Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Find Your Lack of Faith...Understandable...

Have you ever wondered if some people simply lack the capacity for faith?

I look at all these people who just...*believe*, whether it's a faith that they grew up in or one that they chose later in their lives and I wonder, honestly, how they manage to do that. How do they manage to ignore all the other possible explanations for what they're basing their faith on?

I can't seem to manage it. There are a few faiths (and they're wildly divergent in some cases) that I look at and I think - I could do that. I could get behind that. It's simple enough and I could live a good life following something like that. But I'm very conscious of the fact that I would simply be making a choice without having any actual faith in that choice.

It all looks and feels the same to me, after a certain point. Still I feel the need to make a choice and I'm not really sure why.

I see all these different conversion (to different faiths) stories and I *envy* those people at the same time I'm puzzled by them. They've had their moment of blinding revelation, even when it's slow building and perhaps more rational than others. They believe enough to stick with it and be certain of it. So why can they have that and others not?

I sometimes wonder if my own capacity for rationalization/explanation and lying/storytelling works against me here. I'm capable of making pretty much anything make sense. I've convinced people that things were true when I've known for a fact that they weren't. So knowing the malleability of 'truth', how can I trust anything when it's all just stories that have been handed down?


  1. Hey, familiar. Mr Sanil was asking me these things yesterday. It's a theme!

    I think it makes sense that some people just wouldn't have faith. We have different ways of thinking about things and value different aspects of our experience.

    Personally, it's not that I'm ignoring all other possible explanations for what I experience, or that I don't occasionally have doubts. It's just that taking any of the possible explanations is a choice. If I decided it was probably just my brain tricking itself and therefore I shouldn't believe in gods, I would be making a choice to ignore all the other possible explanations. There's a line in House I've always appreciated, where someone asks him why he always thinks he's right. "I don't, I just find it hard to operate on the opposite assumption." That's me too. It's not that I'm certain I'm right, it's just that I have to interpret my experiences in some way, and I choose the one that makes the most sense to me and run with it.

    When I think of it that way, it seems to me that everyone makes that same choice. "Faith" to me just means taking your understanding and trusting it enough to move forward, not being stuck in one place for fear of being wrong. For a lot of people, that means coming to the conclusion that gods being real makes no sense and finding another way to make meaning in their lives. I think owning a lack of belief and building your life on what can actually be known is as much a faithful response as acting on belief in gods (or whatever). The important thing is not what you believe or don't believe, it's how that affects the way you live.

    1. *ponders* Interesting. So maybe...my inability to settle is based less on the plethora of possibilities and more on my trust issues? Because I don't think that I lack belief, I just can't seem to commit. They all seem equally likely!

    2. It's possible. And hey, it may be that any given path doesn't really require your commitment. Maybe you could just explore and do what seems right at any given moment? You might find that you just sort of fall into a path over time by doing that, or maybe come up with a mix that works for you.

  2. I also wonder about people who just "believe". I understand the ones who don't because I used to be flat out atheist and even now that I believe in God, I don't really believe in organized religion (not as ultimate truth anyway). I block when trying to fully understand the belief that some people experience in their religion. I've never had that.

    I consider myself Muslim, yes, but I've always struggled with being just "Muslim" and I'm finding it more and more important to add "agnostic" before the title. I'm an agnostic Muslim. I believe in something but I might be wrong in the end and I'm open to that. This is just my way of making sense of things.

    1. I'd almost like to be able to write people off who just believe as not thinking as deeply about things but I know that's not true.

      I do think more and more that organized religion has killed the actual purpose and soul of religion.

  3. I often wish I could be one of those people with a revelation as well but I can't. Probably why I haven't found something yet. There's always some big component that I just can't wrap my head around but is necessary to belong to said religion.

    1. I'm trying to shunt the 'blinding revelation' expectation into the same category as the 'Disney princess' expectation. In other words, something that has been falsely foisted on me. Not that that's easy, obviously. Stupid brain!

  4. I guess if everything made perfect sense to our logical, rational, reasonable sides, we'd not have any need for faith. And, yes, faith can be scary (to some)...what if we are wrong and our lives are based on lies? I suppose that is the chance we all take when we live lives with faith.

    I can understand your struggle. I think many people have similar thoughts, but perhaps don't examine them the way others do. Still others have "tasted and seen" that the Lord is good and - to them - there are no doubts (or so they say.)

    1. Well that's part of the problem. Looked at with an open mind, pretty much everything looks equally logical, especially when dealing with religion.

      But again, that's my question; how can people who have 'tasted and seen' be so *sure* that they're understanding what happened?

  5. I think realizing that there's no "obvious" true religion, that our faith is mainly based on where we happened to be born, had a huge impact on my loss of faith. If they're all true, none of them are true.

    Also, for me, my faith was sort of like a mirror, once it was broken it couldn't be put back together.

    1. If they're all true, none of them are true.

      Or they're just all true and the monotheistic faiths, the ones that claim sole authority, have been twisted and misused. All the faiths started out as tribal religions, tied to and specific to the lands and the peoples where they began. Maybe that's where they should have remained?

    2. If they're all true and those who claim sole authority have been twisted and misused, then how far do you go back? Then how do you discover what is true and what isn't true? Clearly the Bible (including the Torah) and the Qur'an both claim that they are the sole guidance?

      I feel that once you dig that deep, it all becomes so wishy-washy that it is hard to take anything away from it, without it becoming 'whatever I want to believe' - in my opinion.

    3. Why does anything have to be a hard truth at all? I'm not saying that there aren't problems even with that mindset, with thinking that everything contains some aspect or version of truth, but I think it also makes a certain amount of sense.

