Why is faith different?

chron

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Ask a religionist why he holds a particular belief and the answer is often that it is a matter of faith, not reason.

My question is: Why is this acceptable? In all other areas of life, reason is accepted. Why is faith exempt?

I look forward to your thoughts.

(I've specifically kept this question as open as possible, but if I haven't been clear or precise enough, ask a question, and we'll dialog about it.)
 

Thomas

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Hi Chron, and welcome to CR.

In Catholic doctrine, faith and reason go hand in hand ... but as the core of faith is the gnosis of a Mystery, something that surpasses all understanding, but one should never accede in faith to something that seems fundamentally unreasonable.

On the other hand, I have heard on more than one occasion scientists pursue a line of reasoning, purely on their faith in where the answer might be found. And indeed many scientific hypotheses are held 'in good faith' because reason suggests that's where the answer lies.

Thomas
 

Snoopy

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Ask a religionist why he holds a particular belief and the answer is often that it is a matter of faith, not reason.

My question is: Why is this acceptable? In all other areas of life, reason is accepted. Why is faith exempt?

I look forward to your thoughts.

(I've specifically kept this question as open as possible, but if I haven't been clear or precise enough, ask a question, and we'll dialog about it.)

Hi Chron and welcome to CR :)

Is reason, rather than faith the accepted "criterion" in all other areas of life? (i.e. an either/or and no other criteria involved). What about the arts, f'rinstance?

Snoopy.
 

seattlegal

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This is probably the best I've heard it expressed:
Faith, without depending on reason for the slightest shred of justification, never contradicts reason and remains ever reasonable. Faith does not destroy reason, but fulfills it. Nevertheless, there must always remain a delicate balance between the two. Two extremes are to be avoided: credulity and skepticism; superstition and rationalism. If this balance is upset, if man relies too much on his five senses and on his reason when faith should be his teacher, then he enters into illusion. Or when, in defiance of reason, he gives the assent of his faith to a fallible authority, then too he falls into illusion. Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.
--Thomas Merton, Ascent to Truth
 

Paladin

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Hello Chron, very nice to meet you.
How would you define "reason"?
I tend to agree with snoopy (as usual) but perhaps we could take this even further than his intrepid insight. We are a race of beings that tout reason and critical thinking while leading our lives according to the dictates of our feeling. Our action and non-action often reflects our desires of what we want reality to be. Just look to the uber nationalism rampant in most countries and what is it that drives marketing? we all tend to live out our stories without questioning lest we see the futility of our constructs and have to live in the unknown.
Faith does not destroy reason as Merton says (Thanks Seattlegal:)
it merely circumvents it. And if you become one of those troublemakers that uses critical thinking skills and applies them to your everyday life in an enlightened sort of way, why the world is bound to give you a hard time.
Sounds to me as if you might be heading there already. Way to go! ;)
 
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I think that beyond religion, faith is a vehicle for creating one's sense of identity and place. Faith assumes a preternatural order within which one can orient them self in terms of self and group identity. We all have "faith" in our perception of the structure and function of the apparent ordering of things and our position within the structure. That perception of place, meaning, and order doesn't come from "reason". Philosophy and reason themselves arise from what I'm describing here as faith.

Chris
 

flowperson

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Ask a religionist why he holds a particular belief and the answer is often that it is a matter of faith, not reason.

My question is: Why is this acceptable? In all other areas of life, reason is accepted. Why is faith exempt?

I look forward to your thoughts.

(I've specifically kept this question as open as possible, but if I haven't been clear or precise enough, ask a question, and we'll dialog about it.)

Hi Chron...Welcome to CR. I don't believe this matter is so much an issue of reason vs. faith as it is about the cosmic context of the basis of the issues being examined. This thread and the article I posted yesterday on this matter might enable you to view this in such a context, local (classical) issues as compared to non-local (spiritual) issues. It all boils down to what we come to believe to be real.

http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/between-the-cracks-8375.html

In examining issues of a local and observed nature, then classical scientific reason is usually needed to verify the grounding of our beliefs. When dealing with matters which originate from or are affected by non-local influences, then emotionally filtered reason must necessarily determine our grounding of beliefs. The ancients knew this, and we are only now beginning to discover this again.

flow....;)
 

chron

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Wow, thank you all for the warm welcome.

I'm going to respond to all of you in this one post, so it may be a touch long -- we'll see.

First of all, I think definitions are in order. As I first stated, I deliberately made my query open-ended and perhaps vague, in order to invite non-knee-jerk responses. Seeing now how civilized you all are (^_^), I needn't have worried.

Faith is, as I learned it as a child, belief plus action. It is holding a belief strongly enough to act on it.

Reason is thinking logically about a thing.

