What IS faith, anyway?

I often see articles with titles such as, ‘Has science made God redundant’ (or religion redundant or faith redundant. Choose your variation on this theme)*. Once I would haven been firmly in the ‘Yes’ camp and while I feel a certain affinity for the ‘No’ argument, I’m more of a mind now to think that the two concepts are mutually exclusive (I think that this may harken to Stephen J Goulds ‘non-overlapping majesteria’ but I’ve not read his ideas for a while and need to refesh my understanding.).

Science has torn holes in the closed minded, fundamentalist versions of religion, that’s for certain. If you can believe in creationism (I’m not giving it a capital letter because it irritates me. If they can ignore science, I can ignore language conventions) and a young earth, then there’s just now where to go within the sphere of rational argument. Simply to believe in those things shows a certain, shall we say, head in the sand, ignorance of absolutely every piece of peer reviewed science in the last 100 years kind of thinking that part of me wants to admire just because of it’s sheer ballsi-ness.

To me, faith and science are two mutually exclusive terms. It’s like asking which is the more valid; pavolva or tom-tom drums. They have nothing to do with each other, so the comparison of the two is futile.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11.1)

Faith is an inner belief of our connection to the greater reality of the Universe. It can’t be proved or disproved by science because the two tenets are mutually exclusive.

Love exists, but can’t be quantified. So it is with faith.

(I think. See, here’s where I wish I we could all sit in a room together and discuss these ideas!)

 *Here, for instance. I’d hate to base a whole post on an argument that doesn’t exist.

12 thoughts on “What IS faith, anyway?

  1. Totally agree with you here. Science isn’t meant to answering questions of religion and religion /faith should not purport to answer questions of science. They are as you say two separate identities.

  2. The line that really annoys me is being told that you can’t have a faith and be scienitific about the world. As you say, they deal with different parts of our experience – and so long as we don’t mistake one for the other in strange fantasy interpretations of scriptures, there is no conflict.
    What is really fascinating for me at the moment is the question of what does a scientific enquiring mind bring to my faith experience and what does my faith experience bring to my (social) scientific enquiry? I can’t put that answer into words just yet – but hope to start soon.

    • That’s true, David. Faith and scientific enquiry are not mutually exclusive, even if the die-hard, love-to-be-smug kind of Athiest likes to think that they are. I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts.

      Eva

  3. I heard this story years ago:

    Three people—a “rationalist”, a “believer”, and a person of faith—approach a chair.

    The rationalist states his hypothesis that he can sit in the chair. After much measuring and weighing and mathematical consideration, he theorizes that he can, indeed, sit in the chair.

    The believer states that he needs no proof, it has been revealed to him that he can sit in the chair. What’s more, he sites sacred writings in which saints of old have sat in chairs. He then goes to work on the other two, insisting that they, too, believe he can sit in the chair.

    The person of faith sits in the chair.

    We are, of course, some combination of all three.

  4. Re: your comparison to love at the end – I don’t think anyone’s objecting to the idea that some people have faith. Faith exists. The question is, is faith a good (i.e., effective, truthful) way of knowing something about reality?

    I actually think we might continue a good analogy to love here. If someone made a decision completely based on love, without regard to any real-world evidence, they would probably be being foolish. (In fact, we see lots of examples of this all the time. Some people stay in terrible, even abusive relationships because they’re “in love.”) On the other hand, if you said, “I feel love towards so and so, and here are some examples of us working together well in real life, and here are some examples of things they’ve done for me that show they care, etc.” then if you were to make a commitment to that person it would be much more sensible.

    @davidearle – If faith is just another kind of experience (like a sixth sense), then examining it would be scientific, wouldn’t it? How do you distinguish between the right answers obtained through faith and “strange fantasy interpretations”? I don’t know how it’d be possible, which I think shows that it isn’t scientific at all.

  5. I realize that I made a somewhat dishonest jump in this post- moved from ‘can science disprove religion’ to ‘is faith scientific’, without really making a clear segue.
    And I think we can all acknowledge that it’s not scientific at all. And that’s OK.

