Belief and Faith versus Truth

Belief and faith, are components of many religions, particularly those from the Abrahamic root.  However, they have nothing to do with truth.  Truth requires an open minded questioning which is antithetical to belief.

What is belief

The simplest definition of belief is a state of mind here a person accepts something to be the case without there being any evidence to support that position.  It is important to recognize that belief has nothing to do with truth, and that the original purpose of belief, especially religious belief, was to guide action.  Nowadays, however, holding a religious belief is no longer synonymous with a religious practice or behavior.  Certainly, while most religions do have identifiable, and in some cases exclusive, sets of beliefs, the reality is that the so called practitioners may not be going along with them as they were originally intended.  Official doctrines don’t always agree with the privately held ‘beliefs’ of the members of that particular religion.  The result is either believers who are not practicing, as in not attending church or using the religion to help direct their life, or people who don’t actually believe but nevertheless go through the motions of practicing the religion.

So, why are there so many (a) believers who do not practice their religion and (b) practitioners who do not believe?  The answer is probably some combination of there being a need for sense of belonging, a social fit as mentioned previously, combined with the lack of a better alternative.  It is easier to stay with something known, in spite of the fact it doesn’t quite work, that to seek out something different.

What is Faith

Faith can be described as belief-plus and is unique to the Christian religions.  Not only do the subscribers believe, but they also have a spiritual component which provides a sense of warmth, belonging and comfort.  The faith that there is a better life to come, a life after death, has made Christianity popular amongst the masses during the past two thousand years, by serving as an “opiate” as Karl Marx put it.  He made the analogy that faith was like getting a prescription from a doctor, it is something that doesn’t solve the problem, but makes you feel good and helps you to deal with it better.

Faith is not based on anything rational, but those who are able to put rationality aside and actually accept and internalize it achieve a great sense of well being and comfort.  There are a lot of people, however, who cannot, or will not, make that leap.  They are not interested the comfort obtained from irrational faith, but they do desire a sense of well being and a working understanding of the world they inhabit.

It is to these people that Ronald suggests taking a look at existential humanism, and he presents himself as an example; an existential humanist who enjoys a tremendous sense of serenity while still questioning everything.  Existential humanism doesn’t require belief and faith and instead focuses on an individual freely pursuing truth.  This may be a better solution for a lot of folks.