elaborate” than the faith of my neighbour here in our village, because Einstein’s education was more elaborate, but my neighbour’s faith might me more useful in many a situation of daily life.

faith culture

A culture based on a given set of answers to a set of faith questions. This can be a formal religion or a less formal culture.

faith question

A question for which there is no scientifically valid answer and which therefore can have controversial answers.

faith statement

A reproducible answer to a faith question. Where “reproducible” means that has been formulated in some way and is used for identification.

Faith does not mean that you blindly assume as true a series of answers to a series of faith questions that do not reflect your personal thinking, experience and conviction. Such an attitude would be worse than useless: it would be harmful, because it would destroy your trust in God. Faith means to draw the right conclusions from certain experiences. You cannot prove these conclusions and you cannot get them from others. You must live them yourself.1

Faith is not limited to humans. Wild goats living in a mountain region where thunderstorms can be very violent, learn quickly that certain constellations of clouds, wind, smells and noises indicate a storm coming by. A wild goat, when it feels that a thunderstorm is arriving, will focus on finding a shelter. This knowledge about how to predict a thunderstorm is stored in their brain. It is faith. It is the same kind of knowledge as the belief that showing homosexuality in public is okay, or that you should never spend more money than you have, or that it is okay to use a cheat sheet in a school exam, or that Pope Francis is a good leader for Church.

Faith is what makes your inner voice talk.

inner voice

The “voice” within you that tells you intuitively how to decide in a given situation.

Your inner voice might be wrong because you are not perfect. That’s why in case of conflict between your inner voice and that of other people, I would –theoretically– prefer to rather “die” (give in) than hurt these other people. Of course that’s just theory; reality shows that we can fail to give in when we should, or that we hurt other people because we didn’t care enough.

Faith versus religion

Don’t mix up faith and religion. Faith is an individual characteristic of a human, while religion is a collective teaching cultivated by a community.

Faith is not limited to “religious” beliefs and convictions. Steve Lohr describes the University of Chicago as “long the high church of free-market absolutism, whose ideology has guided antitrust court decisions for years” (in Paul Romer: Once tech’s favorite economist, now a thorn in its side)

Kalda20211031 gives many examples (in Estonian) to explain that the so-called “least religious nation in the world” is nothing but a religion.

I’d bet that it would be easy to find two humans C1 and C2 who call themselves “Christian” and two humans A1 and A2 who call themselves “atheist”, and then observe that the faith of C1 is more close to the faith of A1 than the faith of C2.

There are no two absolutely identical faith’s on Earth. No faith is absolutely “evil” (against God’s plan) or absolutely good (in harmony with God’s plan).

Four classes of “faithful”

As a naive Roman Catholic I classify humans into four classes:

Roman Catholic

Those who adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Non-Catholic Christian

Those who use the Bible as their Holy Scripture but don’t adhere to the Catholic Church.

Non-Christian

Those who refuse to use the Bible as their Holy Scripture.

non-religious

Those who refuse to use any Holy Scripture for cultivating their faith.

“Those who don’t follow any religion can be more eager in worshipping their image of me than those who follow some religion.” (God in You and your bible!)

“I don’t believe in God, I live God” (Maurice Zundel)

About learning

Learning happens by perceiving and classifying information messages:

  • real-life experiences : a burning candle is hot; a gold fish dies when it jumps out of the aquarium and nobody puts it back; father gets angry when you disobey

  • information perceived directly from other humans during a meeting (verbal and non-verbal messages)

  • information produced by other humans and received via a media canal everything I hear, read or watch in books, radio, TV or Internet.

  • ideas: you perceive some problem, think about it and then decide how to react

Footnotes

1

Adapted from Oliver Albrecht, Lebensthemen, Grundkurs biblische Theologie, 2013 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, p. 224)