Faith is a word that is revered by many people but abhorred by many others. For example, most religious and spiritual people think it is the secret to miraculously bringing their desires to reality, while many non-religious people think faith in that regard is simply self-delusion and has no relevance in the cold-indifferent world we find ourselves in.
However, faith on its own is a neutral concept, and given the right context, can be something very powerful to understand, cultivate, and deploy in overcoming life’s confusion, and difficulties to achieve success and happiness.
In this post, we are going to look at faith in the practical sense, why it is important, and how to use it (even if you are religious or non-religious).
What Is Faith?
The word “Faith” has a Latin origin, “Fid” (as seen in FIDelity, or FIDuciary), and means “To trust or believe”. So, it makes sense that Faith is defined as complete trust or confidence in someone or something. This can be confidence in the laws of physics, or trust in the dictates and promises of an ideal, person, religion, or God.
Faith usually comes from past experiences (whether firsthand or vicarious). For example, a scientist after studying the chemistry of acid may not be inclined to pour it on their skin as past experiences (experiments), have given them the confidence that acid is corrosive to human skin. So also a religious fellow after reading a religious text or listening to a clergyman will not be inclined to steal as the (past) stories in the Holy book have given them the confidence that evils (such as stealing) are harmful to their soul/society.
Faith as a continuum of belief:
One major difference between faith in science and faith in religion is that the former requires confidence in only claims that are verifiable and open to corrections, whilst the latter does not require verifiable claims nor is it subject to correction.
Furthermore, faith (as is used by theists) is often required when there is no sufficient Evidence to trust a Claim (E<C). For example, faith is required to walk on water, because the evidence for walking on water does not exist (i.e. people sink in water). Therefore, whenever there is substantial Evidence backing a Claim (E>=C) faith is not needed. For example, even a goat trusts that gravity will help it land on the floor if it jumps off an edge, just as humans know medicines treat ailments. Though theists (like Christians), will often argue that true Faith requires work (even though the verse was talking about Salvation rather than Miracles).
Anyway, scientific claims are further distinguished because they are also under constant scrutiny, and open to correction. This means the faith/trust is not in the claims themselves, but rather in the principles of science – critical thinking, hypothesis, experimentation, and error correction. That is, faith in science can be adjusted, but whatever religious claims are made are written in stone.
Nevertheless, Scientific claims (which are mostly verifiable and highly probable) and religious claims (which are mostly unverifiable and highly improbable claims) help us predict the future so we can decide on the best way to act. This is why I think Faith is more or less a continuum of belief – with one end less safe and comfort-inducing and the other extremely risky and anxiety-inducing. But this does not mean one end of the spectrum is necessarily more useful.
Needless to say, over the years, faith in science has proven to be exceptionally reliable and close to certainty – for example, “faith” in gravity has never failed anyone to date.
Of course, Faith is not limited to science or religion but has only been picked because they often stand on two extreme ends of belief.
“Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may”– Dan Brown
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What are the types of faith?
There are different ways that faith can be categorized, depending on the context or perspective. However, the two main types of faith are implicit faith and explicit faith. Though, it is possible for a claim/concept to be consistent with both types of faith.
This type of faith is largely unconscious and unreflective and is based on assumptions and beliefs that are not often examined or questioned. Implicit faith is often passed down through cultural and familial traditions and is deeply ingrained in an individual’s worldview and identity. This is often the category most religious faiths fall into. This can include faith in Karma, blessings, prayers, and so on.
This type of faith is conscious, intentional, and reflective, and is based on a deliberate and ongoing process of questioning, exploring, and examining one’s beliefs and values. Explicit faith is often developed through personal experiences, critical thinking, and experimentation, and is characterized by a deep and conscious commitment to a particular set of principles, beliefs, and values. This is often the category most scientific faiths fall into. This can include faith in philosophy, psychology, science, and so on.
Other Categorization of Fatih:
However, there are other ways to look at faith such as
- Active faith: This faith involves putting one’s beliefs into action – this could be through acts of service, charity, or other forms of engagement with the world. Active faith is often associated with social and political movements that seek to promote justice, equality, and human rights.
- Passive faith: This faith involves a more inward or contemplative approach, focused on prayer, meditation, or other forms of spiritual practice. Passive faith often emphasizes the personal connection with a higher power or divine presence. A good example is putting faith in Tarot cards or Zodiac signs.
