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The Virtues of Religious Faith

 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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25 September 2012 23:38
 

SX: So what are yous guys talking about, exactly, when you talk about “faith”? How are you defining it?

I always like the Biblical ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

You know how much I long for a meaning beyond scientific materialism.  Of course, I don’t want a horrible meaning.  I want a beautiful meaning.

 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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25 September 2012 23:41
 

Star: What we’re talking about here is love.. it’s not “I love you” it’s “We are IN love together”.. You don’t have to fall in love. You’re either in it or you’re not in it, and if you’re not in it, that’s your work.

Why aren’t you? Why aren’t you seeing the Beloved in everyone you look at? What is it stopping the process? Isn’t that interesting? We’re so used to romantic love, “I love her and I like him”. They’re all the faces of the Beloved. When Mother Theresa lifts a leper she says “This is Christ in his most distressing disguises.” She’s making love through doing that work. What are you going to do, feel sorry for her?

The predicaments that you and I have work to do on is how we get caught in the dramas that are of the material, physical, psychological world, and how we lose the spirit..because we have work to do on ourselves about pain, about death, and about our own fears. ‘Cause that’s what closes you down and causes you to get stuck.

When I work with an AIDS patient first of all they got Kaposi’s sarcoma, they’ve got pneumocystis, they’re eyes are going blind, they’ve maybe got (an infection) going over the blood-brain barrier. Do I want that to happen to me? How do I distance myself from that? I distance myself by being kind, by being caring in an object way, “It’s your sickness, and I’ll help you”. But it isn’t your sickness, it’s our sickness and our health, and that act has to bring people together, it can’t separate them because if it separates then the function hasn’t been fulfilled.. the reassurance, “I” am here. Not “I am here!”, but “here ‘I’ is”, meaning you and I.

Do what you do with another person but never put them out of your heart. What does that mean..? Not to close down out of fear ‘cause what fear does is that it drives you up into the intellect and then you’re nice, and you’re busy doing something for somebody as opposed to just being with another being with your heart open. So that’ll be enough to distance me. Well maybe what’s closing me down is that that person’s being socially ostracized by their parents or by the community because they’re gay or a needle user or whatever. Or maybe the pain they’re going through.. I am so afraid of that pain that I distance myself. Or maybe the idea of not existing as a separate entity anymore scares me. What I have to do when I sit with somebody is be quiet enough to listen.. listen into where there are places that are closing my heart down as well as being with them by listening fully to them.

Thanks.  That must have taken a lot of time to transcribe. There’s a lot of wisdom in those sentiments.

 
santhosh
 
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santhosh
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25 September 2012 23:43
 

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[ Edited: 22 January 2013 05:11 by santhosh]
 
saralynn
 
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25 September 2012 23:50
 

Hannah:: Well, you don’t need to have a perfect attitude to do good.  If the lady had a nice outing, then you did good.  You learned something, and that was good too.  I bet even Ram Dass has a crappy attitude sometimes.  I’ve found that people can be absolutely fantastic giving advice or inspiring people, but still have lots of problems in their own lives.

My Alanon sponsor was very wise in helping me, but she was divorced after having put up with an abusive husband for years, and her grown daughter was a mess, and her own career was rocky.  But despite all her woes, she’d learned from experience. 

There’s a saying, “Act as if:”  So go ahead and act as if you’re happy to be with the old lady (and I’m sure you were gracious), and at least you can know you tried and gained some insight.  Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be the old lady, and somebody younger will take you out, and you’ll know they’re a little bored, but you’ll understand and maybe chuckle to yourself:  “Those younger people; always wish they were out dancing in the sunshine.”

Good sensible advice.  I don’t feel horribly guilty about the day…if I did, I’d be even more self-centered than I am.  It just got me to think about sacrifice and how friggin’ hard it is.  As I said, for me, faith helps me do what I don’t want to do, but should do.  However, it would have been nice if I could have shifted perspectives, like Ram Dass described.  I tried, but I couldn’t do it.  I think it’s because it took the form of reprimanding myself rather than just “clicking” into another perspective.

The thought of someone taking me out to lunch as a “good deed” fills me with horror.

 
robbrownsyd
 
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26 September 2012 04:07
 

Yes, Bruce, I have. For example, I have faith in my partner - I have faith that I can rely on him. Is that what you meann?

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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26 September 2012 05:34
 

Good OP Rob, as usual. And I agree of course.

That said I think ‘faith’ is misunderstood by those who don’t subscribe. And mischaracterized by both sides.