    I would be keen, as David alluded to, to look further into the idea that abscientific mind can also be one of faith, withoutna whole lot of cognitive dissonance going on. While I didn’t pursue a career in the Sciences ( maths isn’t my thing), my main areas of interest as an adult ( astronomy, paleoanthropology, archaeology) are in those fields. I think that one can be religious and scientific without, as I said, invoking cognitive dissonance.

  6. Quoting you:
    “Science has torn holes in the closed minded, fundamentalist versions of religion, that’s for certain. If you can believe in creationism (I’m not giving it a capital letter because it irritates me. If they can ignore science, I can ignore language conventions) and a young earth, then there’s just now where to go within the sphere of rational argument. Simply to believe in those things shows a certain, shall we say, head in the sand, ignorance of absolutely every piece of peer reviewed science in the last 100 years kind of thinking that part of me wants to admire just because of it’s sheer ballsi-ness.”

    Thank you for your website!! I love reading your posts. Someone linked to it on FB so that’s how I found you. You know what I think? I think we all do well to keep questioning things and to keep an open mind. I am a follower of Jesus. I also love science. Something interesting to keep in mind however, is that science is not bias free. I remember studying about “Lucy” in elementary school. My teacher talked about evolution like it was a scientific fact. Creationists are often critisized for starting with a preconceived notion, and then looking for evidence to back it up. But evolutionists do the same thing! In fact, we ALL have a worldview which shapes how we interpret evidence. Ok, back to Lucy. When I actually decided to study evolution (both sides) I found out that it was found out later that Lucy was a chimp, and not related to us. That the scientists who said she was had to really use their imagination on that one given the very incomplete skeleton they found. Also, the techniques used to date fossils are highly questionable. Anyway, a scientist might look at the fossil record and think, “Evolution.” while another (and there are many creation scientists!) might see the SAME thing and think it proves that there was a world wide flood.

    I think what got me was learning that all fossils are of distinct types. Meaning, there are no “in between” species. There is no fossil evidence of fish slowly turning into man over millions of years. When I learned that, I started to really question evolution. You need a lot of faith to believe evolution just like you need a lot of faith to believe in God. I choose to believe in God because of personal revelations and the fact that ever since I have lived my life according to the wisdom contained in the Bible I have had so much PEACE! After learning more about the holes in evolution my faith in God has increased.

    Thanks for reading, thanks for being open-minded!

    “Love exists, but can’t be quantified. So it is with faith” what a great quote.

  7. You said, “here’s where I wish we could all sit in a room together and discuss these ideas!” That’s the very same thing I was thinking when I began building WordExpress Weekly nearly three weeks ago. Since then it’s gotten over 1,500 visits to its various pages.

    I invite you to join us. There’s a small circle forming. I’ve spent a lot of time making certain that the site gets and holds people’s interest. The most important way of doing that is to get conversations going between people with various backgrounds. I would never want the magazine to become an echo chamber.

    Yesterday, I began a discussion section on evolution. I did that for a number of reasons. One is because not really that many people actually know what it is. Another reason is that it’s just plain interesting and no one can be an educated person without knowing it.

    I find it very unfortunate that so many people, like your guest above feels the need to poke holes in it. People do that because they have been inculcated since a young age to resist learning anything about it. After I finished watching the first lecture on the subject–one that dealt with the origins of the universe, I got thinking, Why would anyone who believes in God want to take all that away from him? It makes no sense, at all. Except that Fundamentalists have their dogma and ignorance and wish to hold on to them at any cost, including blasphemy. If you think about it, if God did do what the scientists claim he did, it is nothing short of blasphemy to rob God of that incredible achievement.

    Jesus had a word or two to say about people like that–and we know what their fathers did to him. Anyway, I’m not so blunt on the site because I have to be the moderator of the discussions and that means keeping things civil. Being too direct only causes people to get their backs up.

    Anyhow, I hope you join in the community. Once a piece has run its course here you can always feel free to run it on the WordExpress Weekly, and hopefully that will give you an even larger readership.

    So long for now.

  8. Hi there Donald- sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you; entire hard drive of lap top being relaced because of a trojan will do that to a girl! Anyway, Im back and I’m keen to check out your new community.

    Eva

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