- Blind faith: This is a type of faith that involves accepting beliefs or claims without questioning or critical examination. Blind faith can be associated with dogmatic or authoritarian religious and political systems that discourage independent thought or inquiry.
- Rational faith: This is a type of faith that involves a rational and reasoned approach to belief and practice, based on evidence, logic, and critical thinking. Rational faith often prioritizes knowledge, effort, individual autonomy, and intellectual freedom. A good example is putting faith in Science – Medicine, Physics, Statistics, etc.
The matter of Faith is complex and convoluted, and to a large extent, subjective and personal. There are people who may choose to put faith in things that cannot be verified – like the afterlife – and there are those who would dismiss such.
In both cases, it is important to respect them as there are upsides to both. For example, even though there isn’t any objective proof of the afterlife, holding such faith can provide comfort (from death anxiety or other vicissitudes of life) and help people act less violently. Though it can also lead to unnecessary suffering. For example, someone who believes in an afterlife may choose to neglect their finances and health because they expect a better life after death. We’ll talk more about this later in this post.
Impermanence and Need For Humility:
Our knowledge of the people and world around us is always limited, and incomplete; and on top of that, everything changes (with time and circumstance). Therefore, we cannot say we know anything for sure.
We can’t accurately predict what the far future will hold because the world is made up of hyperchaotic systems (i.e. systems that are very hard to predict because they behave in a chaotic manner across different scales of time and space; and small differences at their beginning easily lead to vastly different outcomes later on.).
Hence, the best we can have are very high probabilities that things will continue to be/behave in certain ways. For example, we can have confidence that the Sun, which has been rising every morning for millions of years, will rise again tomorrow. However, there is still a ridiculously small probability that the sun will not rise tomorrow.
It’s like the Chicken which gets free food every morning when a farmer shows up. It may have faith that every morning comes with food, until when all of a sudden the farmer grabs it by the neck and chops off its head. Because it is Christmas (aka The Black Swan effect).
Even if things appear to remain stable for a considerable amount of time, it does not mean that that is how they will remain forever. People can change. Cultures can change. Religious doctrines can change. And, even in the world of science, new previously unobserved factors can cause massive changes (think, the Dzhanibekov effect).
All these – our limited knowledge and impermanence – calls for humility, closer scrutiny, and constant update of our faiths: Yes, we do not know the future, and need to have confidence that based on past experiences things should remain the same, or work out in certain ways so that we are not crippled by doubt and confusion. But, we should still keep in mind that our observations were limited and incomplete and that the only constant thing is change.
However, not everyone is willing to question and improve their faith. In fact, for many people, the less the evidence, the greater their faith – because their faith feeds off of lack of reason and evidence. And this often has dire consequences.
“Faith is not belief without evidence. Faith is belief when evidence may point in a particular direction but is not complete or exhaustive. Belief entirely without any evidence at all is simply foolishness. That foolishness is not confined to religious activities – it is rampant in politics or any other arena of belief. Non-theists are just as capable of such foolishness as theists are.”– Vance Morgan
What is the importance of faith to a person?
Faith can be very important in many ways. Here are some key reasons why:
- Provides a sense of meaning and purpose: Faith can give you a sense of meaning and purpose in life, by providing a framework for understanding the world and your place in it. This can help you to find direction and focus and to feel that your life has a purpose.
- Offers comfort and support: Faith can be a source of comfort and support in difficult times, providing you with a sense of hope and reassurance that the future might be better. This can be especially important during times of crisis or personal struggle.
- Promotes positive values and behaviors: Most times, faith (in a religious, humanitarian, political, or personal goal) requires adherence to positive values and behaviors, such as hard work, compassion, forgiveness, and persistence. These values can help you become a better person, as well as develop strong relationships, live a more fulfilling life, and contribute to the greater good of society.
- Fosters resilience and inner strength: Faith, providing reason even when there is none tangible at the moment, can help you to develop resilience and inner strength, enabling you to face life’s challenges with greater equanimity and perseverance. This can help you to overcome obstacles, bounce back from setbacks, and achieve your goals and dreams.
- Encourages personal growth and self-discovery: Faith can be a pathway to personal growth and self-discovery, as it requires you to constantly reflect on your past actions, and how they align with what you desire. This can lead to greater self-awareness, self-actualization, and more achievements in life.
- Provides a moral compass: Faith can provide you with a moral compass, helping you to navigate ethical and moral dilemmas in a way that is consistent with your goals, beliefs, and values.
