Consider faith. What does the word mean to you?
What do you believe? Who do you trust? Where does your loyalty lie? Understanding the meaning of faith requires appreciation of context and subjectivity.
In traditional marriage, a husband and wife ought to be faithful to one another. Meaning a vowed commitment of undivided love to their partner. It is a mutual agreement that they will be faithful in their lives spent together.
This and other common ideas of what it means to be faithful both maintain the connotations of loyalty, trust, honesty and belief. The latter, however, concerns more than anything, the principle of ‘being of faith’. When questions of faith and what one believes in are raised, the immediate thought is religion.
The world has grown comfortable with defining a ‘religious person’ and a ‘person of faith’ interchangeably. Alas, faith and religion share no definitively true or fitting relation to each other, perhaps merely as awkward step-siblings in their semantic family, but not naturally. The idea of being religious suggests monotonous practice of faith, for the sake of pleasing a higher God or being. Religion is institutionalized faith. It is, quite frankly, almost always a restricting force that inhibits the the essential human desire to flourish and have individual thought.
Religion came after faith. Faith is the original form of believing in something, commonly a God or Gods, then sustaining a relationship with the given deity. It usually withholds the poetic concept that our existence has purpose and faith in God will give our mortal lives fulfilment, through that relationship with the given God(s).
Do I believe believe we have a purpose? Yes. Do I believe faith will make our lives more fulfilling? Yes. Do I believe there is a God? Simply, no. I believe truth is a subjective thing. For me, there is no supernatural being that created the world and no God that I am on this earth to live for, but I have experienced the power God has on other people. In that sense He is real. If God is truer than the very air that we breathe, to one person, who is anyone to dismiss them. I am not asserting this because I want to protect anyone’s feelings. I have no interest in emotive responses to debate. I make this point because I appreciate relative truth. We are all individuals, and it is a component of the human condition that we all think differently, our beliefs on what is true and moral will always conflict somewhere and somehow. So once the subjectivity of truth is accepted, fact and fiction almost become irrelevant in an argument about spirituality.
We can spend the rest of our lives in ignorance, calling each other fools for not believing a certain way, despite the fact we are all products of our environment and likely to think the same way we have grown up and been taught to believe. However, once one appreciates different cultures in a way that doesn’t place personal opinion above ‘alien belief’, we can enter discussion about the importance of faith.
I have desired and attempted finding God, or opening up to the idea of Him finding me. I have lived it, I have had personal experiences and specific encounters, but I know what I believe in. I’ve seen the positives and negatives of, specifically, Christianity and the Church. Witnessing lives change at the hands of God. A God I do not believe in, but I could see the faith of an individual change their life, for the better. This happens all the time, around the globe, in different societies, believing in different Gods and spiritual entities. When a person ‘finds God/ gets saved’, and they live the rest of their life without the distortion of a religious institution, they often prove to live aspirational and successful lives. Of course it is easy to criticise whatever goes against your viewpoint, but may I suggest if it is doing no one harm, and positively altering that person’s life, any critical opinion of personal faith is irrelevant.
So many people live without faith, not necessarily in a God, but in anything. Everyone ought to live for something, with faith in something that inspires them to be a better them, carries them through tough Monday’s, challenges them to question and drives them to succeed. Have faith in tomorrow, have faith in the tide, have faith art, have faith in family, have faith in God, have faith in stunningly elegant Pinot Noir, have faith in anything you feel is good, but before anything else, have faith in yourself.