The big lie

2003-09-22 14:12

Deep in the core of mainstream religious thought is a lie so deep, so pervasive, that it often seems to have corrupted everything. This lie is the belief that to have faith, you must be totally free of doubts. It’s wrong.

Doubt is not the absence of faith. Doubt is the context of faith.

I have a cat. I don’t have faith that I have a cat. I just have a cat. I have scars from the time he almost fell off my lap but managed to save himself at the last minute. There is no faith. There is no hope. There’s just a cat. That’s all good, but there’s no doubt, and with no doubt, there is no faith.

You can’t have faith in things you know. Faith is about things you don’t know. Things you want to be true, or things you believe should be true, or must be true, but never things you actually know.

This is the opposite of what mainstream Christianity teaches. People have it drilled into them, time and time again, that if they had true faith, they wouldn’t doubt. It’s bullshit. The apostles, people who knew Jesus personally, had doubts. They didn’t know. They knew they didn’t know; they confronted this head-on, and they had faith.

Consider 1 Corinthians 13:12. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Our knowledge is incomplete. Our knowledge is limited. Faith is holding to things that we cannot be sure of.

The false belief that faith must imply certainty does immeasurable damage. People who are struggling with faith are not supported, or comforted; they are rebuked for “lacking faith”. When people ask tough questions, they are dismissed or attacked. The idea that there could be questions we cannot easily answer is seen, by many, as an attack on the faith; in fact, it is the substance of the faith.

Without the admission of uncertainty, we cannot grow or learn. When people falsely believe that they know, with total certainty, what God wants, they stop asking Him what He wants. The result is ever-greater depravity, as they build their own imagined sets of rules and regulations on top of instructions they think they understand. It gets worse, and worse, with time. They plug their ears and shout to prevent any hint of wisdom from reaching them, lest it contradict the things they are sure of. They develop elaborate justifications and rationalizations for believing that they can fully understand the world, name every part of it truly. Even if they accept some ignorance, they will cling to the false things they’ve already picked as truths despite everything.

The false equivalence between belief and knowledge leads to a false equivalence between what a person believes God wants, and what God wants. People put their own hatreds in God’s mouth. Professing themselves wise, they become fools.

If you think you know, you cannot sincerely ask. If you do not ask, how can you be answered?

Once again: Doubt is not the absence of faith, it is the context within which faith means something.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. I believe that faith is a five letter word which people carry around in their pockets. They use it to manipulate or terminate conversations.

    It is nothing more.

    I believe it was either Jefferson or Paine who said that faith was an impossibility in a reasoning person. Perhaps somebody can refresh me on that piece of writing.

    — R. Cook · 2003-10-22 23:22 · #

  2. It seems to me to be obviously wrong. Without faith, how do you even start reasoning? What premises can you accept without some degree of faith?

    I think there are many things which are referred to as "faith". Some are incompatible with reason; some necessary for it.

    — seebs · 2003-10-23 13:35 · #

 
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