Faith is the confident belief in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. It is also used for a belief, without proof. Informal usage of the word "faith" can be quite broad, and may be used standardly in place of "trust", "belief", or "hope". For example, the word "faith" can refer to a religion itself or to religion in general. As with "trust", faith involves a concept of future events or outcomes.
Faith is often used in a religious context, as in theology, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in a transcendent reality, or else in a Supreme Being and said being's role in the order of transcendent, spiritual things. Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true. It is the belief and the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, based on his or her authority and truthfulness.
The English word faith is dated from 1200–50, from the Latin fidem, or fidēs, meaning trust, akin to fīdere to trust.
Epistemological validity of faith
There exists a wide spectrum of opinion with respect to the epistemological validity of faith. On one extreme is logical positivism, which denies the validity of any beliefs held by faith; on the other extreme is fideism, which holds that true belief can only arise from faith, because reason and evidence cannot lead to truth. Some foundationalists, such as St. Augustine of Hippo and Alvin Plantinga, hold that all of our beliefs rest ultimately on beliefs accepted by faith. Others, such as C. S. Lewis, hold that faith is merely the virtue by which we hold to our reasoned ideas, despite moods to the contrary.
Fideism and Pistisism
Fideism is not a synonym for “religious belief”, but describes a particular philosophical proposition in regard to the relationship between faith's appropriate jurisdiction at arriving at truths, contrasted against reasons. It states that faith is needed to determine some philosophical and religious truths, and it questions the ability of reason to arrive at all truth. The word and concept had its origin in the mid to late nineteenth century by way of Roman Catholic thought, in a movement called traditionalism. The Roman Catholic Magisterium has repeatedly condemned fideism though.
The word is also occasionally used to refer to the Protestant belief that Christians are saved by faith alone: for which see sola fide. This position is sometimes called solifidianism and sol Pistisism.
Many noted philosophers and theologians have espoused the idea that faith is the basis of knowledge. One example is St. Augustine of Hippo. Known as one of his contributions to philosophy, the idea of "faith seeking understanding" was set forth by St. Augustine in his statement "Crede, ut intelligas" ("Believe in order that you may understand").
One illustration of this concept is in the development of knowledge in children. A child typically holds parental teaching as credible, in spite of the child's lack of sufficient research to establish such credibility empirically. That parental teaching, however fallible, becomes a foundation upon which future knowledge is built. The child's faith in his/her parents teaching is based on a belief in their credibility. Unless/until the child's belief in their parents’ credibility is superseded by a stronger belief, the parental teaching will serve as a filter through which other teaching must be processed and/or evaluated. Following this line of reasoning, and assuming that children have finite or limited empirical knowledge at birth, it follows that faith is the fundamental basis of all knowledge one has. Even adults attribute the basis for some of their knowledge to so called "authorities" in a given field of study. This is true because one simply does not have the time or resources to evaluate all of his/her knowledge empirically and exhaustively. "Faith" is used instead.
However, a child's parents are not infallible. Some of what the child learns from them will be wrong, and some will be rejected. It is rational (albeit at a perhaps instinctive level) for the child to trust the parents in the absence of other sources of information, but it is also irrational to cling rigidly to everything one was originally taught in the face of countervailing evidence. Parental instruction may be the historical foundation of future knowledge, but that does not necessarily make it a structural foundation.
It is sometimes argued that even scientific knowledge is dependent on 'faith' - for example, faith that the researcher responsible for an empirical conclusion is competent, and honest. Indeed, distinguished chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi argued that scientific discovery begins with a scientist's faith that an unknown discovery is possible. Scientific discovery thus requires a passionate commitment to a result that is unknowable at the outset. Polanyi argued that the scientific method is not an objective method removed from man's passion. On the contrary, scientific progress depends primarily on the unique capability of free man to notice and investigate patterns and connections, and on the individual scientist's willingness to commit time and resources to such investigation, which usually must begin before the truth is known or the benefits of the discovery are imagined, let alone understood fully. It could then be argued that even in science, until one possesses all knowledge in totality, one will need faith in order to believe an understanding to be correct or incorrect in total affirmation.
