Is faith a good way to believe?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.

Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#1  Postby Ozymandias » February 24th, 2017, 5:53 pm

This is a question arising out of a multitude of other topics, and it's apparently more controversial than I had thought.

Firstly, we should define faith, which seems to be hard to do. As I have grown to understand from my life and experience, faith is the suspension of critical thought, to be replaced by a trust in/ hope for the truth of something. That thing is often the existence of God, or the goodness of God, or the idea that God has a plan. I.e: I often hear phrases such as "I have faith that God is real" or "I have faith that God is guiding us" or in response to difficult/ frustrating questions about God and his nature, "You need to have faith in Him".
Others have different definitions and I would also like to talk about those and find some happy medium definition of "faith".

Also, in my experience I have found that faith is not necessary for belief in God. Firstly, there are the basic reasons to believe in God: There are too many testimonies to count, from various people, cultures, and religions, that a god(s) has appeared to people. God seems to be a highly ubiquitous presence in people's lives, and most religious people claim to have some sense of divine presence and guidance in their lives. This is my main reason. The list goes on, and every theist will give a different reason for their belief.

The tricky stuff is when believing gets hard. The prime example is the classical problem of evil. It's undeniable that there is a huge amount of violence, evil, and suffering in the world, and in response to this fact, three camps of theists seem to emerge: those who turn away from religion because they do not see any way God can exist and allow evil to exist, those who remain religious by breaking down the problem philosophically (by theodicy) until they have a clear answer for the PoE, not to mention a better understanding of God in general as a result (myself included in this camp), and finally, those who don't bother answering the hard questions, nor turn away from religion, because they make the choice to have faith in God.

This is not to denounce any of these three camps, or attack anyone who does regard faith as spiritually useful/ good. But based on my understanding I would like to say that faith is a pointless endeavor. Faith is a benchwarmer for reason. It's great when you have not the time or energy to find actual explanations for hard theological questions, but by taking the time to work out the hard questions, you gain a better understanding of spirituality.

I sometimes suspect faith is more of an excuse for people who don't entirely believe in god, but don't want to accept it, internally or externally, because they don't want to lose their religion, so they instead fall back into the comforting net of ignoring hard questions.
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Is faith a good way to believe?



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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#2  Postby Dark Matter » February 25th, 2017, 3:38 am

Ozymandias wrote:...faith is the suspension of critical thought.

Secular propaganda/superstition.

...faith is not necessary for belief in God

It's not about belief at all.

The tricky stuff is when believing gets hard. The prime example is the classical problem of evil. It's undeniable that there is a huge amount of violence, evil, and suffering in the world, and in response to this fact, three camps of theists seem to emerge: those who turn away from religion because they do not see any way God can exist and allow evil to exist, those who remain religious by breaking down the problem philosophically (by theodicy) until they have a clear answer for the PoE, not to mention a better understanding of God in general as a result (myself included in this camp), and finally, those who don't bother answering the hard questions, nor turn away from religion, because they make the choice to have faith in God.

What PoE?

I would like to say that faith is a pointless endeavor. Faith is a benchwarmer for reason. It's great when you have not the time or energy to find actual explanations for hard theological questions, but by taking the time to work out the hard questions, you gain a better understanding of spirituality.

More secular propaganda/superstition.

I sometimes suspect faith is more of an excuse for people who don't entirely believe in god, but don't want to accept it, internally or externally, because they don't want to lose their religion, so they instead fall back into the comforting net of ignoring hard questions.

Idolatry comes in many forms: concepts is one of them.

-- Updated February 25th, 2017, 3:43 am to add the following --

Remember what I said? "Faith is cleaving to a power of goodness appealing to our higher and real self, not to our lower and apparent self, the intellect."
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#3  Postby Belindi » February 25th, 2017, 5:40 am

I endorse most of Dark Matter's response, above.

Also, in my experience I have found that faith is not necessary for belief in God. Firstly, there are the basic reasons to believe in God: There are too many testimonies to count, from various people, cultures, and religions, that a god(s) has appeared to people. God seems to be a highly ubiquitous presence in people's lives, and most religious people claim to have some sense of divine presence and guidance in their lives. This is my main reason. The list goes on, and every theist will give a different reason for their belief.


