Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Can Faith Be a Foundation for Truth?

Faith, by its very definition, is what you have when you do not have proof. Yet, for many faith is all the proof that they need. What is faith and is it really a foundation for the search for truth? In many ways we all have some degree of faith in our lives even if it is faith that we will wake up tomorrow or, as with many, faith in a higher power. It comforts us and in many ways individually and socially holds us all together. Is it though, for the seeker of truth, really the foundation that can be depended upon to form beliefs?

There are a few types of faith such as faith in a tomorrow and a future in general. Someone starting a new business has to have faith in what they are doing, the buying habits of the customers and that there will be a brighter day in the future. This type of faith is based upon first hand experience and is rational since that first hand experience is something within reach and can be easily confirmed.

However, there is the other kind of faith that does not typically involve first hand experience but rather faith in a concept or story that you've been compelled to believe. The power of the human mind to rationalize is amazing and if we chose to believe in something it is all too easy and natural to accept what supports your faith and to dismiss what does not fit in with your faith. Many people believe they are very open-minded but this only applies to concepts that exist within the realm they already believe and anything outside of that box are considered absurd, taboo or heretical. All religions do this and not to pick on Christianity too much, but I know it well, but have seen how many times people validate their beliefs with using parts of the bible itself but never question the history of the bible or its over all foundation. They take it upon faith that this is true and everything else is just details. Once more is faith enough to form a spiritual path or should faith be reserved to remain a place holder for truth until better, or more, information comes along.

Religion loves to take faith to a new level by asking you to have 'faith' that they are telling you the ultimate truth. No need for questions and even if what you are told doesn't sit right with you then the rational often is used that the creator works in mysterious ways. Faith is a powerful tool that inspires people to be complacent with 'good enough' and to stop asking questions. Thus is why when a religion is born the truth dies because when you cannot add or subtract from a belief, cannot question it and it requires that you must believe beyond your reason it grows static and once more it dies. The only constant it seems in nature is change and anything that suggests otherwise is in direct opposition to nature and thus an aberration.

Not to seem like I am diminishing anyone's faith but an example most of us can relate to is the story and belief we had as Santa as a child. When you are little your parents tell you there is a Santa and based upon your 'faith' in them you believe it without question. Eventually, when you challenge them on how Santa could travel the world in one night the typical response is that he has magic and it offers a rational that gives us just a good enough answer so that we can hold on to the belief we want to hold on to. Over time though as we mature and more questions come to the surface the adults finally break and admit they've played a game with you the entire time and then you let go of the 'faith' that Santa is real. (Sorry if I have busted the bubble on that for anyone.)

How does this relate to spiritual faith? Well, a great deal. It is not by chance that most people who are raised in a Christian family become Christians or that Hindu families raise Hindu children. Most of us take it on faith that what we've been raised with, and our families passionately suggest is true, must be true because why would they lie or misrepresent anything to us? Also, as children we are powerfully influenced by our families, culture and authority figures that tend to be the roots of our spiritual path for the rest of our lives regardless of if you are consciously aware of this or not.

As passionate as you may be about your faith have you ever pondered what would have happened had you been raised in a totally different culture and religion? Odds are extremely good that you would be that other religion and just as passionate about it because you have faith that what you believe is true. The story of Santa relates because while the adults eventually break and admit that Santa really was an illusion they do not do that with whatever superior being you prefer. Yet... the degree of 'proof' and requirement of magical thinking is exactly the same. Additionally, the influence of the authority of your parents as a child may evolve and be passed upon some other spiritual authority such as a pastor, guru or the like. If I've articulated this well enough I hope it may, if nothing else, inspire new perspective.
Faith is really all you need if you don't ask too many questions. If you would have never asked questions about Santa and/or when you did you were discouraged from asking them or even worse that you would burn in hell if you did ask anything about Santa would it be possible that even today Santa would be real to you based upon your 'faith'? Further, you would have proof that Santa exists because clearly presents appear on Christmas Eve and the cookies do vanish.

Whenever I discuss much of anything in a forum, group and in person with people who believe things that are based upon faith I've learned that there is little point in having any rational discussion with them. If faith is the foundation of your beliefs there is no level of information that can be presented to you that can alter your view. This is not a strength but the sign of a closed mind and honestly I find it unfortunate and interesting. There is something very human about faith and perhaps it is the simplicity. With faith alone you don't have to deal with valid challenges to your beliefs because faith is by its very nature irrational and impossible to debate against. Usually, I literally or figuratively smile and nod and just move on because these types of people feel they have all the answers they need and any questions are typically considered terribly threatening.

Faith isn't all bad and can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth as sometimes obsessing about the details of everything would hinder you upon your path. As an example, I tend to have faith that reincarnation is likely true due to the fact that everything in nature is cyclical and I see death and rebirth around me all the time. Furthermore, if there really is a soul, or something that does incarnate once it only stands to reason that to incarnate again, aka reincarnate, is well within the realm of reason. (Fact ~ For the first 300 years or so of Christianity reincarnation was taught and within one of the books of the bible that is now restricted from your view)

Do I have 'proof' of reincarnation... No. However, I have faith that it is again likely true for the reasons I've noted, and more, but do not use faith alone to support my thoughts. If new information comes along that may change that thought I am alright with it and can grow with it. I use faith as a place holder that allows me to ask more questions such as what might it mean if reincarnation is true. What might it tell me? It is tool to advance my spiritual path vs a tool that will hinder me and give me a false illusion of knowing something as fact that is impossible to know and rejecting any new information that would refute my present view.

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