- Offers a sense of transcendence: Faith can provide you with a sense of transcendence or connection assuming you tied your goal to something greater than yourself (like a better society or heaven), which can be deeply motivating, inspiring, and fulfilling.
- Enhances mental health: Studies have shown that faith can have a positive impact on mental health, by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, and promoting a greater sense of well-being and life satisfaction. This may be due to the sense of purpose, hope, and social support that faith provides.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”– Hebrews 11:1 (The Bible)
What causes a lack of faith?
There are many factors that can contribute to a lack of faith or a loss of belief in a particular person or thing. Here are a few possible causes:
- Intellectual doubts: A person may question the accuracy and consistency of what they believe, and abandon it when it fails to convince them.
- Lack of evidence: Some individuals may feel that there is insufficient evidence or logical reasoning to support their faith, particularly if they are exposed to alternative perspectives or explanations that challenge their beliefs.
- Personal experiences: Traumatic or difficult personal experiences, such as the loss of a loved one, illness, or grave injustice, can sometimes cause people to question what they put their faith in.
- Emotional or psychological factors: Mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, can sometimes lead to a loss of faith as the individual feels they have no control over the events in their lives or lacks a sense of connection with other people, ideas, or even God…
- Exposure to different beliefs or cultures: Exposure to different belief systems or cultures can sometimes cause individuals to question or reevaluate their own faith, particularly if they are exposed to ideas that are radically different from their own.
- Disillusionment with leaders and institutions: Disillusionment with institutions or leaders can sometimes lead individuals to lose faith, particularly if they feel that their leader or community is corrupt or hypocritical.
- Cultural or social factors: Social or cultural issues, such as discrimination or conflict within religious/political communities, can sometimes lead individuals to question or reject their faith.
- Lack of personal relevance: Some individuals may simply find that their faith is no longer personally relevant or meaningful to them, particularly if they undergo significant life changes or shifts in their values or priorities.
And many more.
How do I apply faith in my life?
Faith is a cheat code for success in life as long as it is applied the right way and on the right things.
For instance, imagine you were given $1,000,000 to write a book within 3 months, will you be motivated and able to write that book? How about you get promised a billion dollars if you do it within a month? The truth is, if you’re already a writer, you’ll finish that book within a month (and never complain of lack of motivation or writer’s block). But why? Because the reward is at hand.
Faith is your ability to believe your reward is assured even when you don’t see it – pretty much how a scientist trusts that gravity works. Imagine you applied such temerity and zeal in investing in yourself, your relationships, your business, and your health. That’s the power of faith.
It’s the bridge that helps you walk into the future with boldness, despite the fact that you do not know for sure.
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”– Elon Musk
What are the risks/dangers/disadvantages of Faith?
Having faith that is contrary to evidence can have several dangers, including:
- Denial of reality: Faith can result in people ignoring important facts or evidence that could be beneficial to their well-being or the well-being of others. For example, refusing vaccines, medications, or surgeries.
- Prejudice and discrimination: Faith can lead to discrimination against individuals or groups that do not share the same faith or beliefs. This can create division and conflict within society.
- Missed opportunities for personal or societal growth: This is because decisions may be made based on beliefs that are not supported by evidence, rather than on evidence-based knowledge. For example, believing the earth is flat and under a dome may limit a society’s ability to advance scientifically (in terms of space exploration, or satellite technology).
- Harmful actions: When faith is used to justify harmful actions, it can result in physical, emotional, or psychological harm to oneself or others. For example, killing albinos because they are believed to be cursed or witches.
And, that is why before you take the leap of faith, you should ensure your faith is built on evidence. In fact, when done appropriately it stops being a scary leap, and rather a delightful walk.
Imagine two bridges stretching across a river of molten magma: The first bridge is made of decaying wood and ropes, and looks like it will collapse any moment. While the second bridge is new, made of steel and concrete, and looks sturdy as a mountain. Which will you need the most “leap of faith” to walk across?
How do you develop a personal faith that is reliable [How To Take a Leap of Faith]?
Developing personal faith is a highly personal and ongoing process that can involve a variety of practices and approaches. And, since everyone needs to take a leap of faith at one point in life or the other, it becomes important to learn how to do it right.
