What is faith? It is similar to hope,
belief, confidence, and trust. But there are differences.
Degree of certainty. Hope is usually just wishful thinking;
in contrast, faith implies more certainty that we will have a
Amount of emotion. Hope is emotional; faith can exist
Passivity. Hope is passive; we wait for something good to
come to us. In contrast, faith is generally a part of an active
system; "we move in faith."
Focus. A belief is focused on one idea; for example, "I
believe that there is a god." In contrast, faith is a general
attitude regarding the nature of something, and so it
encompasses many individual ideas; for example, "I have faith
that god is benevolent" (and, thus, the god is kind, helpful,
forgiving, etc. -- and therefore likely to help me in a
particular manner in this particular situation).
Amount of intellectual content. A belief can be articulated
as a concept (and we might be able to explain our reasons for
having the belief); in contrast, we can have faith without
being able to express it as a concept other than to say, "I
have faith in that." Indeed, we can have faith in something
which contradicts our logical reasoning.
Basis. We are confident in something because it has proven
that it has particular abilities by which it can accomplish
tasks. In contrast, we can have faith in something which has
not yet proven itself; our history with that thing might even
include many "unanswered prayers."
Placement of evaluation. Confidence is generally based upon
an evaluation of our own aptitude. In contrast, faith is based
on evaluation of something else's aptitude; for example, we
have faith in a deity. (We generally do not have faith in
ourselves, simply because we are very aware of our own
Basis. Trust is generally based on a history with
something; it has "earned our trust."
Equality. We have trust among equals (e.g., other people);
in contrast, we have faith in something which is greater than
productive and destructive aspects of faith.
The productive aspects of faith.
Faith can help us to make a "leap" into a consideration of
new possibilities when we have created illusory limitations
through our misinterpretation of input from the intellect,
feelings, or intuition. And faith can help us to disregard
other types of faulty input, e.g., public opinion (when the
public is incorrect).
Faith helps to diminish mental and emotional distractions,
e.g., doubt, fear, anxiety, etc. Therefore, we can focus our
attention on our task.
Faith facilitates our basic ability to function. We would
be paralyzed into inaction if we did not have faith that the
sun would rise tomorrow, and that our sensory perceptions are
accurate, and that our mind is processing data reliably, and
that a restaurant's food is not poisoned, and that the people
who are walking past us are not going to kill us, etc. We are
continually exposed to uncertainties; it is our faith in the
possible goodness of life which allows us to proceed. If we
lived in a state of total doubt regarding everything, we would
hardly be able to interact with life at all.
Faith might invoke the assistance of a supernatural force.
Some religions say that our faith in a deity is an essential
part of the relationship with that deity, and that the faith
enhances the deity's willingness and ability to assist us.
The destructive aspects of faith.
Some religions say that faith is an ultimate state in
itself. However, because faith is a state which exists in the
absence of experience or knowledge, a glorification of faith is
a glorification of inexperience and ignorance; we are "blessed"
for "not knowing." And so we are discouraged from learning and
questioning and exploring (and using our intellect, intuition,
and personal power); instead, we rely on "blind faith" in outer
authorities (and their sometimes-inaccurate dogma). Instead, we
can view faith as an intermediate state between not-knowing and
knowing. Carl Jung said (in his autobiography): "The arch sin
of faith, it seemed to me, was that it forestalled experience
... and confirmed my conviction that in religious matters only
Faith can be mis-placed. Faith is always partially
unreliable; either we place our faith in something which is
fundamentally unworthy of it, or we place our faith in
something which might be perfect (e.g., a deity) and then we
rely on our fallible ability to interpret the information and
guidance from that perfect thing. People are fundamentally
unworthy of faith; when we have faith in people, we are
unfairly projecting onto them the godly qualities of constancy,
inerrancy, etc. People change; people have a "shadow" which
contains the opposite of whatever trait we have faith in;
people are ultimately pursuing the satisfaction of own needs
(and so their needs will occasionally conflict with ours).
Self-talk. "I test the things in which I invest my faith."
"I allow myself to have faith in things which have proven
themselves to me."
Directed imagination. We can visualize ourselves acting in
ways which express our faith in something.
Energy toning. We can generate the energy tones of
confidence, certainty, etc.
The "as if" principle. We can act as if we have faith.
Intuition. Intuition can tell us whether something is worthy
of faith. And intuition can warn us when something is going to
betray our faith.
We can develop courage. Faith requires courage, because we are
venturing into new areas -- perhaps in contradiction to our
reasoning and our experience.
We can recognize faith as an intermediate stage in our
education in life. Faith helps us to consider new ideas; then, as
we learn and test those new ideas, the faith is replaced by
knowledge and experience. However, we can never know or experience
everything; therefore, we are always using faith to take us
into new areas.
We can increase our faith gradually. Because we recognize that
faith is necessary in order for us to interact with things, we
develop our ability to have faith. We start with low-risk issues,
to test something's worthiness of faith. At each step, we can risk
more. (As we increase the risk, we might increase our protection
against the occasionally lapses; for example, we might enhance our
attentiveness to the thing's activities, or we might buy more
We can accept our doubts. We always have doubts in our shadow;
to deny them is to deny simple reality. If we do not acknowledge
our doubts, we become fanatics who are intolerant of other
people's contrary ideas, and we repress our awareness of the
occasions when our faith fails us. (The failure might be due to
the unworthiness of the object of our faith, or our
misinterpretation of the actions of a worthy object of
We can be willing to accept changes in our faith. The faith
changes as we learn more about the object of faith; for example,
as we learn about a deity, we are essentially having faith in a
different thing. (The thing is essentially the same, but our
perception of it changes, and so our experience of it changes.)
Sometimes, we must cease to have faith in something, if
that thing has proven itself to be fundamentally unworthy of our
We can protect ourselves. When we have faith in people and
material circumstances, we will be betrayed occasionally;
therefore, we need to follow the guideline: "have faith, but
buckle your seat-belt anyway." Some people are more faith-worthy
than others; we can discern their worthiness through our
intuition, our experiences with them, and other people's
experiences with them. Even if we have faith in "an infallible
deity," we can be injured, because we will occasionally
misinterpret the deity's doctrines and personal guidance (and we
might be incorrect in our faith that this deity exists at all).
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