Via middle English and Anglo-French, the word “faith” comes from the Latin word “fidere,” to trust. Merriam-Webster’s first definition of faith is about allegiance and sincerity. It’s only at the second definition that we arrive at religion, firstly in God and secondly in something for which there is no proof. That’s where the arguments begin.
I’m interested in science and sooner or later in many science blogs, the antipathy between the faithful to God and the faithful to a universe without God becomes apparent. It’s an antipathy that is expressed in terms of beliefs and proofs, in accusations (you can’t be moral with God) and counter-accusations (all the evil in the world comes from religion).
But the mutual dislike really isn’t about those beliefs and proofs at all. What is underneath, that hardly ever is got to with all the frothing at the mouth, is fear. There is fear that the other side will take away what is held most dear. And there is validity to that fear.
My own view is that anyone who isn’t hopeless has faith in something. It might be a deity or it might be some other sense of the non-material, or it might be in human potential or the worthiness of some type of endeavour or making the world better or saving it from ecological disaster. What matters to me is the quality of that faith and where it leads the faithful.
If someone’s faith leads that person to be loving, curious, compassionate, humble, and respectful then I respect that faith whether there is God in it or not. If someone’s faith leads that person to be war mongering, intolerant, narrow-minded, mean spirited and dogmatic, then it is a faith that I cannot sanction or respect.
My own experience is of a source of goodness and love that I might call God or I might call Light, which is not always easy to engage but always, when I am still and humble and allow for my human frailty, leads me to peace and compassion and inner strength. I see the same qualities in others who don’t believe in God at all, but have faith in something that causes them to have hope and compassion and determination to do good in and for this world.
I care less about the right wing religious nuts who froth at the mouth than I do about the science writers because they are often, otherwise, my kind of people.
They often justify their scorn for God and any experience of God with the observation that many human texts about God are full of shit. I think that is unjust. Those same people are not scornful of the stars though there have been many times in history when scientific texts about the stars were also full of shit. They wouldn’t be scornful of the late 18th century speculation about black holes though there wasn’t yet any means of detecting the phenomena, or that some current readings of black holes might suggest they aren’t holes at all but stars.
Sure, right wing nuts claim that these ancient texts are the actual literally intended word of God (though they usually disagree on which texts). I don’t happen to go for that myself. But even if the texts are wrong, or partly wrong, or mostly wrong, or mainly had a political purpose at the time they were written, that doesn’t mean that the object of the texts exists, doesn’t exist, or exists in a whole different form.
After all, we breathe air, but it took human beings hundreds of thousands of years to know what air is made of.
My experience is no less real for lack of scientific instruments to measure it. All I ask is that my faith be judged on my actions just as anyone else’s ought to be.