Below is a step-by-step guide to developing personal faith:
Reflect on your goals:
Because your faith is usually based on your desire to achieve something, it becomes important to ask yourself why you want those things. Perhaps you believe in a heaven, a better society, an expansion of knowledge, or technological advancement. Whilst those are all admirable on the surface, you must ask why you believe they are important to you.
Consider alternative viewpoints and try to understand why you hold those goals dear. Why do you believe they are worth striving for? At what point did they become your goals? These seem like simple questions, but on deeper inspection, you might end up finding you do not know the true origin or aim of those goals, and you are most afraid because you do not want to suffer or regret.
For example, you may have faith in the afterlife but lack any true understanding of what it is (other than what the stories said), and neither do you know where the stories came from (other than what the stories said). Furthermore, you may realize that you are only clinging to the goal of making it to Heaven, Janna, Valhalla, or some other version of the afterlife because you are afraid of the alternative (also according to what the stories said). This is a logical error known as circular reason, and it takes you nowhere. Often times people result to rejecting the entire story and goals altogether.
Of course, you can also probe your political, economic, or relationship goals this way so that you can at least know where your desire (for the goal) is coming from, and if it is something you wish to take a leap of faith in.
Why? Because when you take a leap of faith, you must carry the cross.
For example, if you put Faith in a Revolution, you might have to endure the accompanying battles. Won’t it be a shame if the revolution succeeded but was only another plot of a narcissistic psychopathic politician?
“Belief in the truth commences with the doubting of all those ‘truths’ we once believed.”– Friedrich Nietzsche
Reflect on the nature of life and reality:
Unless you have no interest in applying your faith to bettering your life here (when you’re alive on earth), then a good place to start is by studying exactly how the world works (free from the interpretations and biases you’ve ladened it with).
For example, you can examine how chemicals, objects, animals, people, and celestial bodies behave and interact with each other. From there you can observe how they affect each other. For example, the Moon really does move the tides on Earth, fire really does burn paper, cancer really does kill, and people really do want pleasure and avoid pain.
You can go further by questioning commonly held beliefs. For example, you can ask, “Does the rich depend on prayers to make money?”, “Does smoking boost health and longevity?”, “Does lying and cheating strengthen relationships?”.
Also Read: Why I Don’t Believe In Prayer Anymore
Getting and accepting the discoveries might be difficult and unsettling as you will struggle to remain objective and also struggle to let go of your biases. It is most likely, you won’t get the answers to everything, and neither would you understand all the answers you get. On the contrary, you might end up overwhelmed or humbled by just how complicated life can be.
You may stumble upon multiple paradoxes, dilemmas, contradictions, and mysteries. You may find that what works in one place may not work in another and that there are many ways to achieve one result. And, you may finally realize that your faith is not without its critics. And, hopefully, this will force you to get more realistic and serious with what you accept to be true.
“The critical mind does not take the easy road; it finds the right road.”– E. Paul Torrance.
Contrast reality with your faith:
Take time to examine your current beliefs about the world and your place in it. Write them down and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I believe?”, “Why do I believe it?”, and “Is it in alignment with reality?”.
Group your Faith into “Helpful”, “Detrimental”, and “Unknown” based on the results they’ve provided in the past (for you and others). For example, if you’ve put faith in taking medications (science) in the past and it has consistently helped you achieve the goal of recovering from illnesses, then you can put that in the “Helpful” category. If you’ve ever put faith in consistently cheating and it costs you a dear relationship, then you can put that in the “Detrimental” category. The “Unknown” category is for things that cannot be verified, for example, putting faith in dying your hair black or refusing to eat salt.
Reflect on your past:
Reflect on your experiences and the results you’ve seen so far. Did they confirm or challenge your beliefs? What did you learn from them?
Have your faith failed you in the past?
The key is the consistency (and length) of the result.
For example, sometimes people recover from illnesses without intervention (thanks to their immune system), and win millions in bets/lottery (thanks to luck) but all those are not reliable enough to put faith in.
Also, the fact that medication failed to work in an instance, does not mean they do not work.
Hint: Pick many unrelated samples for the test; and don’t cherry-pick instances that seem to align with your belief (because that will be confirmation bias). Also, apply the critical thinking principles to determine what is reliable and what is not unreliable.
For example, on your list, you can have betting and wait for the immune system as “Unreliable”. And, you can have to offer a service and take medications as “Reliable”.
Test and Revise your beliefs:
Take what you’ve learned and put it to the test to see what works and what doesn’t.