These are my own working definitions, and are not in any way meant to be precisely honed, the way philosophers would expect them to be in formal dialog. Please realize that, when challenged, I may very well find myself revising them a bit here and there. This is exactly why I'm here: to explore what it is that I believe, to learn about it from others, to interact, grow, and expand what I know about the way faith and spirituality work in my life.

All that said, I'll plunge into responses.

~ ~ ~

Thomas, you say:

...one should never accede in faith to something that seems fundamentally unreasonable.

Consider the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth. That, it seems, is fundamentally unreasonable to me. And it surprises me to discover that the Catholic church no longer believes in the virgin birth. Quoting from Catholic Encyclopedia, via http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15448a.htm:

Modern theology adhering to the principle of historical development, and denying the possibility of any miraculous intervention in the course of history, cannot consistently admit the historical actuality of the virgin birth.

So, no beef with the Catholics, it seems. Yet my evangelical brothers and sisters insist (there's a significant word, worth considering in context with religious belief in another thread) that the virgin birth must be accepted and not questioned.

Here is the main point to me: when faith is defined as holding a belief that must be accepted and not questioned, then faith is held as against reason, in my opinion.

~ ~ ~

Snoopy, you say:

Is reason, rather than faith the accepted "criterion" in all other areas of life? (i.e. an either/or and no other criteria involved). What about the arts, f'rinstance?

You're completely correct. We go through life taking many things on faith: the internal combustion engine, for many, is a mystery, and many are content to "just trust" that whoever built the one they own knew what she was doing, etc., etc.

But I, for one, can do that precisely because, to take the engine example, I know that the way my car's engine works is explainable in terms that I could understand if I put my mind to it. If, upon probing the reasons why my car propels me down the road, I was told, "It's really just a matter of faith; you just need to trust that it works and leave it at that," then I might be, well, skeptical (another great word worth its own discussion), and not quite so willing to trust without thinking.


~ ~ ~

seattlegal, your quote from Thomas Merton is a good one. But my problem begins with Meron's first line:

Faith, without depending on reason for the slightest shred of justification, never contradicts reason and remains ever reasonable.

But it does contradict reason. I point you to the virgin birth example again.

I can hear you and others saying, "But you cannot listen to those unreasonable voices who expect you to believe -- have faith -- in an unreasonable way. Yet this is exactly my point. There are those who insist that "having faith" means accepting without questioning. My own question, rephrased, is: On what basis is it all right to ask me to do that?

~ ~ ~

Paladin, you say:

Faith does not destroy reason as Merton says . . . it merely circumvents it.

Perhaps, perhaps. But how? What do you mean by this?

~ ~ ~

Chris, I'm a touch confused by what you say. Although the insight you offer is a good one, I'm not sure that it helps to talk about how faith is used here. Of course, to be fair, I did leave things rather vague in my initial post.

~ ~ ~

flow, your thoughts are most interesting to me. I want to attempt a restatement of what you've said as my way of better grasping it. Please let me know if you think I've gotten the essence of what you're saying.

First of all, you use the terms local and non-local to mean, respectively, observable reality and spiritual. Next (and finally), you assert that (using my own terminology here) any attempt to understand spiritual things will always be colored by how we feel about the way we choose to see the world.

I fear I'm mashing up your thoughts terribly. But isn't something like this what you mean by saying:

When dealing with matters which originate from or are affected by non-local influences, then emotionally filtered reason must necessarily determine our grounding of beliefs.

Your thoughts in response to Bobby Winters are excellent. You're explaining that it is in the nature of the universe (or its the spacetime fabric) for us to not be able to comprehend the spiritual in physical terms.

Is this a fair restatement of your idea?

The Paul Davies article (Taking Science on Faith) is excellent as well.

~ ~ ~

Well, new friends, I thank you again for your thoughts.

And now, I wonder aloud, what have I learned?

Well, faith still seems to me to be acting on a belief, and not just intellectually holding an idea to be true.

And reason is all about thinking logically. That still seems good to me.

I guess I think that it's not appropriate -- ever -- to ask or expect a person to "have faith" in something without being willing to give reasons why believing something (or in something) is, well, reasonable.

flow's cosmic context argument is one I'll have to ponder for some time, probably over coffee. Doing that with the likes of you all at a local (pun intended) coffeehouse would be quite a treat for me.

chron
 

Saltmeister

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I have heard on more than one occasion scientists pursue a line of reasoning, purely on their faith in where the answer might be found. And indeed many scientific hypotheses are held 'in good faith' because reason suggests that's where the answer lies.
I think that beyond religion, faith is a vehicle for creating one's sense of identity and place. Faith assumes a preternatural order within which one can orient them self in terms of self and group identity. We all have "faith" in our perception of the structure and function of the apparent ordering of things and our position within the structure. That perception of place, meaning, and order doesn't come from "reason". Philosophy and reason themselves arise from what I'm describing here as faith.
The ancients knew this, and we are only now beginning to discover this again.

