About faith

The faith of a human is the individual set of his or her beliefs and convictions. It is a more or less stable and immutable part of their personality, but it can evolve, grow or eventually experience fundamental changes.

faith

The individual set of beliefs and convictions of a human.

faith culture

A culture based on a given world view and 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 is not limited to “religious” beliefs and convictions. Every human has faith. Faith is the result of a life-long learning process that changes our unconscious brain structures. It is part of our identity. Faith is stored in our brain.

Faith is never finished. It continues to grow and change as long as I live. But it becomes more and more fixed with age. That’s why children can learn a language more easily than adults. This process of fixation is natural and unavoidable.

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 do everything to find 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 our personal simplified picture of the world. Every faith –of course– reduces reality, because reality is more complex than any human brain 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.

But all faiths are similar in that they are an integral part of our identity. We absolutely believe what our faith tells us to believe, no matter how elaborate or profound it is.

Being an adult Christian means to me that I chose the Bible as a tool for growing my faith, for working on it. I want to learn from the experiences of many generations of humans that are stored in the Bible because I trust that they are helpful also today for finding my way.

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).

Faith is not the same as religion. Faith is individual, religion is when a group of humans tries to identify common patterns of faith and to formulate them in order to cultivate their longing for an ultimate truth.

A religion gives me a language that I can use to communicate more efficiently about faith questions.

Faith is more than the inner voice. Your inner voice might be wrong because you are not perfect.1.

inner voice

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

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 a faith 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.3

The word faith can be used to designate the Christian faith, the faith in the Gospel. Also other religions use the word “faith” in that specific meaning of belief in their specific teachings. This usage becomes questionable in multicultural contexts because it assumes that there is one “right” religion. But when used among followers of a same religion it can make sense: for Christians, a faithful is a human who “understood” the Good News and “decided” to believe in it.2

Culture versus religion

Football is a culture but not a religion because it does not embrace all aspects of life and has no Holy Scripture.

culture

A set of traditions, conventions and habits shared by a given group of humans. Any given culture implies and cultivates a given set of values and convictions.

A set of ideals that makes a group of humans cooperate efficiently by creating “artificial instincts”, which accustome individuals “to think in certain ways, to behave in accordance with certain standards, to want certain things, and to observe certain rules”. – adapted from Yumal Harari, Sapiens, p.163

religion

A collection of teachings expressing a coherent view of the world and stored in a Holy Scripture.

A comprehensive worldview defined by a set of holy scriptures.

Buddhism is a religion because it is comprehensive and has holy scriptures. Capitalism is a comprehensive worldview but has no holy scripture.

Holy Scripture

A document that is used by a religion as a foundation for their teachings without discussing its reliability.

Footnotes

1

That’s why in case of conflict between your inner voice and that of other people, your should 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.

2

“Faith is a decision, a judgment that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven–it is not merely the acceptance of a decision that has been made by somebody else.” Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

3

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