For example, you can test your faith by offering your services to more and more people to see if you can make more money (repeatedly). If you do this and it works, then you can confidently keep holding on to it. On the other hand, if you go ahead to gamble with your pocket money, school fees, and house rent but end up losing all the money, then you should probably stop.
Sometimes the playing field can change and you will need to adjust. For example, you may get diagnosed with diabetes and would have to redefine what a healthy diet means. Your job may be taken over by Artificial Intelligence and you will have to rethink what it means to be skilled and hardworking.
This last point reminds me of something that happened recently. SpaceX launched the Starship and it exploded just at the firmaments. Most religious people pointed to it as evidence that the moon landing was a hoax and that according to the bible, we are under a sort of dome made of water (aka the firmament).
Now, even if we assume all our other scientific findings are wrong, and that a firmament exists, SpaceX launching another Starship and prolly making it to Mars should be the end of such religious Faith in a firmament. Conversely, if they prove the Firmaments exist (as a dome that restricts us from leaving the earth), then we might want to adjust our faith in science.
“I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong”– Bertrand Russel
Seek out resources and guidance:
Once you have a sense of your own true beliefs, seek out resources and guidance that can help you deepen your understanding and application of faith in it. Sometimes, this might require you to take bits from other people’s beliefs which you do not totally agree with.
For example, if you have faith in your skill, you can decide to learn how successful individuals or companies market their services (even if you do not like or use those services). Another example is to read the Bible not because you are afraid of hell, but because you want to know what Jesus would do in a certain ethical conflict. You can even learn from animals and insects.
Seeking guidance should not be limited to a certain person or thing as there may not be any one person or thing that can nourish all your beliefs.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”– Friedrich Nietzsche
Connect with a community:
As an individual with their own personal goals, it becomes important that you find communities that help you grow in the different aspects of your faith. For example, you can join a business community, but that doesn’t limit you from also joining a health or relationship community that aligns with your values concerning health and relationship.
The aim of connecting with a community is that they help you crystallize and better understand how to apply your faith in that aspect of your life.
Live out your faith in everyday life:
Living your faith means acting as though the goals were assured. If you have faith that you are going to come first in class, you will dedicate an insane amount of time studying, rather than worrying.
For example, many entrepreneurs quit school to start a business, not because quitting school makes them successful, but because they have fully understood their faith – they have observed and tested that their ideas work to some extent and only need more time and effort which school was not allowing.
There will be aspects of your faith that you will struggle with, but practice will make you better, and soon it will be second nature to you.
Applying your faith in everyday life can involve living out your values and beliefs in your relationships, work, and other aspects of your daily routine. This may involve acts of kindness and service, striving for personal growth and self-improvement, and seeking to make a positive impact on the world around you.
Stay curious and flexible:
Finally, remain open and curious as you continue to develop your personal faith. Seek out new experiences and insights, remain open to different perspectives and beliefs, and stay committed to your own ongoing growth and development.
Also Read: The Importance of Lifelong Learning
What are some beliefs people have?
To help you better understand all we’ve been saying, below are some examples of beliefs people have faith in.
- The Earth orbits around the sun.
- The human body needs water to survive.
- Gravity exists and affects all objects.
- Consistently working hard and putting in the effort can lead to career success and advancement
Beliefs grounded in evidence yet subject to uncertainty:
- Evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.
- Human activity contributes to climate change.
- Vaccinations are safe and effective in preventing infectious diseases.
- Positive thinking and visualisation can help people achieve their goals.
Speculative beliefs with scant evidence and subjective interpretation:
- Wearing a lucky charm or amulet can bring good luck.
- Astrology can provide insight into people’s personalities and life paths.
- The number 13 is unlucky and can bring bad luck.
- Lighting a candle or incense to clear negative energy and improve productivity.
Beliefs without evidence:
- The earth is flat and under a dome.
- Black cats are bad luck.
- Seeing a shooting star and making a wish will make it come true.
- Using lucky numbers and colours boosts success in career endeavours.
“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”– Thomas Huxley
Conclusion: Take a leap of faith, cautiously
Faith takes time to develop. Most people never really know what they have faith in, and neither do they know how it works. They do not even know how, when, and why their faith changes. But, I hope you now know better.
If you’ve read this and would love to analyze and start building your own personal faith, we are working on a journal that has all instructions and guide (including tables and hints) that will guide you to debunk unhelpful beliefs, and help you build a personal faith for yourself that will help you live the life you want…
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