1. On Faith, part 1
This week I begin a series of thoughts on the nature of faith. Of course, faith means different things to different people. These are my own, personal reflections. They certainly do not constitute “official positions” of the CVA.
I don’t think faith should mean believing impossible things or believing things for which there is very weak evidence. And, I don’t regard as admirable having strong belief (or even claiming certainty) for tenets that are unreasonable to hold. I think all kinds of mischief derive from people whose faith is derived from authority (such as a “holy book” or a spiritual leader), particularly when evidence contradicts their beliefs. The 9/11 attackers did not lack faith; they simply had very unreasonable beliefs.
For faith to be a positive rather than a destructive belief, it need not involve adherence to specific tenets about God or the world. Rather, it should involve a willingness to commit oneself to truth and justice. Implicit in such a faith is a belief that our actions matter and that we can be a force for good. I think such convictions are reasonable, but they rest on faith. The alternative to such a faith is hopelessness and despair, and the consequences of hopelessness and despair extend beyond an individual person’s state of mind. If kind-hearted people do nothing, those in need of protection and care remain vulnerable and continue to suffer in a world where violence flourishes.
I do not think that having and acting upon a faith that our actions matter requires any particular view regarding God’s nature or even God’s existence. Christians do have a faith in God’s existence (though Christians have different about what it means for a supernatural being to exist) and faith that Jesus had divine attributes (though Christians differ on the nature of Jesus’ divinity). I think that religious faith can be grounded in the existence of consciousness and, in particular, one’s own consciousness (see Guided by the Faith of Christ, 2nd Ed., p. 93). If one attributes the existence of consciousness to God, there remains the challenging question of God’s intention for Creation. I will consider this next week.
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
2. The March “Peaceable Table” Is Now Online
Read this issue here online.
Toward the Peaceable Kingdom,
Gracia Fay Ellwood, Editor