Mystical experience "divine presence and guidance" may be a good reason for individuals to have faith in God but it's not a good l reason to believe in God.. Or to put it another way, it's good to believe on God as in have faith in God, but it's unsafe to believe in God.There is no ontological reason which doesn't capitulate to either science or pure reasoning. I approve of individual faith in God because it is a source of hope and , as long as the faith is not politicised or commercialised, it's a source of caring and mattering.

I don't like quasi scientific efforts to prove the existence of God because 1. the interpretation of the evidence is usually biased and insufficiently rigorous and 2. when the more intelligent devotee sees that the evidence for God's existence is insufficient they suffer a crisis of faith, which IMO is a pity and quite unnecessary.
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#4  Postby Ozymandias » February 25th, 2017, 12:18 pm

Dark Matter. Simply throwing around the words "secular propoganda/ superstition" is not a philosophical argument. Firstly, I'm not even using secular thought, this is a theological debate so I fail to see why you think my arguments are some form of secularists attacking you. Please actually elaborate on your points, like Belindi did (thank you Belindi)

I suppose it comes down to a fundamental difference in what constitutes belief. If you believe things only empirically, you dislike the concept of faith because it is based on hope rather than compelling evidence. If you believe things because you want them to be true, you like the concept of faith because it gives you the answers you want. But is it safe to get into a mindset of believing things simply because you want them to be true?

So with respect, I don't see how you can accuse non-faith belief of being quasi scientific while supporting methods of belief that are directly, and admittedly, non scientific. Could you clarify that idea?
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#5  Postby Dark Matter » February 25th, 2017, 3:21 pm

You're right: simply calling something what it is from a particular point of view is not a philosophical argument, but neither is it an "attack." When theology masters religion, religion dies; it becomes a doctrine instead of a life.

I did not say "non-faith belief of being quasi scientific," though I suppose I could have, but I did say faith is not about belief: the god conceived is not God. The mission of theology is merely to facilitate the self-consciousness of personal spiritual experience. I'm not interested in doctrine. I'll say it again: "Faith is cleaving to a power of goodness appealing to our higher and real self, not to our lower and apparent self, the intellect." You're arguments, like all secular arguments, are formulated to appeal to "our lower and apparent self, the intellect."
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#6  Postby Fooloso4 » February 25th, 2017, 4:00 pm

Ozymandias:

As I have grown to understand from my life and experience, faith is the suspension of critical thought, to be replaced by a trust in/ hope for the truth of something.


Following Kant, faith is not suspension of critical thought but rather recognition of the limits of critical thought. For some, however, critical thought is rejected if it is contrary to what is believed as a matter of faith.

If the meaning of a word is determined by its use we need to be careful not to insist on one sense of the term being the one correct meaning. Faith is often defined as trust, but trust in what? One answer is God, but we then have to ask what trust in God means. And here faith comes to mean trust in some set of beliefs or religion, or that a religion is a faith. If what is taken on faith is believed to be true, then faith acts as a kind of knowledge. If one knows that X is true based on faith and critical reason says not X, then critical reason must be wrong. But faith is often said to be what is accepted in the absence of knowledge or evidence. And sometimes the demand of faith is that it holds even when it runs contrary to knowledge and evidence. Faith also poses as unquestioned obedience as seen in Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#7  Postby Ozymandias » February 25th, 2017, 4:26 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:Ozymandias:

As I have grown to understand from my life and experience, faith is the suspension of critical thought, to be replaced by a trust in/ hope for the truth of something.


Following Kant, faith is not suspension of critical thought but rather recognition of the limits of critical thought. For some, however, critical thought is rejected if it is contrary to what is believed as a matter of faith.

If the meaning of a word is determined by its use we need to be careful not to insist on one sense of the term being the one correct meaning. Faith is often defined as trust, but trust in what? One answer is God, but we then have to ask what trust in God means. And here faith comes to mean trust in some set of beliefs or religion, or that a religion is a faith. If what is taken on faith is believed to be true, then faith acts as a kind of knowledge. If one knows that X is true based on faith and critical reason says not X, then critical reason must be wrong. But faith is often said to be what is accepted in the absence of knowledge or evidence. And sometimes the demand of faith is that it holds even when it runs contrary to knowledge and evidence. Faith also poses as unquestioned obedience as seen in Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.

