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. (Submitted by Aryeh Siegel)

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One Response to The need for faith

  1. Dale Baranowski says:

    The problem I have with this is that there are different definitions for “faith” and that you have not given an adequate definition of yours.

    In the Christian west faith primarily means insisting on or maintaining a mental position that something is true even though there is no solid evidence for it. And within Christianity that form of unreasoned and unsubstantiated faith is seen as in some way more “real” and virtuous, than anything in this world. 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 faith is seen as being entirely contrary to reason and rationality. Paul wrote in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the sign that the things not seen are true.” And in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul wrote: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” The 16th Century humorist, Francois Rabelais wrote “Faith is believing in things that haven’t the least appearance of likelihood.”

    To use your analogy, Christians in fact search for golf balls in fields where no one has ever been known to play or practice golf, but when they find a roundish sort of light colored stone their faith convinces them that they found a true golf ball.

    Problem is that if such faith can prompt us to see meaning in the connections between incidents then it has often and again used by missionaries when they go up to a Jew in crisis and tell him that his major life upheaval is meant to weaken him in order to force him to discover the meaning and the “truth” within THEIR religion. There are no lack of testimonies of Jews who were given that as the meaning of their suffering and, as a result, swallowed the Christian faith hook, line & sinker.

    So please also explain how the faith you’re referring to is not at variance with critical thinking.

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