One of the most challenging subjects for me to discuss is the concept of faith. Where does one begin to tackle a topic that is perhaps the ultimate matter of disagreement (mostly from religious labels) and debate meandering its way back as far as the discovery (invention?) of deities themselves?
Faith and confidence can sometimes be used to mean the same thing. If I’m walking down the street, I have confidence (faith) that the sidewalk will not open up to swallow me into the bowels of the earth. My steps continue without fear or doubt, based partly upon the fact that I’ve done the same thing over the same sidewalk so many times before, without incident. If it were a gang-infested neighborhood, filled with frequent gunfire, my confidence (if I had any at all) would have to be more conscious and deliberate.
I wouldn’t even attempt to make a list of possible reasons why some people find it so easy to believe in a deity, while others seem barred by their own skepticism and need of irrefutable and material or scientific proof. I suppose I’ve always been something of a doubting Thomas regarding my own Christianity, envying that disciple’s chance to observe a risen Christ by placing his hand in the wound of Jesus’s side and using the senses to observe a reality denied the rest of us, who struggle (if we’re being honest) with such a science-defying “reality.”
Religion is based upon faith and hope. Though love is an intangible reality, I do believe in it. We live in a time when physical manifestation is perhaps the largest part of our collective reality. Of course, denial seems to keep some people at a safe distance from some kinds of reality. For example, even the hard truth of science isn’t enough for some folks to accept the factual phenomenon of global warming. The other “reality” is that some who deny the truth of global warming do so dishonestly, based upon the desire for immediate and material profit, which they deem more urgent than concern for a planet that could eventually incinerate itself. Blithe disregard is so much more comfortable and profitable (for the few).
In the end, I think that people generally believe what they want or need to believe. That awareness has slammed its way into my consciousness, especially because of American politics, which has become, not a yin/yang working together for the common good, but rather a self-generating struggle against compromise, each side seeing only evil in the other.
Our faith in one another and in the foundation of our democratic republic seems to have weakened more than at any other time I can recall during my seventy-three years in this world.
Finally, I think that our beliefs are based upon our individual experiences. The most powerful of those beliefs are coupled with hopes shared by others around us in collective ways through groups that are religious, social, and political. We sometimes huddle together in the face of uncertainty, because we need faith in someone or something besides ourselves, something to reach for and share. Faith need not necessarily be religious (aligned with a deity or other supernatural force).
Though I attend church every Sunday, hoping for ways to help create a better and more just world for everyone, I continue to struggle with my belief (hope) for things like everlasting life, because I simply don’t know. Does anyone else, really? The here and now are real to me, for better or worse, but maybe I don’t have to “know” anything beyond that. Perhaps creating a better world for us all can be based upon faith in our collective ability to find a way, even with doubts along that shared path. Our models for better behavior can be supernatural and eternal, but the work is still up to us, if we can accept that, together, we are capable of making the planet a better place for all God’s creatures. JB