Hello peoples,

I thought I might come up with a catch-phrase for what you all seem to be trying to say. I'm hoping it's not too early and premature to say this. I probably should wait until we've got a bit more discussion. But it seems like you're all stating a case for faith rather than a case against faith. To which I've got an irresistable urge to salute you all and say that . . .

Faith inspires us to reason. Reason inspires us to have faith.;)

. . . well, that's the impression I'm getting.:D
 

Bruce Michael

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Ask a religionist why he holds a particular belief and the answer is often that it is a matter of faith, not reason.

My question is: Why is this acceptable? In all other areas of life, reason is accepted. Why is faith exempt?

I look forward to your thoughts.

(I've specifically kept this question as open as possible, but if I haven't been clear or precise enough, ask a question, and we'll dialog about it.)

Greetings Chron,
Faith precedes all knowledge; and CERTAINTY dwells in the soul.

-Br.Bruce
 

chron

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Greetings Chron,
Faith precedes all knowledge; and CERTAINTY dwells in the soul.

-Br.Bruce

Thank you, Bruce. Very poetic, but it doesn't, unfortunately, help me at all in my quest to resolve the need of evangelicals to insist that I accept some things without questioning.

~ ~ ~

I'm a tad frustrated, because I posted a rather long response to the first half dozen respondents to this thread, but I believe that it hasn't shown up yet because I quoted various links from other posts and additional websites, and I've discovered that new members aren't allowed to do that. I understand that a moderator will need to approve my post before it shows up, so please be patient. I have responded; perhaps on Monday my additional thoughts and comments will be here.

All best,

chron
 

Ciel

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Thank you, Bruce. Very poetic, but it doesn't, unfortunately, help me at all in my quest to resolve the need of evangelicals to insist that I accept some things without questioning.

~ ~ ~

chron

Hi chron and welcome,

Well, there's many a people coming from different angles here, maybe you can see it more as an overview........
If you have questions they are there for good reason.......use them.
The real answer is the one fitting with your own intention of the question.
Is it in line with your own reason to be.
Why ask an evangelical when you already know how they will respond with the answer? :confused:
- c -
 

chron

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Why ask an evangelical when you already know how they will respond with the answer? :confused:
- c -

That's a very good question with a somewhat complex answer, Ciel.

I grew up as a evangelical fundamentalist, and find it hard to shake my ties with my past. Even though I "know better now," I still find it important to be able to answer this question. I'm not so much asking evangelicals literally as figuratively. I know, it's probably a lost cause . . . .

Hold on until the moderator approves my post. There are some responses and insights there that may shed light on my personal journey and how it relates to this issue.

Thanks for your thoughts, though.

chron
 

bob x

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"Say what you will about the sweet mystery of faith: I find a capacity for it terrifying, and utterly vile" -- Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
 

cyberpi

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Is there anyone on this thread who does NOT like to have people trust them, believe in them, inform them, lend to them, obey them, empower them, and in other words... to place FAITH in them? Is it really a serious question to ask why does a person desire those who place FAITH in them rather than requiring volumes of assurances, credentials, credit reports, bank statements, collateral, grades, degrees, criminal history, medical history, genetic lineage, personal references, passwords, drug urine tests, alcohol breath tests, etc...? For those who DO like to have people trust them, believe in them, inform them, lend to them, obey them, empower them, and in other words to place FAITH in them, why is that FAITH admired over the more rational selections made from a wealth of factual or non-factual information?
 

chron

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Is there anyone on this thread who does NOT like to have people trust them, believe in them...to place FAITH in them? <snip> why is that FAITH admired over the more rational decision making made from a wealth of factual or non-factual information?

I agree, cyberpi: Faith is to be preferred over factual information.

But would you take someone on faith without knowing anything about them?

I think that most would gradually build faith in another as they begin to experience each other, learn about each other -- in short, to delve into the factual information about the person.

Would you trust someone you've just met with your bank account information? Or would you want to "get to know" them first? By which most would mean, learn factual information about them -- not just go on a gut-level feeling about whether they are trustworthy or not.

It's a process. Your sentiment is good, but you make the mistake of assuming that it's either/or, when really I think it's more likely a both/and experience for most of us.

Thanks for sharing!

chron
 
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[T]he law of news is that it is a daily affair. Man can never stand back to get a broad view because he immediately receives a new batch of news, which supersedes the old and demands a new point of focus, for which our reader has no time. To the average man who tries to keep informed, a world emerges that is astonishingly incoherent, absurd, and irrational, which changes rapidly and constantly for reasons he cannot understand.

...

