A discussion on the word ‘faith’

To the editor:

Faith, including religious faith, has been defined by some as “pretending to know things that you really don’t know.” However, this definition tends to make faith a trivial game of “let’s pretend”, and religious people take their faith more seriously, even though it may be misguided.

Faith may be more properly defined as “believing something is true without sufficient evidence.” If there were “sufficient evidence”, then, rather than calling the belief faith, we might say we have putative facts or genuine facts, depending on the quality and quantity of the evidence.

We can get a new perspective on the word faith by replacing it in certain statements by the definition above.

For example, people may say that “my faith is true for me.”

Rewriting, it becomes “my believing something is true without sufficient evidence is true for me.”

They may also say “life has no meaning without faith.” Rewriting, it becomes “life has no meaning without believing something is true without sufficient evidence.”

Or, “I’m having a crisis of faith.”

This becomes “I’m having a crisis because I believe something without sufficient evidence.” This becomes rather humorous.

Sometimes they might say “I’m a person of strong faith.” This translates to “I’m a person who strongly believes that something is true without sufficient evidence.”

(What they really mean is that they believe they have the true view of reality and feel that they are morally superior to the heathens and uninformed others.)

This last example shows a deep psychological need to believe, and these people seek out evidence, usually by unqualified or unreliable sources, to support their belief, and ignore or rationalize away contradictory evidence.

This is called confirmation bias.

So people can have faith, but should consider its ramifications. Is there a serious disconnect between one’s faith and the findings of science? If they say that’s too bad for science, then they’re living in a fantasy world of denial, one of the symptoms of addiction. Unfortunately, people can be addicted to faith in an irrational belief system, and fundamentalism of any religion is a prime example.

David Keranen

Bakersfield, Calif.