Faith: Living with questions

The last few weeks I’ve been questioning some Christians about the nature of faith, and a couple of things stand out. First, faith is trusting that God will fulfill his promises. In this sense, it is not that different from the faith we have in our loved ones, government, or anyone else who has made promises to us.

Second, faith has a lot to do with unanswered questions. This, it seems, is where the heart of religious faith lies. It’s what makes religious faith different from other types of faith.

There is a fundamental problem with religion that kick-starts the whole process of faith. The problem is that religious mythologies, being mostly very old, and therefore born in a pre-scientific, highly superstitious culture, simply do not explain the state of the world very well. In the last two or three centuries, humans have essentially come of age. We have discovered the basics about the world and universe we live in. We’ve discovered the process by which we ourselves came into existence. And, crucially, we’ve discovered how complex, volatile, and unreliable the human mind can be.

All of this is pretty humbling. We’re not the center of the universe, and we’re not really all that smart.

The problem with most religious mythologies, then, is that they are relics from our infant past. They belong in a world that no longer exists. A world that has been surpassed and supplanted in so many ways. What this means is that religion raises far more questions than it answers. It creates problems that it cannot solve.

Faith is what rescues religious mythology from oblivion. Faith tells believers that they don’t need to answer the difficult questions that their beliefs pose. All they have to do is trust that God has good answers, and that perhaps these answers will become clear in the afterlife (which is, itself, one of the problematic issues in religious doctrine).

So why do people even bother? If religion raises so many questions, why don’t they just abandon it for a naturalist worldview? The answer, I think, is that religion makes very appealing promises. It promises to provide the lonely with an ever-present, loving companion whom they can carry around in their minds. It promises an escape from death. It promises to provide justice, which seems all too lacking in the world around us. And it promises social comfort and support. For these reasons, and others, religion remains appealing to many people.

And so, if these wishes and dreams are to be kept alive, faith must be employed to stave off the troublesome questions that swirl like sharks around the inflatable hull of religious doctrine. In a sense then, to have faith is to downplay the importance of questions – to deny the existential threat they pose.

This might explain the rather blasé attitude I’ve encountered with some Christians when it comes to questions: they just don’t seem at all concerned that very deep problems with their theologies have no apparent solutions. You just have to have faith, apparently.

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4 Responses to Faith: Living with questions

  1. L.Long says:

    you said…’First, faith is trusting that God will fulfill his promises. In this sense, it is not that different from the faith we have in our loved ones, government, or anyone else who has made promises to us.’
    I disagree in that the god faith is still fully delusional. I KNOW the promises of my govmint, wife, etc. What are gods promises??? Other than hear-say I have never heard any god-promise.

    And I agree with your ending statement that the religious have to delude themselves thru mindless faith in some vague, hear-say promises because they are not brave or adult enough to face the alternative, which they will soon face and will face alone.

  2. Keith says:

    L.Long

    I think most believers would say that God has promised them things like salvation, an afterlife with him, and justice. i.e., various promises made to believers in the Bible.

  3. L. Long, we are certainly brave and adult enough to face the alternatives, (that you face), but we don’t have to. We believe the promises within the bible and we are never alone. Unfortunately, unless you’ve experienced faith and the life-changing relationship one can have with Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit, you believe we are “deluded.”

    I don’t know.

    I know one thing, though; we are very much at peace and it is this peace, Keith, that you refer to as “blase’.” No matter what is going on in the world or around us, we know our God will prevail. He is in charge and all is going according to His will. We need not fear.

  4. L.Long says:

    Maybe you are at peace with your delusion but I don’t really believe you. If you are at peace then why do you (??) and others of your like try to FORCE you delusion onto others thru voting for rules and law? No matter what laws atheists vote for or how we wish to live, we are at peace with our decisions and WILL NOT try to make the laws such that we force you to live that way. The main problem I have with the peaceful (fill in the blank) is their insistence ALL live their way. And you do this because you have FAITH (no evidence) that the 2000 year old pile of scrap paper says something vague and with no evidence backing it. What will convince me? My mother (whom I personally know) coming back from death, appearing to me and telling me that heaven is great & hell sucks. Saying jesus said this is meaningless as I never saw, knew, or have evidence of his existence. After all, gawd loves us (r..r..right!) and is all powerful, yada yada yada so this should be a simple no brainer for it to do but wont. And saying it wants me to use love and FAITH is silly as it supposedly made me this way and I require real evidence.
    Which the point of the post without proper verifiable evidence it is all hear-say and of no useful value and full blown delusion (faith).

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