In the world of politics and economics the same holds true. The news is only about trouble, danger, and problems. This gives man the notion that he lives in a terrible and frightening era, that he lives amid catastrophes in a world where everything threatens his safety. Man cannot stand this; he cannot live in an absurd and incoherent world, nor can he accept the idea that the problems, which sprout all around him, cannot be solved, or that he himself has no value as an individual and is subject to the turn of events. The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework in which all this information can be put in order; he needs explanations and comprehensive answers to general problems; he needs coherence. All this is the immediate effect of information. And the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his own worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego. All this propaganda- and only propaganda- can give him.

Of course, an outstanding man of vast culture, great intelligence, and exceptional energy can find answers for himself, reconcile himself to the absurd, and plan his own action. But we are not thinking here of the outstanding man(who, naturally, we all imagine ourselves to be), but of the ordinary man.

...

Just as information is necessary for awareness, propaganda is necessary to prevent this awareness from being desperate.

Jaques Ellul- Propaganda, The Formation of Men's Attitudes

We're all really busy with our lives and we don't have the time or energy to process the blizzard of information coming at us. It's not possible for us to rationally consider all the factoidal objects flying through our awareness at hyper speed. We can't live in that kind of perpetual state of confusion. Everybody invests faith in some kind of simplification mechanism. Everybody. We just don't have the time or inclination to run down every fact and verify every claim.

Chris
 

cyberpi

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But would you take someone on faith without knowing anything about them?
Every single day. Have you not driven a car on a road without knowing the driver of other cars?

I think that most would gradually build faith in another as they begin to experience each other, learn about each other -- in short, to delve into the factual information about the person.
Is a person dishonest until proven honest? Is a person unfaithful until proven faithful? Is a person hateful until proven loving? Is a person guilty until proven innocent?

Would you trust someone you've just met with your bank account information?
The question should be: Should someone trust me if I won't give them my bank account information? You've got some information, religious beliefs, and are asking why you should believe it without having more information. How much information must I divulge before you would trust me? Upon having my bank account information... would you then trust me?

Or would you want to "get to know" them first? By which most would mean, learn factual information about them -- not just go on a gut-level feeling about whether they are trustworthy or not.
Nothing is proven factual without first placing some Faith. Being honest, trustworthy, or faithful is good, but it is not a requirement for Faith.

It's a process. Your sentiment is good, but you make the mistake of assuming that it's either/or, when really I think it's more likely a both/and experience for most of us.
No. I recognize the difference between blind faith and faith. I was trying to cement a definition of faith away from the very pit of 'Blind Faith' by mirroring it back on the reader. Why do you like people to place Faith in you? What do you expect of people to place Faith in you?

A person can come armed with volumes of credentials, dozens of roses, references stacked through the roof, and the sweetest lips singing the greatest tunes you have ever heard, but is it Faith to believe that information? Or, is it Faith to believe in the person regardless of the information. You've received some information from a religion... you've got the references... you've got the resume... yet you take that back and ask why should anyone believe it. You've got information and you are unhappy with it. Why? Not enough? Because nothing is proven factual without first placing some Faith.
 

chron

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Every single day. Have you not driven a car on a road without knowing the driver of other cars?

Of course. But I'm not in personal relationship with them, and so the faith I have in them is not as individuals per se, but more like a faith in the rule of law.

Is a person dishonest until proven honest? Is a person unfaithful until proven faithful? Is a person hateful until proven loving? Is a person guilty until proven innocent?

It is a most unfortunate fact about the world that this is, indeed, the way it works. It is not the way many of us would like it to be, but it is the way it is.

Nothing is proven factual without first placing some Faith.

In what sense? I take this to mean that we must make some assumptions about the natural world in order to get along in it, i.e., I assume (take on faith) that you are human, are not out to murder me, etc. Beyond that, what do you mean? And how does it relate to this conversation?

You've got information and you are unhappy with it. Why? Not enough?

Why is it wrong to seek out information?

~ ~ ~

Wow, you seem very sure of yourself, and that is good. I, however, am not that sure of myself. I am seeking, and one way I do that is by asking questions, looking for more information.

I see the validity of your points, cyberpi; but I do not accept them as being the only validity in the discussion.

Further, I am very much a person of faith. I have faith in rule of law, people in cars on the road. I recently took a job in a new city, and moved away from everyone I know. I understand the basics of faith and live them out in my life.

But religious faith is not the same as everyday faith. Religious faith is about life-and-death matters, and that seems to warrant more careful consideration. Yes, everyday matters can also be seen in a life-and-death context (Is this food prepared by factory workers I've never met poisoned?), but, in general, they are not in the same category as religious faith.

Don't take this to meant that I think religious faith has little to do with everyday life; I don't. But that's not my point here.

~ ~ ~

cyberpi, are you angry with me for not immediately agreeing with your point of view? Or am I off base to detect a strident tone in your words?

I am certainly not angry with you for being so sure of yourself; give me the freedom to explore what I need to explore.
 
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