Again, scientific faith does not see itself as dogmatic. While the scientist must make presuppositions in order to get the enterprise under way, almost everything (according to some thinkers, such as Quine, literally everything) is revisable and discardable.
Faith in world religions
Although Judaism does recognize the positive value of Emunah (faith/belief) and the negative status of the Apikorus (heretic), faith is not as stressed or as central as it is in other religions, e.g. Christianity. It is a necessary means for being a practicing religious Jew, but the ends is more about practice than faith itself.
The specific tenets that compose required belief and their application to the times have been disputed throughout Jewish history. Today many, but not all, Orthodox Jews have accepted Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief.
A traditional example of faith as seen in the Jewish annals is found in the person of Abraham. On a number of occasions, Abraham both accepts statements from God that seem impossible and offers obedient actions in response to direction from God to do things that seem implausible (see Genesis 12-15).
For a wide history of this dispute, see: Shapira, Marc: The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Series).) In the Jewish scriptures it refers to how God acts toward His people and how they are to respond to him, it is rooted in the covenant established in the Torah, notable  Deuteronomy 7:9 (New American Standard Bible)
"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, (the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments"Very rarely does it relate to any teaching that must be believed.
Faith in Christianity is based in the work and teaching of Jesus Christ. In this way Christianity declares not to be distinguished by its faith, but by the object of its faith. Faith is an act of trust or reliance on God. Rather than being passive, faith leads to an active life of obedience to the one being trusted. It sees the mystery of God and his grace and seeks to know and become obedient to God. Faith is not static but causes one to learn more of God and grow, it has its origin in God. In Christianity faith causes change as it seeks a greater understanding of God. Faith is not fideism or simple obedience to a set of rules or statements. Before the Christian has faith, one must understand in whom and in what one has faith. Without understanding, there cannot be true faith. Understanding is built on the foundation of the community of believers: the understanding of the scriptures and traditions of the community of believers and on personal experiences of the believer. In the New Testament, the word faith is derived from the Greek word pistis or from the root word peitho, meaning to trust, to have confidence, faithfulness, to be reliable, to assure.
Faith in Islam is called Iman. It is a complete submission to the will of Allah which includes belief, profession, and the body's performance of deeds consistent with the commission as vicegerent on Earth, all according to Allah's will.
Iman has two aspects
- Recognizing and affirming that there is one Creator of the universe and only to this Creator is worship due. According to Islamic thought, this comes naturally because faith is an instinct of the human soul. This instinct is then trained via parents or guardians into specific religious or spiritual paths. Likewise, the instinct may not be guided at all.
- Willingness and commitment to submitting that Allah exists, and to His prescriptions for living in accordance with vicegerency. The Qur'an (Koran) is the dictation of Allah's prescriptions through Prophet Muhammad and is believed to have updated and completed previous revelations Allah sent through earlier prophets.
In the Qur'an, God (Allah in Arabic), states (2:62): Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the Sabians; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
In Hinduism, Śraddhā is the word that is synonymous with faith. It means unshaken belief and purity of thought. Faith is recognized as a virtue throughout all schools of Hinduism, although there is a variety of interpretations of the role of faith in one's daily life, its foundation, and what rests upon it. Some schools more strongly emphasize reason and direct personal knowledge, while other schools of thought more strongly emphasize religious devotion. In chapter 17 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna mentions the three gunas of faith: Faith rooted in sattva, faith rooted in rajas, and faith rooted in tamas. Those with sattvic faith are said to worship the devas, those with rajasic faith are said to worship demons, and those with tamasic faith are said to worship ghosts and spirits.
Faith (Pali: Saddhā, Sanskrit: Śraddhā) is an important constituent element of the teachings of the Buddha - both in the Theravada tradition as in the Mahayana. Faith in Buddhism derives from the pali word saddhā, which often refers to a sense of conviction. The saddhā is often described as:
- A conviction that something is
- A determination to accomplish one's goals
- A sense of joy deriving from the other two
While faith in Buddhism does not imply "blind faith", Buddhist faith (as advocated by the Buddha in various scriptures, or sutras) nevertheless requires a degree of faith and belief primarily in the spiritual attainment of the Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on the understanding that the Buddha is an Awakened being, on his superior role as teacher, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual Doctrine), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism is better classified or defined as a Confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and is intended to lead to the goal of Awakening (bodhi) and Nirvana. Volitionally, faith implies a resolute and courageous act of will. It combines the steadfast resolution that one will do a thing with the self-confidence that one can do it.
