You Can Cripple Yourself Without Knowing It
Many times over the years, I have been asked about faith. Very rarely has the person asking intended to talk about anything but their own.
Yet a quick look at Adherents.com reveals that almost no one has the same idea about what constitutes faith. Most have no idea, even, what other people take for granted as “true”, and fewer still realize that this word, "TRUE", has a logical definition.
So, I find it necessary to distinguish between faith and expectation - and then, between directed and non-directed faith. Yep, these things exist. Here’s how:
Expectation signifies a process by which cause and effect can be shown to produce generally repeatable results. For instance, when ordering a pizza, one can find a number in a phone book for a physical address you can actually visit; when calling the number, someone who actually handles pizza answers specific questions. Other people can do this too, with very few prerequisites. You can find someone who has actually ordered pizza and gotten it. When you call, you have the expectation that the process will be successful in your case because it has been demonstrated, and conclusively. You are not surprised at success, AND you can obtain redress for poor service.
Gee. You go in person, and you can see all of this happening for yourself!
Faith has no such structure. A promise is made that a particular result will follow an action on the part of the person expressing faith, such as a prayer, but the promise is not made by any person cited as responsible for results; actually, no one in sight of the supplication has ever seen effect follow cause. In short, pizza is promised by someone who has not only never seen the pizza delivered, he cannot say where it is coming from, or even what it looks like; having no solid definition, anything which is delivered is declared, "pizza", also without regard for the delivery method. Of course, there is always a ready answer if this figurative pizza does not arrive. Perhaps you did not perform the necessary prerequisite actions, or they were in the wrong order, or you didn't really mean to call for pizza.
Gee. There is NO WAY for you to observe any of this process...
Faith has its own, extremely potent irony: it is not possible to have faith in something which can be shown to exist. This is the Irony Of Belief. Are you carrying a bowling ball with the thumb and fingers of your right hand? The answer is simple, and it is never a time for faith.
There is a difference between directed and non-directed faith.
In directed faith, a particular deity or agent has focus in the supplicant’s wishes for peace and success. The individual prays to God™, Jesus™, Allah™ or another entity in particular.
A less-focused version of directed faith is often expressed that a particular governmental agency will "take care" of us.
Non-directed faith - far more widely practiced, since everybody does this - is the expression of hope that the uncountable external forces which surround us do not interfere with our progress and/or health. This hope is actively coupled with denial that anything bad could happen in the near future.
This has nothing to do with the magnitude or value imagined by the faithful. Each of these above illustrate this:
The Utility of Belief
A belief is a sort of stepping stone, on which one can stand long enough to get on with life. Never dependent on logic or reason (careful - do NOT use colloquialisms for "logic" or "reason"), a belief generally has as its major component an emotional commitment. This is due to its being a tool to counter fear of the unknown. It is constantly reinforced by the feeling of comfort it awards - thus, there is no immediate reward for abandoning that apparent shelter. Yes, the faithful engage in things to obtain immediate gratification, because...
The price of awareness is discontent - a price many will simply refuse to pay in full. Yet it is necessary to take on part of that burden of awareness, and that depends on reason. Author J.M. Straczynski said it well: “Faith and Reason are like the two shoes on your feet: you can go farther with both than with either one.”
But you have to be careful about those definitions. Confusing faith for reason, and vice versa, will strand you as you build a false foundation for yourself, and leave you vulnerable to truly tragic disappointment.
You can still dream, but the plan for getting to the land of your dreams depends on reasoning.