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Gandhi

(Photo of Gandhi statue in New York’s Union Square)

Faith is defined in many ways but Gandhi put it this way:

“Faith is putting your foot on the first rung of a ladder when you don’t know where it leads.”

I think belief requires more evidence. It requires knowledge, whereas faith results from the sum of many things — emotion, experience, gut feel, desire, hope — adding up to a decision to put your foot on that rung of that particular ladder.

Belief is somewhere between knowledge and faith. Yet Abdul Baha (son of Baha’ullah, founder of the Baha’i faith) said that

“Faith is conscious knowledge.”

Knowledge to belief to Faith? Does it work that way? Or must faith be a leap?

I think we require all three to live a happy, useful life. Some people focus on one or another. Intellectuals want knowledge so they can formulate beliefs. Religious people tend to have faith — sometimes for reasons they can’t articulate. Many of us have weakly defined beliefs that may inform decisions such as who to vote for but often beliefs, by themselves don’t result in action.

If you believe in God do you act as if you had faith in God? Do you really trust in God? You know God — the creator of heaven and earth who we can’t see, never meet and who seems indifferent to human suffering. Or do you define God differently? Do you have knowledge of God if you believe in God? If so how have you achieved this?

(To help answer this question, I recommend Tolstoy’s book “The Kingdom of God is Within You.” It will test your understanding of belief and faith in God.)

The longer I live the more I have faith in people. Emerson wrote that God was an Over-Soul — near as I can tell this is a collective made up of the souls of all people. To me this is another way of saying that man created God, but not as a fiction.

I am starting to believe this but don’t yet have faith in it because I don’t have enough knowledge.

Know what I mean?


Dandelion

Is faith a belief in something inexplicable? Or a conviction based on knowledge?

The Bahai writings call faith ‘conscious knowledge’ followed up with goodly deeds. How such knowledge gets into ones consciousness is an important question. The Bahai teachings do involve acceptance of some things as fact that can’t be easily proven. Like most religions Bahai has its dogma. But not quite on the level of, say Christianity that usually (depending on the sect) requires belief in the miracles of virgin birth and resurrection, for starters. In Bahai the dogma that stands out for me is the requirement to believe that the Faith’s founder — Bahaullah — was the perfect mirror of all the perfections of God, that he was infallible, was always in touch with God and that meeting him was the same as meeting God. Quite a bit of faith/knowledge is required to have this much faith.

So whether it’s resurrection or infallibility, faith for most people requires a ‘leap.’

But must Faith always involve a leap? Emerson wrote that he believed in miracles because he could move his arm. To him everyday living was a miracle. Emerson didn’t believe in the miracles of the Bible but did think that every breath was a miracle — he had faith in life.

Religion usually requires faith of it believers. In fact belief in religion is synonymous with faith in most respects.

I’ve been learning about the Unitarian/Universalism religion and so far have learned that while the followers of this religion may have differing views from each other, many believe as Emerson did that the true miracles are the ones that occur each day in everyone’s life.

I think this is a helpful idea — one worth meditating on. It proves itself everyday and doesn’t cause anyone to suspend rational thinking. Yet its transcendent and uplifting.

The book that Reverend Cindy (of Westford’s First Parish Church) loaned me to read — “A Chosen Faith” by John Buehrens and Forrest Church — refers to Pascal’s wager regarding religion. Its a wager I’ve thought a lot about. Its mentioned in the Bahai writings (without referencing Pascal if I remember correctly) that I was brought up reading — and the idea has been stuck inside me for 50 years now.

Pascal said — look — why not believe in God and a life after death — be one of the faithful. If you are wrong when you die you’ve lost nothing — you simply turn to dust like everyone else. But if you are correct you reap the rewards of the faithful.

Who wouldn’t accept a bet where you have nothing to lose and everything to gain — just by professing a little faith.

The rub here is that this doesn’t seem to be how faith works. Professing belief and really having faith must be too different things. Rather that hedging one’s bets why not start with the miracle of the present moment and work from there?

Joseph Campbell said years ago that “eternity has nothing to do with time.” And I think faith has nothing to do with leaps or hedging one’s bets. I think it has much more to do with the quality of our moment in time.

What do you think faith is? I’d love to hear from you on the subject!

P.S. I forgot to mention something I feel is important — Gandhi described faith as putting one’s foot on the first rung of a ladder when you don’t know where it is leading. It seems to me that this definition of faith applies to faith of many kinds — and to the human condition — most of us travel on a journey unsure of where it is leading. Is that true of you?

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