Religious faith is a slippery customer. Its proponents often have difficulty explaining what it is. And their explanations aren’t always the same.
When contrasting faith with reason, though, there is a very clear difference: faith will take you to any belief you want. Reason will not.
There are certain chasms in the landscape of belief that the path of reason simply does not cross. And for those who don’t wish to give up on the shimmering bank lying tantalizingly across the abyss, faith provides a ready bridge to the other side. The bridge is always short, and easy to cross.
But there is hard, challenging work to be found in pursuing the path of reason. Its rules are strict; the path is narrow. But it leads to exotic and unexpected places. And it always stays on solid ground.
Indeed, perhaps the most exciting thing about reason is that you don’t get to decide, beforehand, where it will lead. Discovery is always imminent.
Faith is infinitely accommodating. It will take you wherever you wish to go. And while this might sound great, it means that you first have to know where you want to go. The destination is never a surprise.
People talk about their faith journeys. But I can’t help thinking that part of a faith journey requires hanging on to a certain belief regardless of the challenges one might encounter. A successful faith journey is one in which your beliefs have remained solidly intact. And this is not really a journey at all.
Granted, some people do mature in their understanding of the spiritual, but I wonder if this has more to do with letting go of faith in certain ideas, rather than clinging on to it.
The journey of reason, meanwhile, requires a pretty unnerving embrace of change. The results may be jarring or uncomfortable. They may even require one to reconsider large portions of one’s worldview.
But this narrow path of reason justifies itself by its narrowness. It tells us what is real and what is fiction, and its answer doesn’t take our desires into account.
Faith, meanwhile, simply confirms our own desires. We tell it what we wish were true, and it always obliges us with a positive answer.