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Old 06-30-2003, 05:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The nature of faith

Since my brother died I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "faith."

Allow me to esplain....

No, there is too much. Allow me to sum up:
(nod to ~springrain )

For most of my life I've been an agnostic. I tend toward logical positivism, and generally want evidence before I commit to a belief, whether it's the best car for me, or support for a particular policy, or that someone is my friend.

Faced with the uncertainty of death, or life after death, I've been asking a lot of "big questions" and I am stuck. None of them seem to have answers that can be found in the empirical world. (Yet.)

For instance, I want to believe that my brother is, somewhere, still himself in some form - that his "essence," not necessarily his ego, is still intact. However, absent any proof of that, I feel like belief in an afterlife is simply something that I would "believe" to make myself feel better, a lie I tell myself so I can sleep. Is faith ever anything other than 1. either a (conscious or unconscious) rationalization of a viewpoint that makes life bearable; or 2. a mystical state of being that you can't get to - it just happens? I know some people who have very strong faith, and I don't think they're rationalizing anything. They just believe [whatever] the way they believe water is wet. But if you're not lucky enough to have that sort of experience, or gift, or enlightenment, can you will yourself to have faith? Are faith and empiricism mutually exclusive? Am I incapable of faith (not necessarily religious faith, but the kind of "felt" faith that doesn't need evidence) without some "road to Damascus" experience?
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Last edited by lurkette; 06-30-2003 at 06:48 PM..
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Old 06-30-2003, 06:39 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: The nature of faith

All very deep questions, Lurkette.

First, I want to express again how sorry I am for your loss and to add that I, for one, do believe there is something more to this life than you're born, you live, and you die.

Why?

Because I've seen too much that speaks to something more. I also know too many people who have a "something" that only seems to come from a deep faith.

I know that doesn't make sense in a scientific way and please believe me when I say that I am nothing if not logical and sceptical.

But it is still there, these feelings, these observations and they lead me to believe in 'something' that sometimes I can't even get words around.

And I do acknowledge that I could just be "making it up" to assuage a fear of death, but again...I don't think I am.

That is of course, why it is called faith.

And in a purely logical world, it will never ever make sense. But in the chambers of the human heart, it DOES seem to make sense.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family


edit to add:

Oh and I see I didn't answer your question exactly.

For me, my faith is a conscious decision everyday. I personally have never had a "damascus" experience.
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Last edited by Lebell; 06-30-2003 at 06:45 PM..
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Old 06-30-2003, 06:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
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(Don't mean to keep continually bringing up my brother, it's just that he's much on my mind these days.)

Thanks, lebell.

So...in my relative inexperience with faith, it seems to me that it (having faith in something) must require a sort of...surrender? release? of one's desire to analyze and collect evidence and KNOW what is irrefutably true. Or is it that you simply collect a critical mass of experience that has you put aside the questioning and say "I believe this"? Or is it that you believe that there is something more than our mortal coil, but still question and analyze, as a skeptic, and find it holds up?

How do you "choose" faith? The concept makes my mind reel - just can't get my head around it. Is it like one of the above scenarios? Is it a choice not to question a belief? I'm anxious to "figure this out" - which is perhaps the problem, no?
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Old 06-30-2003, 07:10 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I think 'surrender' is a dangerous word, because to me it implies a surrender of reason, and I don't do that. I question my faith all the time, why I believe and why I should continue to believe. And remaining skeptical isn't right either, because while I still question, I've decided to set the skepticism aside and to believe.

At best, science doesn't contradict a faith life, it doesn't really say anything about it at all. And most modern Christians have no problem believing things like evolution, the big bang, etc. so that doesn't come into play either.

Yet, I think also that 'surrender' can be used, if at least to say that faith is a surrender to the possibility that something else is out there. And yes, you have to also realize that you cannot hold concrete proof that it is all true. It could all be smoke and mirrors, but I really do believe that there is a God and that He/She wants us to come to Him/Her willingly, not because we are forced to by proof.

So in that sense at least, I 'choose' to surrender to that possibility each day.
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Old 06-30-2003, 07:11 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Faith has many faces, trust and love are just other forms or names for faith. When you trust, you are expressing faith in the other person. You do not have to analyse faith, because I do not believe that it can be rationally explained; nor would I want it to be. Also no one is truely dead until they are forgotton. I am sorry for your loss, and I know the pain is deep. Just remember, that while the pain will ease, the memories will become more cherished, and that is where faith begins...
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Old 06-30-2003, 07:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Faith is about belief. Blindly following without questioning is not really faith, but there is a degree of trusting in something that you can neither see nor touch. It's something that you will have just have to believe in, without proof. That is a very difficult concept for many people.