The atheist mistake is essentially to take the word of the faithful literally. The literal definitions, reasons and explanations are post hoc. They are constructed for the benefit of the skeptic. To satisfy the request for an explanation. They have little, I argue, to do with the motivations of the faithful. The whole debate about the psychological phenomenon of faith when tossed back and forth between believer and non is, I argue, just a canard. No resolution is possible because the interlocutors are not really showing their cards. 

The christians I know personally are not defending a set of propositions and arguments. It’s the practice that matters. The lifestyle and rituals. The social adhesive. There are essential beliefs of course. But they are not part of the debate. You either take them by ‘faith’ or you don’t. The little bits that they feed atheists aren’t essential. And I think we are wasting our time fighting over scraps here. I’m inclined to let the faithful own the concept of faith. I don’t need it for anything.

What I’d rather do is build cultural consensus around ideas that fill the human need for religion. And to challenge the unjustified liberties that religious people exert over the affairs of secular people. Beyond that, believers can have their bottle. Not my business.

 
robbrownsyd
 
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26 September 2012 08:04
 

BRICK: What I’d rather do is build cultural consensus around ideas that fill the human need for religion. And to challenge the unjustified liberties that religious people exert over the affairs of secular people. Beyond that, believers can have their bottle. Not my business.

I agree, Brick. The question is whether there are ideas that can answer the need. What we know is that it is possible for some people to live fulfilled and useful lives without religion. How do they/we do it? And once we answer that, the question becomes How can we show others still mired in religious intolerance and violence that what they are doing is unnecessary and evil?

[ Edited: 26 September 2012 08:18 by robbrownsyd]
 
SkepticX
 
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26 September 2012 11:16
 
Brick Bungalow - 26 September 2012 03:34 AM

The atheist mistake is essentially to take the word of the faithful literally. The literal definitions, reasons and explanations are post hoc. They are constructed for the benefit of the skeptic. To satisfy the request for an explanation. They have little, I argue, to do with the motivations of the faithful. The whole debate about the psychological phenomenon of faith when tossed back and forth between believer and non is, I argue, just a canard. No resolution is possible because the interlocutors are not really showing their cards.

I’d argue it’s not that simple ... or maybe it’s more simple I guess—depends upon how you look at it. As I pointed out initially in here, religious faith is far less common than what I call rhetoricized faith—the purely rhetorical versions of high ideals that believers and believers in “faith” want to label as if they were faith (much like relabeling things “God” to rhetoricize God into existence). So the biggest problem I see with “faith” is that it means too much, and thus too little. When you use the term in a religious context, or in the context of describing high virtue, it means whateverthehell the speaker/writer decides it means, the only parameter really being that it has to be virtuous. Turns out, though, that we have other terms for that sort of thing already, and “faith” is just attaching the Grand Label we’re socialized to believe is so important, and to respond to as if it were really a Grand Label and anything thereunder is all wonderful and profound and virtuous and weepy and just really neato. Carl Sagan’s quote Science has beauty, power, and majesty that can provide spiritual as well as practical fulfillment. But superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way providing easy answers, casually pressing our awe buttons, and cheapening the experience. always comes to mind when I see this happening. It’s much like the genuine, natural connection we can experience as fellow humans that Religion (reified here) denies us, replacing it with an anemic counterfeit.

The other major problem with “faith” is the obvious implication of the above—pervasive and perpetual equivocation, so we’re almost always talking about apples and orangutans when the topic is “faith”. Worse, because of this faith is the ultimate virtue notion into which we’re socialized we tend to muddy up any and all consideration of virtue and nobility and such when it’s on the table, giving most the impression that these things are derived from “faith”, and that those who are looking at the same things and experiencing the same things and acting in accordance with the same things, only without the distortion filter of “faith”, are actually below and/or blind to such things because they don’t do the faith schtick.

 

Brick Bungalow - 26 September 2012 03:34 AM

The christians I know personally are not defending a set of propositions and arguments. It’s the practice that matters. The lifestyle and rituals. The social adhesive. There are essential beliefs of course. But they are not part of the debate. You either take them by ‘faith’ or you don’t. The little bits that they feed atheists aren’t essential. And I think we are wasting our time fighting over scraps here. I’m inclined to let the faithful own the concept of faith. I don’t need it for anything.

What I’d rather do is build cultural consensus around ideas that fill the human need for religion. And to challenge the unjustified liberties that religious people exert over the affairs of secular people. Beyond that, believers can have their bottle. Not my business.

I couldn’t agree more. But perpetuating the faith schtick is also enabling behavior that fosters the Dark Side of the equation. In fact I’d argue that, at best, the faith schtick clouds the actual experiences, understanding and issues people are trying to see, understand and experience by claiming them through the label. At best. The whole relabeling schtick, though, opens such things up to be lumped together, which in turn allows the lumping together of less connected and more prejudicial and divisive notions, like patriotism (usually in the form of a very shallow veneer of it) and “faith” and virtue and any other vague, warm and fuzzy kind of concept.