Fooloso,
I'm not quite sure I follow. You're saying faith is, or isn't, a sort of refusal to accept a fact backed up by knowledge or evidence? (I've bolded that portion of your post). I actually definitely agree that it can be used rationally if it is taken in the areas where evidence and critical thought do not pertain, though I didn't think about that when writing my OP. After all, the nature of god, according to most interpretations, requires that he be beyond the reaches of scientific investigation. So I am willing to cede that much to the faith side. But in the case of things like the evolution/ creation debate: Evolution is backed up by so much evidence and so much scientific consensus that it should be regarded as fact, but many fundamentalists refuse to believe in it, and that ignorance stems from their "faith" mindset. In that case, faith is just a form of glorified ignorance. But you bring up a good point, I'll retract my full opposition to faith.

Dark Matter,
The "quasi-scientific science" matter was in response to Belindi's post. I apologize for not clarifying which parts of my post pertained to which of your arguments, though I begin to wonder whether you took the time to read Belindi's post. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it was my poor rhetorical organization. What do you mean by
Dark Matter wrote:When theology masters religion, religion dies; it becomes a doctrine instead of a life.

this? I don't think I understand you. Theology is simply how we make sense of religion. Are you saying that just seeking to better understand your own religion kills it?
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#8  Postby Dark Matter » February 25th, 2017, 5:16 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
Following Kant, faith is not suspension of critical thought but rather recognition of the limits of critical thought.

That is true. But unless we renounce the kind of comfort that comes with certainty, we are putting the responsibility for regulating our own lives on anything but ourselves. Where is the freedom in that?

-- Updated February 25th, 2017, 5:19 pm to add the following --

Ozymandias wrote:Theology is simply how we make sense of religion. Are you saying that just seeking to better understand your own religion kills it?

No, I'm saying what was said.
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#9  Postby Fooloso4 » February 25th, 2017, 7:00 pm

Ozymandias:
You're saying faith is, or isn't, a sort of refusal to accept a fact backed up by knowledge or evidence?


I am saying that ‘faith’ means a variety of different things to different people and that these uses of the term can contradict one another. Some hold that faith and knowledge are compatible, either because faith begins where knowledge ends or because we do not adequately understand something and the contradiction can be resolved. Others hold that knowledge and evidence are inferior to faith, and so where they are not compatible faith wins out.
In that case, faith is just a form of glorified ignorance.


But they may see it as a higher form of knowledge. Although this may run counter to the original use of the term, there is a transition from one to another that I tried to trace. The crucial step has to do with content - faith not simply in God but in some set of beliefs about God. These beliefs are taken to be true and thus may be considered as things known. But not everyone who has faith take this route.

Dark Matter:
That is true. But unless we renounce the kind of comfort that comes with certainty, we are putting the responsibility for regulating our own lives on anything but ourselves. Where is the freedom in that?


Some prefer comfort. Some consider themselves servants or slaves of their Lord. It is for them not a question of freedom but of proper obedience. For some freedom comes when they renounce their faith.
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#10  Postby Ozymandias » February 25th, 2017, 7:51 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:Ozymandias:
You're saying faith is, or isn't, a sort of refusal to accept a fact backed up by knowledge or evidence?


I am saying that ‘faith’ means a variety of different things to different people and that these uses of the term can contradict one another. Some hold that faith and knowledge are compatible, either because faith begins where knowledge ends or because we do not adequately understand something and the contradiction can be resolved. Others hold that knowledge and evidence are inferior to faith, and so where they are not compatible faith wins out.
In that case, faith is just a form of glorified ignorance.


But they may see it as a higher form of knowledge. Although this may run counter to the original use of the term, there is a transition from one to another that I tried to trace. The crucial step has to do with content - faith not simply in God but in some set of beliefs about God. These beliefs are taken to be true and thus may be considered as things known. But not everyone who has faith take this route.

I understand that people see faith as a higher form of knowledge- I'm questioning whether it really is.
Regarding the two definitions of faith you stated (bolded), can we assess each of them by questioning their epistemological validity? I would say that the former definition is reasonable, as long as one has reason to believe that the entity in which they place their faith is trustworthy, and the latter definition is irrational and misguided, because while all notions of reality and knowledge can be supported in one way or another philosophically, empirical knowledge is still just the best one possible, and should therefore take precedence over others. To go back to the evolution/ creation debate: it is one place where those two definitions collide. Before Darwin, people had faith that God created us as we are, because that was the limit of their empirical knowledge and the Bible offered them an answer they thought was reasonable and trustworthy. When Darwin disproved literal creationism, some of them clung to their faith as an epistemologically superior notion of truth, and some of them left it for the epistemologically superior empirical truth.
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#11  Postby Dark Matter » February 25th, 2017, 8:08 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:Some prefer comfort.

