Faith: The bridge to anywhere

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.


One Response to Faith: The bridge to anywhere

  1. “Religious faith is a slippery customer. Its proponents often have difficulty explaining what it is. And their explanations aren’t always the same.”

    Yes, indeed. There are few things in life more frustrating than discussing the meaning of faith with a Christian, as they change meanings from sentence to sentence with barely a blip.

    Faith is trust, faith is a synonym for belief (and thus trivialised), faith is a prerequisite, faith is a reasoned position…

    Faith is something that Christians must have, and therefore good, but then again they don’t have as much of it as atheists, apparently.

    Atheists always get faith wrong, we are led to believe. Do Christians hold this view by faith?

    As I said, deeply frustrating. It shouldn’t be down to me, as a person without faith, to try to define it when the end result is that I’m told that I got it wrong whatever I said. So I have to try to pin down faith in a way that Christians can’t manoeuvre their way around it.

    Faith and reason are epistemological concepts – ways of acquiring knowledge. Rational knowledge, briefly, is knowledge acquired from evidence, (including previously-validated and justified knowledge), that conforms to logical procedures. To demonstrate a belief as rationally warranted is to show that that belief conforms to the epistemological standards of human knowledge. There is no need for any more than one method of gaining knowledge, for if there is more than one method, how would we distinguish between these methods regarding any belief?

    Therefore a rational belief, turning it round a bit, is one that we can say that we accept on the basis of reason. A Christian could therefore say that he accepted the existence of God on the same basis of reason. In this case he has no need to accept the existence of God on the basis of faith, unless faith and reason are synonymous. If this is true we can abandon the notion of faith altogether.

    But then they don’t do that. Christianity insists upon two epistemological methods. Faith exists when reason is held to be limited in some respect, or to gain knowledge of something that would otherwise be incomprehensible – indeed, faith depends on rational incomprehension for its existence. When they are off their guard, this is often admitted. Reason, we are told, is insufficient. Indeed, atheists falsely hold reason to be their God.

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