I'm sorry for your loss and I do hope that you find the answers that you are looking for.
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Old 06-30-2003, 07:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm sorry for your loss.
I do believe I do have an answer for you.

I am a man of science, however I do have faith too.

I've found that the best way to put it,
that satisfies all criteria & thought.

Is that after death, you are in another "state".
Nothing is lost, just in a different context.
Conservation of Energy, if you would prefer.

Simple, yet profound
Just like the best ideas,
in science or philosophy.

It's just our current viewpoints & knowledge base have not "defined" everything as yet.
This is true, no matter what you believe.

Last edited by rogue49; 06-30-2003 at 08:08 PM..
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Old 06-30-2003, 08:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
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"Faith" can spring up when you have no scientific or rational basis for feeling something. If it helps you and doesn't hurt anybody else, what harm is there in it?
Of course, by the same token, if it hurts you and others, I'd be avoiding it.
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Old 06-30-2003, 08:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I think it only fitting for someone to state the standard Biblical definition of faith as long as it is being discussed:

Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see."

Personally lurkette, I think you already hit the nail on the head when you said that you said that you wanted to believe that a part of the ego endures despite the evidence against it. That's the key to Christianity and all other religions; discover your beliefs, find all the evidence you can for them and then stick to them no matter what.
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Old 07-01-2003, 12:21 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Faith is a belief that is held so deeply that no amount of evidence could cause you to change or abandon that belief.
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Old 07-01-2003, 02:52 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Greg700, I must disagree.

My own faith is constantly modified by what science shows me.

But perhaps you could argue that I simply change my beliefs so that nothing can touch them.

Interesting conundrum, isn't it?
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Old 07-01-2003, 06:29 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I would argue that faith is the willingness to accept the irational without any kind of logical evidence.
Faith is something that many people need in order to get through their daily lives. It is a protective blanket.
As for the ability to will yourself into having a faith, a belive that it is possible. As a young teenager, I came to a point in my life when I realised that my religion and my science were in fact mutually exclusive. It pained me greatly, and made me very depressed. I knew that I was at an early enough stage where I could in fact "will" my faith. I knew that if I blanked my mind for a while, that I would eventually forget, and that I would be able to delude myself. I had to make a very big decision, truth or contentment (http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/showthr...threadid=14122). Ultimately I choose that I would rather believe the truth rather than what makes me comfortable, but it is indeed quite a prediciment.
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Old 07-01-2003, 06:30 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Actually, Greg700, I agree with Lebell.

Everything that we learn everyday, adds to the complexity & wonder of all
This increases my faith, to think how profound, how beautiful.

Those who think differently are being a bit simplistic in their thought, not faith.
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Old 07-01-2003, 07:26 AM   #14 (permalink)
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LeBell

You most definitly need to have faith in what you believe in. But when science shows you something new, don't be so quick to change your beliefs, science has been proven many times to be incorrect, or mistaken. New scientific data of today, will in 20 years probably be thought of as way off base. So when new information is provided, much thought, review and meditation needs to be done before one changes even one small part of what one believes, and has faith in.
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Old 07-01-2003, 11:35 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by rogue49
Actually, Greg700, I agree with Lebell.

Everything that we learn everyday, adds to the complexity & wonder of all
This increases my faith, to think how profound, how beautiful.

Those who think differently are being a bit simplistic in their thought, not faith.
I was being simplistic, but I think there is an essential truth to what I said.

I guess I could refine my statement to say that faith is believing in something so strongly that absolutely nothing, under any circumstances, could convince you that your belief is false or incorrect. However, belief sets will still evolve and change over time as you grow as a person, but the core values must essentially remain the same, or you necessarily showed a lack of faith in those beliefs.
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Old 07-01-2003, 11:47 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Greg700
I was being simplistic, but I think there is an essential truth to what I said.

I guess I could refine my statement to say that faith is believing in something so strongly that absolutely nothing, under any circumstances, could convince you that your belief is false or incorrect. However, belief sets will still evolve and change over time as you grow as a person, but the core values must essentially remain the same, or you necessarily showed a lack of faith in those beliefs.
I guess it's statements like this that kind of scare me off. I certainly don't mean to insult anyone, particularly because you're all being so generous in sharing your thoughts about such a personal subject, and I know that I don't know what I'm talking about. However, I really don't want to have faith if it means closing my mind. If I believe something so strongly that even in the face of all evidence to the contrary I cling to those beliefs, that, to me, seems more like dogma than "faith" per se. At that point, it would seem to me that I was clinging to something familiar and comforting rather than facing facts and adapting accordingly. I guess it depends more on if you value having faith vs. pursuing some truth. Personally, I'd rather have truth than faith, but....here we come back to my conundrum. What do you do when there is little or no evidence? Just keep searching? Where do you even start? With what you already believe, and challenge those beliefs and keep whatever holds up?
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