I'd say most prefer the comfort certainty. But...

"Even the Kantian world, though it floats on a bottomless ocean of agnosticism, is a tidy isle of science. In it observations can be made fit and theories devised and, to our great satisfaction, the theories will fit the observations and further observations will again fit the theories. All competent observers will agree on the observations, and consequently they can be expected, after some debate, to agree also on which theories correctly represent the observations.

This arrangement we have institutionalized as "objective knowledge," and it answers what Michael Polanyi has called "a craving rooted in the very depths of our culture." Reassured by the overwhelming machinery of science, we turn our minds away from the unknowable abyss of That-Which-Is-In-Itself and rest our questing souls on the specious stability of our patterned experiences. Here is the fixed standard to which we can appeal; we discover it, we do not invent it. Confronted with the "objective" world, we are passive. We are helpless, and we are secure.

-- Beatrice Bruteau, The Psychic Grid
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#12  Postby Nick_A » February 26th, 2017, 12:58 am

As Christianity became secularized into many forms comprising Christendom, the value of certain words have become forgotten. For example the term faith IN Christ is considered the same as the faith OF Christ. Belief IN and faith IN are considered the same as the faith OF Christ. How many have seriously pondered the difference?

Gal 3: 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.


Obviously Paul is referring to two different ideas. But that doesn't matter to Christendom and the distinction is forgotten for the sake of Christendom being acceptable to society. It is a shame but that is the way of the world which seeks to secularize the sacred for the majority.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#13  Postby Dark Matter » February 26th, 2017, 2:05 am

I agree, Nick. By making Christianity a religion about Jesus instead of keeping to the religion of Jesus, it became secularized and, it might be said, turned into idolatry. That is why Paul also wrote, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#14  Postby Ozymandias » February 26th, 2017, 2:48 am

Nick_A wrote:As Christianity became secularized into many forms comprising Christendom, the value of certain words have become forgotten. For example the term faith IN Christ is considered the same as the faith OF Christ. Belief IN and faith IN are considered the same as the faith OF Christ. How many have seriously pondered the difference?

Gal 3: 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.


Obviously Paul is referring to two different ideas. But that doesn't matter to Christendom and the distinction is forgotten for the sake of Christendom being acceptable to society. It is a shame but that is the way of the world which seeks to secularize the sacred for the majority.

I'm not totally sure I'm following- as far as I understand, that verse is simply stating that Christian law/ morality is above secular law/ morality. So the point you're making is that faith is the adherence to religion above adherence to secular law? Or have I misinterpreted (as I so often do :P )?
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Re: Is faith a good way to believe?

Post Number:#15  Postby Fooloso4 » February 26th, 2017, 12:21 pm

Ozymandias:
I understand that people see faith as a higher form of knowledge- I'm questioning whether it really is.


As I understand it faith is not a form of knowledge.

Nick_A:

Gal 3: 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.



Obviously Paul is referring to two different ideas.


Yes, but not as you say. The issue is whether Gentiles are required to follow God’s Law, that is, the law of the Jews. Paul’s answer is that if you are a Jew then yes but if you are a Gentile then no. Paul’s claim is that it is a matter of spirit not adherence to works. If one follows the Law in action alone that is not enough or even necessary if you are not a Jew.

Dark Matter:

By making Christianity a religion about Jesus instead of keeping to the religion of Jesus, it became secularized and, it might be said, turned into idolatry.


The religion of Jesus was Judaism.

That is why Paul also wrote, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)


And this is why the disciples parted with Paul and his Gentile followers became Christians.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them .For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18-19)


Paul believed that through Christ one could be saved from sin, that this could not be accomplished on one’s own through one’s own actions. He thought that man was powerless against sin, but through Christ could be save. The passage is a bit tricky - the phrase faith of Christ occurs before and after belief in Christ. By belief in Christ one is saved by the faith of Christ.

This is open to interpretation, but the faith of Christ might mean Jesus’ faithfulness to God, that he is loyal and true to God. If this is correct and man is powerless against sin then it seems that man cannot be of faith, that is, faithful on his own but only through belief in Christ. Thus, faith for Paul seems to be a power.
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