As a counter to any form of "blind faith", the Buddha taught the Kalama Sutra, exhorting his disciples to investigate any teaching and to live by what is learnt and accepted, rather than believing something outright.
In the Bahá'í Faith faith is ultimately the acceptance of the divine authority of the Manifestations of God. In the religion's view, faith and knowledge are both required for spiritual growth. Faith involves more than outward obedience to this authority, but also must be based on a deep personal understanding of religious teachings.
By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds.
Criticisms of faith
A certain number of rationalists criticize religious faith, or what they perceive to be religious faith. They argue it is irrational, and see faith as ignorance of reality: a strong belief in something with no evidence and sometimes a strong belief in something even with evidence against it. Bertrand Russell used to note that no one speaks of faith in the existence of such entities as gravity or electricity; rather, resorts to arguing faith occur only when evidence or logic fails.
Michael Green states that the idea of faith being "belief not based on evidence" is one of the myths about Christianity. Faith is to commit oneself to act based on sufficient experience to warrant belief, but without absolute proof. To have faith involves an act of will. For example, many people saw Blondin walk across the gorge below Niagara Falls on a tightrope, and believed (on the basis of the evidence of their own eyes) that he was capable of carrying a man on his back safely across. But only his manager Harry Colcord had enough faith to allow himself to be carried.
Defenders of faith say that belief in scientific evidence is itself based on faith — in positivism; yet they do not themselves defy reason by walking off cliffs out of faith in divine intervention. Others claim that faith is perfectly compatible with and does not necessarily contradict reason, "faith" meaning an assumed belief. Many Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that there is adequate historical evidence of their God's existence and interaction with human beings. As such, they may believe that there is no need for "faith" in God in the sense of belief against or despite evidence; rather, they hold that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that their God probably exists or certainly exists.
Some religious believers – and many of their critics – often use the term "faith" as the affirmation of belief without an ongoing test of evidence. In this sense faith refers to belief beyond evidence or logical arguments, sometimes called "implicit faith". Another form of this kind of faith is fideism: one ought to believe that God exists, but one should not base that belief on any other beliefs; one should, instead, accept it without any reasons at all. "Faith" in this sense, belief for the sake of believing, is often associated with Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and some other existentialist religious thinkers.
Faith as Religious belief, has been advanced as being desirable, for example for emotional reasons or to regulate society, and this can be seen as ‘positive’ when it has 'benign’ effects. However, rationalists may become alarmed that faithful activists, perhaps with extreme beliefs, might not be amenable to argument or to negotiation over their behavior
In the rationalist view, belief should be restricted to what is directly supportable by logic or scientific evidence. Robert Todd Carroll, an advocate of atheism, argues that the word "faith" is usually used to refer to belief in a proposition that is not supported by a perceived majority of evidence. Since many beliefs are in propositions that are supported by a perceived majority of evidence, the claim that all beliefs/knowledge are based on faith is a misconception "or perhaps it is an intentional attempt at disinformation and obscurantism" made by religious apologists:
"There seems to be something profoundly deceptive and misleading about lumping together as acts of faith such things as belief in the Virgin birth and belief in the existence of an external world or in the principle of contradiction. Such a view trivializes religious faith by putting all non-empirical claims in the same category as religious faith. In fact, religious faith should be put in the same category as belief in superstitions, fairy tales, and delusions of all varieties."
Atheist Richard Dawkins contends that faith is merely belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking. A practice which only degrades our understanding of the natural world by allowing anyone to make a claim about reality that is based solely off of their personal thoughts, and possibly distorted perceptions, that does not require testing against nature, has no ability to make reliable and consistent predictions, and is not subject to peer review.
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