No matter how you dissect it, faith is a compromise of the very thing to which it’s applied in order to enhance it, or to make it graspable, claimable—ownable.

Again:
Science has beauty, power, and majesty that can provide spiritual as well as practical fulfillment. But superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way providing easy answers, casually pressing our awe buttons, and cheapening the experience.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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26 September 2012 11:24
 
 
 
goodgraydrab
 
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goodgraydrab
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26 September 2012 13:31
 
saralynn - 25 September 2012 09:38 PM

SX: So what are yous guys talking about, exactly, when you talk about “faith”? How are you defining it?

I always like the Biblical ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

You know how much I long for a meaning beyond scientific materialism.  Of course, I don’t want a horrible meaning.  I want a beautiful meaning.

That doesn’t get it, saralynn. First, it’s a mistake to consider science and materialism synonymously or exclusively. Materialism is a condition of the universe which science investigates. Also, it depends on what you are encompassing as materialism. Are you thinking in terms of the physical sciences only? What about psychology, sociology, etc? The substance of things hoped for seems to fall under the category of humanism. If that’s all there is, there’s no reason to have faith in an imaginary god which is only a projection of our own attributes. God thinks only what we think, that’s why there’s a difference between your god and Mario’s, Jews, Christians and Muslims, there are 7 billion gods ... and a lot of self-proclaimed experts with no real greater acclaim than this lowly atheist.

Science and the knowledge it produces enhances our existence and experience in a way that makes our hopes a better reality. It’s all on us, our consciousness, and there are various methods with which to pursue those ideals without resorting to the creation of a higher consciousness outside ourselves. Your desires and longings, I think, are misapplied. They require egoistic thought which keeps us from experiencing the real now or pure experience, with all its beauty and its uncomfortable heartache. It’s nice to have others that inspire us, but most of the time, since we live in our own skin (“This is it. You are it.”), the inspiration must come from ourselves. Part of that is recognizing whom and what is worthy of inspiration. One person’s charismatic leader, is another person’s fraud. The “how to” book comes in many forms, but for the life of me, I don’t see how people think that religious text is superior to all that has surpassed it. It’s all grounded in the same inescapable roots, that of reflection on the human condition as we navigate our environment.

[ Edited: 26 September 2012 13:33 by goodgraydrab]
 
 
robbrownsyd
 
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26 September 2012 14:13
 

SARALYNN: ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

They’re pretty words when one first reads them. Emotionally appealing. As a definition, it means hoping for things you have no reason to hope for. But it is more than a definition. It is an emotional trick. It juxtaposes the words ‘substance’ and hope’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘not seen’ to make it sound as if, in accepting ‘faith’, we’re not really fooling ourselves. I think Answerer is right:

ANSWERER: Science and the knowledge it produces enhances our existence and experience in a way that makes our hopes a better reality. It’s all on us, our consciousness, and there are various methods with which to pursue those ideals without resorting to the creation of a higher consciousness outside ourselves. Your desires and longings, I think, are misapplied. They require egoistic thought which keeps us from experiencing the real now or pure experince, with all its beauty and its uncomfortable heartache. It’s nice to have others that inspire us, but most of the time, since we live in our own skin (“This is it. You are it.”), the inspiration must come from ourselves. Part of that is recognizing whom and what is worthy of inspiration. One person’s charismatic leader, is another person’s fraud.
The “how to” book comes in many forms, but for the life of me, I don’t see how people think that religious text is superior to all that has surpassed it. It’s all grounded in the same inescapable roots, that of reflection on the human condition as we navigate our environment.

We can duck and swerve all we like but in the end, if we value intellectual honesty, it all comes back to us as Answerer says. The simple fact is that this reality is unpalatable to many, indeed most, people. They prefer to continue to duck and weave or, if that’s too much effort,  accept what some religion tells them or just not think about it at all. Which I suppose would be nice if one could manage it. Alas!

 
Mike78
 
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26 September 2012 14:35
 

“Faith” is just the word that comes out right before I stop listening to what a deluded counterpart wishes to describe as a motivation for forming a subjective judgment out of pure bias.

 
eudemonia
 
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26 September 2012 14:55
 

Faith is a combination of hope and gullibility.

 
 
santhosh
 
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26 September 2012 15:51
 

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[ Edited: 22 January 2013 05:11 by santhosh]
 
santhosh
 
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santhosh
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26 September 2012 15:53
 

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[ Edited: 22 January 2013 05:11 by santhosh]
 
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