Belief and Faith

The Prompt – Belief and Faith

If you are up for it, this post might take you a bit sideways. That said, your brain will be just fine, it won’t hurt a bit.

This comes from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

“Now I need at this point to make clear that I am not against beliefs. Beliefs are necessary. They are interesting. They are unavoidable. But belief, the act of holding a set or system of beliefs, is not the same thing as faith, even though we often use the words imprecisely and interchangeably. To explore the difference, let’s consider the insight of Alan Watts [1915–1973], a twentieth-century philosopher of Eastern religions who tried to capture the difference between faith and belief like this:

We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would “lief” or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception. [1]

In science, it is necessary to have faith that the truth will be revealed through careful observation and experimentation, even if that truth may challenge our preconceived notions. In religion, faith allows us to let go of our ego and fully surrender to a higher power or a divine plan.

However, it is important to note that faith does not necessarily involve blindly accepting something without questioning it. In fact, true faith often involves a deep level of introspection and self-reflection. It is a willingness to let go of our ego and preconceived notions in order to seek the truth, whatever it may be.

In contrast, belief can often be associated with a closed-mindedness and a resistance to new ideas. It is clinging to what we already know and refusing to consider other perspectives or possibilities.

One example of the difference between belief and faith can be seen in the way that people approach religious texts. Someone who holds a belief in the literal truth of a religious text may be resistant to any interpretation or reinterpretation of the text that does not align with their preconceived notions. In contrast, someone with faith may approach the text with an open mind, willing to consider new perspectives and interpretations without clinging to a specific belief about its meaning. Does a person have an experience during the process of reading which is enlightening? Is that an act of faith?

Overall, the difference between belief and faith is one of openness and willingness to let go. Belief involves holding onto our preconceived notions, while faith involves letting go of those notions and being open to whatever may be true. In this way, faith can be seen as a more expansive and flexible way of approaching the world and the truths that it holds.

In addition to the differences between belief and faith discussed above, it is important to note that belief and faith can also operate on different levels. For example, an individual may hold a belief in a particular religious doctrine or teaching, while also having faith in the overall religious tradition or spiritual path.

Belief and faith can also be seen as being on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, there is absolute belief, where an individual holds a set of ideas or concepts to be completely and unquestionably true. At the other end of the spectrum, there is complete faith, where an individual is fully open and receptive to whatever may be true, without any attachment to specific beliefs.

Most people fall somewhere in between these two extremes, with a mix of beliefs and faith. It is important to recognize and balance these different elements in order to avoid the pitfalls of dogmatic belief, while still holding onto the guiding principles and values that provide meaning and direction in our lives.

Belief and faith can also be seen as being interconnected and mutually reinforcing. For example, having faith in a higher power or a divine plan can provide a sense of comfort and security, which can in turn strengthen our beliefs about the nature of that power or plan.

At the same time, holding onto certain beliefs can also provide a sense of stability and meaning, which can support and enhance our faith. It is a delicate balance, but one that can lead to a more fulfilling and enriching spiritual or religious experience.

Overall, belief and faith are important and necessary aspects of human experience. They provide a sense of direction and meaning, and can help us to navigate the complexities and challenges of life. By understanding the differences and connections between belief and faith, we can strive to maintain a healthy balance and approach the world with openness and flexibility.

Openness and flexibility have to lend themselves in practice to be in service of faith. I suppose it opens us up to many questions about the activity of unknowingly acknowledging something and simply accepting this as-is as opposed to placing a perspective on it and stating “it-is” or “this-is.” Assigning it and catergorizing it. Before the sun had a name, it was the sun. We didn’t believe in the sun, it was just the sun and it did what it does. At some point, someone said “the sun must be something more and assigned it as a deity.” People came to believe and worship the sun but the sun was just the sun, shining during the day and hiding during the night. Is this the same as faith and belief?

This poem comes to mind as I think of the intersection of faith and belief.

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that makes the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.

I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a person humanized or dehumanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.  If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them to become what they are capable of becoming.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

German poet, writer, philosopher


The question I’d like to leave you with after you have read this post is…

What do you believe? Do you see this differently? How does this impact your thinking?

Next topic is equanimity. That’s going to be a fun one..

Posted in KM.