The need for faith

One of the prerequisites for finding meaning is the belief that meaning is there to be found.

This is not just a matter of motivation. That is, the belief is not required because otherwise no one would bother to go looking. It’s true that I wouldn’t start looking for golf balls in the grass of a park where no one plays golf. However, when it’s meanings we’re looking for – and not just golf balls – my meaning detector doesn’t work well without the belief that there are meanings around to be discovered. If I didn’t believe that my eyes could perceive the world, then I might not bother to open them; but even if I did, I would be crippled in making sense of the light that would be impinging on them.

On occasions of remarkable “coincidences”, meanings are almost forced upon us, although a stubborn commitment to a nihilistic worldview can always find a way to avoid them. After ten years of being angry at her father, Joan’s heart opens and she realizes her love for him. Although they haven’t communicated all these years, exactly at the moment that her eyes begin to gush with tears of love, the phone rings and it’s her father calling to ask forgiveness. Since we have no clear mechanism to explain the connection between Joan’s feeling and the phone call, we push aside the urge to see a “message” in the juxtaposition, and chalk it up to “coincidence”.

This is why it’s futile to try to provide an undeniable demonstration of the existence of meanings in general or any particular meaning of a certain situation. Although faith is consistent with critical thinking, it opens the door to the knowledge of meaning by allowing attention to the undeniable stirrings of the heart.

The question here for logotherapists is: How can we arouse and increase a client’s faith – not necessarily a religious faith, but a faith in the value of their own intuitive intimations? (Submitted by Aryeh Siegel)

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4 Responses to The need for faith

  1. Keturah says:

    couldnt we say that God is synomous with meaning in a large sense? From this blog post, an old familiar feeling was roused within me on how I viewed the Divine when I was a little girl. The feeling that God WAS or IN every moment and therefore, looking back now, everything encountered by the eyes of a child, had meaning however small or great. For those who cannot find meaning, then what is “G-o-d”? Having met many people, especially when I was in attendance of Philosophy classes in college, God and meaning were always on trial.

  2. Dale Baranowski says:

    In the west faith primarily means insisting on or maintaining a mental position that something is true even though there is no solid evidence for it. Although you wrote that faith is consistent with critical thinking, the primary definition in the west is that faith is NOT subject to critical inquiry and in many cases unsubstantiated faith is seen as a supreme virtue even though it is completely contrary to reason and rationality.

    • logogroup says:

      Thank you for your comment, Dale. You expressed well several difficulties with the notion of faith. I’ll try to clarify what I had in mind and to show how it avoids those difficulties.

      Meanings, values and purposes are not the sort of things that can be measured by scientific instruments. How can we know that our pursuits are worthwhile? How can we discern the meaning presented to us by our situations in life? These are difficult questions to answer fully. However, I believe that sincere introspection regarding meanings, etc. leads us to conclusions that we cannot honestly deny. Faith consists first in the acceptance of the possibility of arriving at objective truth through this subjective approach, and furthermore the conviction in the particular truths “revealed” to us.

      In order for the introspection to be “sincere”, I’ve got to develop a sensitivity to when I’m just convincing myself out of a need for golf balls (to continue that example) or some ulterior motive other than confronting the truth. I’ve also got to use my critical mind to watch out for tricksters that may be out to manipulate because of their agendas. There’s no simple formula for knowing the truth in these matters, but honesty and humility seems like a good place to start – and these qualities can (and should) be tested (at least in part) by critical thought.

      By the way, faith in religious authority (scripture, tradition, holy teachers) may be a particular case of what I had in mind, but it is certainly possible for people who have no such faith to be able to recognize meanings in their lives.
      (Aryeh Siegel)

  3. Aryeh Siegel says:

    If we see God as constantly creating all that there is, in a process of emanation beginning from the most subtle and spiritual and ending with the most concrete and physical, then certainly meanings – due to their subtlety and immeasurability – would be placed closer to the source of all creation than the objects in the physical world. And so, yes, meaning can more easily evoke a sense of divine presence. If in the eyes of a child there is recognition of God in every moment by way of sensing the meaning of every moment, then I pray my eyes will get “younger” every day.

    Since God is much more than meaning, I would not say He is synonymous with it. However, you may be right than some one who denies there is meaning in our lives will almost certainly deny the existence of anything that I could call “God”.

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