      I know you call it 'wishy-washy', 'whatever I want to believe', but it's that to begin with, isn't it? People who believe in any faith have no concrete proof, no way of knowing without any doubt or hesitation that their chosen path is the correct one. And you will never find two people even within the same faith who understand it or believe it exactly the same way. There is always a degree or personal interpretation and shift.

      Why can't religion be more fluid than we've been told that it is?

      People won't be entirely alone, we're group animals naturally so we will find people to group with and fellowship with but we would also have the ability to accept that our way is not the only way. That people can believe in things other than what we personally do and have it be completely valid without feeling threatened by it.

      I'm certainly not naive enough to imagine that it would be some sort of utopia, don't get me wrong. People screw everything up eventually. :)

  6. hey there Miss Amber and fellow readers.

    here is my 2p's worth

    When I think about faith, and a one true God, all I can answer is, it is comforting to me to think that something out there has a plan for me. And not everything is completely up to chaos.

    One benefit to having some guidelines of a faith, is that, in the end, if you have tried to follow them then even if there isn’t a heaven or any form of after life that when my chips are cashed in I can think to myself “I lead a good clean life. I’m proud of myself”. Even if no one else cares, I would like to think that I am a good person and isn’t that a good goal?

    I am also suspicious of people who are, what I deem over the top. And try to convert everyone they come in contact with.

    1. Hi Sol,

      Are you saying that you can't live a good and moral life without faith?

      In the words of Marcus Aurelius: “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    2. That is a good goal, Sol. (That rhymes! :p) It's the best goal, I think, regardless of what believes or doesn't believe. To live a good life. Though of course the definition of a 'good life' is changeable and subjective, isn't it? For example, Becky quotes Marcus Aurelius. But what he would have defined as a 'good life' is different from what we would define it as in our culture and time.

      I think if a persons faith drives them to try and be a good person, what I'm defining as not only minimizing harm to others but trying to make peoples lives better and caring for future generations by doing what you can to take care of the planet, then it's a great thing.

      Of course it's also possible to live a 'good' life without faith and there are plenty of people who claim a faith and live terrible lives. So I'd have to say that deciding factor is the person and not whether or not they have faith. But that's just my opinion, of course, and I reserve the right to be utterly wrong. :D

    3. well the commandments are pretty easy to follow. And at the time I think I have said this before, people needed to have guidelines. Dont eat shell fish dont eat swine. They didnt have refridgerators in those times... If there isnt a god and just a general Joe wrote all of this, I would like to think it was to save others from suffering and needless death from tribal wars or even food poisoning.

      Morals and faith to me go hand in hand, as far as I am concerned.

      To me the basis of all faith is love, love of the famly and one another. And of goodness. it is structured religions and I do seperate the 2, that I dont find work. A religion is someone else (used to be a man figure), telling me how to feel and how I should see this God that he tells me is true.

      To a faith in something, a person cant see, hear or touch. But wanders this world with the hope that when the end comes, there really is a heaven. And that they have done enough to go there.

      I would love to rewind, people were gentler, or at least seemed so in the 70's etc. Things are so harsh now, the TV leaves nothing to the imagination. Explicit to say the least. We all know what is about to happen. Hows about just implying it.

      Instead now, we have near soft porn on the tv in the UK. And the violence is also really OTT.

      We need some morals and yes, maybe a faith frame work to bring us back from the brink...

      I cant believe there isnt something. Why else would people all over the globe search for a faith.

      And to quote the lost boys

      What, you don't like rice? Tell me Michael, how could a billion Chinese people be wrong?

      then of course we could all be eating maggots...

  7. I found it weird to read Becky's Marcus Aurelius quote and then only a short time later while going over some notes I was writing from "From Plato to NATO**" saw his name come up again in this context:

    "Pity and compassion, to the Greeks, were comprehensible only if they served pride and the drive for fame. To ancient philosophers, from Plato ... to Marcus Aurelius..., gratuitous pity 'was a defect of character unworthy of the wise and excusable only in those who have not yet grown up. It was an impulsive response based on ignorance. Plato had removed the problem of beggars from his ideal state by dumping them over the borders.'"

    So like you said, Amber, the definition of a "good life" is pretty subjective.

    ** For what it's worth and it's not really related to the post at all, the author of this book is a Danish-American historian.

    1. we are all going quote crazy

    2. Sol,

      "Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

      And now that I've begun quoting quotes about quotes, a black hole will open up and suck us all into an alternate dimension! :D

  8. Also I think there needs to be balance. There does seem to be a huge amount of dossers around now. no good people who are greedy and only think of money and self gain. There are so many people like this all over now, that I worry for the future.

    People worship celebrities. The more scandal the more they love them. look at those Kardashians. All famous because one of the girls did a sex tape. is this truly the best of humanity? I hope not.

    Give me eco warriors, scientist, people who strive to make the world better.

    I am ranting now I know.

    All I want is to have good things surround me. It isnt a lot to ask

    1. I actually don't think that there are more 'bad' people out there than there have been historically. I think that we just know more about them because of the new (relatively) 24 hour media. It's like serial killers. They're not a new thing, not even starting with Jack the Ripper. They always existed, it was just that the population was so widespread and communication so difficult that no one ever realized it.

      People do worship celebrities, which boggles my mind. I *like* certain actors/actresses, and sometimes they happen to also be good people, but I don't follow everything that they do.

      Is *that* why they're famous? I honestly had no idea why they were on tv. *clearly does not watch them*

      Give me eco warriors, scientist, people who strive to make the world better.

      Those people exist, they just don't get the press that the other kind do. Why is that? A very good question. Because humanity is blood thirsty and gossipy. We like to see the blood.


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