Belief [bi-leef] –noun
- something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
- confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
- confidence; faith; trust: a child’s belief in his parents.
- a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith: the Christian belief.
Faith [feyth] –noun
- confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
- belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
- belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
- belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
- a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
- the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
- the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
- Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
Religion [ri-lij–uhn] –noun
- a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
- a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
- the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
- the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
- the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
- something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
OK, I admit I didn’t have breakfast this morning, so my mind may not be functioning optimally. Maybe I am simply ignorant. When I look up the dictionary definition of ‘belief’ and ‘faith’, nowhere do I find reference to ‘knowing absolute truth’. Under ‘belief’, there is reference to the word ‘truth’, but it is preceded by the words ‘confidence in’ – I’m assuming that implies one’s personal confidence in the ‘truth’. Now, here is the dictionary definition of ‘truth’:
Truth [trooth] –noun, plural truths
- the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
- conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.
- a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
- the state or character of being true.
- actuality or actual existence.
- an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.
- honesty; integrity; truthfulness.
- (often initial capital letter) ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience: the basic truths of life.
- agreement with a standard or original.
- accuracy, as of position or adjustment.
- Archaic. fidelity or constancy.
- in truth, in reality; in fact; actually: In truth, moral decay hastened the decline of the Roman Empire.
‘A verified or indisputable fact’. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears that ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are the main foundations of every religion, such as having ‘faith’ in such-and-such religion and ‘believing’ in God. Religion has never dealt in the business of verified or indisputable facts. As rooted in it’s definition, faith [and therefore religion] is belief that is not based on proof. That is one of the main points of religions – to submit, sight unseen. They are meant as a vehicle to help individuals overcome their fears and insecurities and weaknesses [things in religions I believe are supposed to be the equivalent of concepts represented by terms such as ‘evil’ and ‘satan’], and to help guide people to become better individuals. This is why religious texts were written as parables, allegories, symbolic narratives; so as to be more universal, to speak to a multitude of diverse individuals with the same messages, teachings of fundamental humanisms. As time went on and these texts passed through a succession of hands that were deemed the highest authority, and therefore the ‘keepers’ of these texts, it is safe to say there has been some [a little or a lot – who knows] editing, adding, and omissions of the texts to better suit the personal convictions of said keepers and/or rulers, as well as revising and reinterpreting as they are translated into other languages.
Who knows how much of the originals are now lost, and how much of the current understandings of these texts are semi-modern/modern additions. The fundamentals, I’m assuming, are still intact, however muted they seem to be [throughout the history of at least the big three Abrahamic religions]. The big three, by the way, not only have their commonalities in Abraham, but also in monotheism, the Golden Rule, the condemnation of murder, stealing, lying, and infidelity, and the importance of life, love, honesty, modesty, kindness and forgiveness. Other very common parallels, however, include the justified breaking of all these holy sacred tenants on large scales: The Muslim Conquests, The French Wars of Religion, The Crusades [9 major crusades from 1095 a.d. to 1272 a.d. and a handful of minor ones until 1456 a.d.], The Reconquista, and The Salem Witch Hunts, to name a few.
Another major similarity is that the big three are the most prominent proselytizing religions, which I see is vastly different from their call to “preach the word” of their respective religion. I started out this post describing faith and belief and religion using terms such as ‘individual’ and ‘personal’ because religion is as personal and individualistic as the thoughts in your own head. The practice of religion can most definitely be a shared experience [hence not only the many varying religions, but also the great number of differing denominations of each religion – so as to bring together a larger number of community members of the same religion but of differing internalizing of the religion]. “Preaching the word” is that beacon for all who choose to practice that flavor of religion being preached. If one feels a connection with what is being preached, one will go toward that particular beacon. “Preaching the word” is meant to just be. Here it is, take it or leave it. It is meant to just be, because “the word” should be so good that it stands on it’s own – without any seduction, manipulation, or coercion. If “the word” really is all that & a bag of chips, it should simply be spoken, preached, shared. It shouldn’t need to be forced upon anyone – no matter how much the forcer feels the forcee “needs” it.
“Oh, but I know an atheist, and I’m concerned about him not going to heaven!” Really? And converting him/her is going to “save” this friend? Common statements of heroism like this sound mighty arrogant and egotistical. I suppose these converters also wish they had a cape and could fly around converting all the lesser heathens below them. A fear that a friend might burn in hell for all eternity if not converted first of all, is still a fear [remember earlier – fear=bad]. Second, I could talk to ten people of ten different religions and they could all have the same concern for my eternal soul, and all wanting me to join their club. Which one would I choose? Each of the ten claim to be the one and only true path. How can that be? If asked to point out the liar, I would see ten different hands pointing in ten different directions – all with equal conviction.
People with this level of religious conviction [and fear] don’t have a corner on the market of conversion. This morning on Midmorning [on MPR], Kerri Miller interviewed author Richard Dawkins on his quest to convert more people to Atheism. It was almost exactly like listening to a Christian trying to convert an Agnostic. Yay, fun.
I suppose in a way, I too am guilty of a similar feeling of superiority, for there are plenty ‘O days where I feel like I live in a world chock full of douchebags.
Out of time. Gotta run.