Usually, when the word “faith” is bandied about, it is often in reference to a belief in a higher power. This post, for the most part, will not be any different. However, it is the other definitions of faith that I am more interested in. According the dictionary.com, the belief in god is the third definition for the word faith, and the fifth definition is a system of religious belief. Yet many people often use the words faith and religion interchangeably. However, for this post, I prefer to think of faith closer to the ideas of the first definition: confidence or trust in a person or thing. It is this definition that I would like to explore, though, in context, I may discuss other feelings and thoughts on faith.
First, the basis for this post is a conversation that I had recently with my good friend (and blog reader!) Jessica on her new blog, that you can see here (I expect great things from her blog). Many things that we talked about mirrored how I felt when I realized that the LDS Church, and other organized religions, just weren’t for me. Read about part of it here. Having known Jess as a convert to the religion that I was born into, I expect that many of the things she realizes or conclusions that she comes to will be from a different perspective, which is why I am personally intrigued by what she writes. And I know the feeling of not being able to tell certain people about my true thoughts about religion: to this day, I am unsure if all of my family truly knows about everything regarding my departure from the church.
But that is not the point of this post. We are going to talk about faith abstractly, in a way that hopefully shows that faith and religion can be separated, and even a person who professes no particular religion can live every day with faith in their life. It simply depends on the definition of faith you choose.
If we look at the first definition mentioned above, having confidence or trust in a person or thing, I think it is readily apparent that I live my life with faith. I am confident that I can accomplish the goals I set out for myself, so I have faith in myself. I trust that my friends and family will always be there to support me regardless of what I choose to do, so I have faith in my friends and family. Even more abstract, I trust that my car will not burst into flames as I’m driving, so I have faith in Ms. Pamela the Passat. I think you get the point.
The second definition is a bit more tricky. It states a “belief that is not based on proof.” This is partially where faith and religion intermingle. Those with religion and belief in a god will often say that because there is no proof, it must be because of something else, that we have to suspend disbelief and put our trust in something else, which people usually find in a god. Can’t explain why or how the planet came to be? It was God. Can’t explain why the sun comes up in the morning? It’s gods with chariots or something else. Throughout time, man has tried to explain things which he doesn’t understand by using something bigger and greater than himself. Throughout time, science and thought has improved proving things that we didn’t know before, like the rotation of the earth, it’s orbit around the sun, and the changing of the seasons. It really is remarkable that 6,000 years ago, mankind did not have the knowledge we do today. Even now, great discoveries are made in a small scale, and I am sure that in another 6,000 years (if the planet and mankind survive), they will know even more than we know now. But until we can “prove” it, it is because of a god? Sorry, can’t buy that.
The final definition I would like to discuss is the fourth from the same dictionary.com definition: belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc. Over the past 25 years of life or so (I can’t speak for the first 5), a system of morality has been instilled in me by the people around me, be it family members, teachers, friends, or other people that I may have encountered. Granted, for the first 15 years of my life, it was a morality system based on a religion, but the same general tenets hold still to this day. I don’t think I needed to go to a church to learn that killing, lying, stealing, and other things were bad. It’s something that we all try to learn from a young age. Also, the “Golden Rule,” or doing unto others what would be done unto you, is also another big thing that every person should be taught. But have the last 15 years of my life been any worse off because I don’t have religion in my life? I don’t think so. I still think that being told what is right and what is wrong is the responsibility of parents. If you want to frame it in the context of church and religion, all the more power to you. I’m just trying to say that my faith in doing what is right is not tied at all to the presence of religion in my life.
I guess the overall point to this diatribe is this: when defining faith, it is important to remove religion from it. A person can live a life full of faith and not have religion. Because of this distinction, it is important not to judge people simply because they do not have the same systematic beliefs as you. I would be willing to bet that the majority of people live their lives with some faith; it’s just a different sort of faith then you are used to.
Tune in next time for Adventures in Babysitting…maybe.