Faith is a particular aspect of religious thought. It is a confidence in what has not happened yet. There is a confidence in the unseen ability of someone or something to bring about what does not yet exist. Yes, this is how it works. The human mind and heart are capable of having such thoughts and emotions. This is not limited to those who subscribe to a particular religion. It can be found just as much in other pursuits, even those that are very much physical activities in their nature. Let us spend some time exploring this idea.
The previous post was focused on exploring the idea that all human beings are capable of religious thinking. There is much reason to believe, this will always be the case. Our ability to wonder and the way it links to the ability to ask questions leads to religious thinking. Suffering also starts the very same process. It normally causes a person to wonder about the reason for suffering, and then a person is able to formulate simple, yet difficult to answer questions about this suffering. This also results in thoughts of religion.
The special case of faith
Faith is a special case. Why? It distinguishes one human from another. Let us see how this happens.
Different people think in different ways. Some are very logical, very practical, and even train themselves or are conditioned to be pragmatic. Others tend to be very emotional, and simply optimistic by nature. All these qualities and ways of thinking can be seen actively demonstrated in different humans. Rarely, it is even possible to see these different qualities expressing themselves in one person, depending upon the subject he or she is dealing with. There is the possibility of faith in all such persons.
It is also helpful to differentiate different kinds of faith based on its object. There are broadly three kinds:
- Faith in oneself
- Faith in others
- Faith in God
A person can demonstrate all of these in different measures and in different situations. It is hoped, that even if a person loses faith in himself and others, he would still maintain faith in God. This is where religion plays a very significant role. How it affects the thinking is worth understanding!
Religious faith and analysis
Religion speaks from a position of authority, and it speaks with authority. For these reasons, it requires a shutting down of analysis. The analysis raises those questions which religion can fail to answer. The more information a person has, the more he can process, the more he can formulate questions on. During such times, the grip of religion begins to loosen. The most powerful competition to religion is when members of society can still individually question their beliefs and collaborate in some way. This is possible on social networking. It does also happen.
For a moment, it would be beneficial to compare religious faith to political faith. Yes, there is faith in political leaders and institutions as well. However, such political faith is not subject to a God-like authority. In fact, there is ample room for criticism, debate, argument, disagreement, skepticism, and even disrespect. These attitudes and actions would vanish in a religious setup. Would they not? In fact, these would be looked down upon in a religious setting. The challenge to authority would be hated, and every effort would be made to suppress or snuff out such challenges to authority. The simple fact is, God, when he exercises His power or superiority, can exceed even the collective human challenge. In the absence of any divine action, there is no reason to fear.
A good religion would invite faith, not fear. This faith would be based on demonstrable evidence, not a claim of authority. There is sufficient evidence in this world and beyond of a Creator. The creation is the evidence! The qualities of the Highest One can be perceived in this creation. There are power and wisdom and love to see. There is also an unmistakable far-sightedness. The water-cycle is an example.
It has to be admitted, not all analysis is good. The human mind has tremendous ability and can analyze a matter to near infinity, if it is given the time. However, such infinite analysis is not necessarily the way to find truth, peace, or even a correct understanding. If anything, an excess of analysis is the enemy of peace! Religious faith is challenged by such incisive analysis, and out of respect, a person desists from such. The answers he cannot find, he accepts his ignorance in faith. Thus, he finds peace.
Comfort from faith
One alternative definition of faith would be – The ability to remain at peace with unanswered questions. Yes, let me repeat. Faith is the ability to remain at peace with unanswered questions.
It is true, religion cannot answer all of the possible human questions, but it claims to answer the ones that really matter. Religion says it has answers about death, life, suffering, the world, and even about the future in the form of prophecy. There is a legitimate reason to be interested in what religion has to say on these matters. Such spiritual consciousness and awareness should always be part of our thinking, even if answers cannot satisfy us.
Such spiritual consciousness and awareness should always be part of our thinking, even if answers cannot satisfy us.
Faith doesn’t necessarily give specific answers, but it keeps us in a state of confidence. Before a city is built, how do the builders know it would be made? They have plans, workers, and all the materials needed, but there is no guarantee that the city would be built. There is also the chance, a fire or an earthquake could destroy it. Is there not? Still, we put aside those doubts and fears and move ahead with the faith we do have. Only then, the city is built!
It is the human condition that requires us to live our lives with an ongoing uncertainty. That is okay. We can live with uncertainty, not having all the answers, but attempting to keep our intentions clear and our hearts pure. There is a possibility, that certainty will gradually start to emerge as we continue to work for what we want. It is okay to fail as well. From failures, we can learn. Faith gets us up and back to our feet.
There is a certain comfort in being able to admit that life can be lived with incomplete knowledge, misinformation, and doubts. We keep faith in ourselves, in others, but more than anyone or anything, in God. It can all turn out well. Eventually, it will!