http://dualitynature.blogspot.com/ Duality Nature Project: How to have Faith

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to have Faith

Faith is a wonderful ability and powerful tool in our lives if we choose to use it. Most I would think are familiar with the concept of faith healing or healing by faith. In the medical profession this is generally termed a placebo. The placebo is a very important concept in medicine and it is used extensively, particularly in medical testing. When drug companies are testing a new drug, they need a control group to test it against and compare it to. The control group in this situation is the placebo. A placebo is actually an inert substance, usually sugar, that is given to the patient and appears the same as the other "legitimate" pills which contain the active drug that is supposed to cause some sort of affect within the body such as alleviating pain or some type of bodily healing. The strange thing is though, that often enough, patients who are given "fake" placebo's are sometimes healed just as effectively as if they had been given the real drug. The reason is faith.

When a person believes they will be healed by ingesting a pill, even though that pill is inert, then apparently, as far as anyone can tell, then they are healed. That is to say, they are healed by their belief that they will be healed; by their faith. No doctor or medical professional has so far been able to scientifically explain this, but that doesn't necessarily negate the value of placebo's in the first place from the medical community, which is why they are still used extensively, but it does create quite a stir among them. Intelligent people and people of authority, like doctors, just hate when they aren't able to explain a thing. As a result, a lot of times most people have no idea what placebo's are or how they work. In a way, the placebo discredits the doctors and the medical community, because if people can be healed by some simple sugar wrapped up real nicely in pill form, then why do we need doctors?

But we really do need doctors, so you can see there is quite a lot of disinformation on this topic, which I would really rather not go any further on as it may lead to a rant on corruption, bigotry, and ignorance. So instead I will focus on faith: What it is (or at least what I think), how it works, what it can do, etc... To do that though, I have to get religious. Well.... perhaps I wouldn't myself consider this to be religion, as I believe I am fairly objective overall, with very little subjectivity compared to most so as to remain unbiased to better understand and comprehend the truth. But I can see how someone might.

Faith is really the topic of spirituality then and as a result is firmly entrenched in religion. It is very difficult to talk about faith without also touching on religion but as I said I will be doing my best to remain objective. Personally I prefer not to think of myself as religious, but spiritual, however I do feel a strong attraction to Christianity as preached out by Jesus Christ in the New Testament, so that is what I will be focusing on, as it is really the source of my interest to begin with.

As a young man I struggled with faith. I am naturally a logical person, and that makes me skeptical. I was never raised religious and rarely went to church as a child and teenager. God was rarely, if ever, spoken of in my immediate family. Ironically however, I took an interest in the bible at an early age. I remember one of the few times I did go to church, I think once to be exact, possibly twice but I don't really recall, was when I was about 8 years old. When I came back from church, I had my very own bible, which I started reading. I remember vividly reading it and reading revelation. At the time it seemed amazing to me (still does). I wondered at the words written and was so fascinated that I traced the bible.

When I say I traced the bible. I literally mean I traced the bible. I don't know why I did this, it just seemed like a cool thing for me to do. I held the bible up to a window, placed a blank piece of paper over the front, and started tracing the words one by one. In hindsight, looking back, that seems a very strange thing for an 8 year old child to be doing. Especially one who had never, to his memory, attended church before in his life.
That was the last I really thought of the bible or religion and spirituality again for a long time. When I was 15, that all changed again.

When I was 14, almost 15, a year or so after my mother remarried, I was made to go to church. I naturally resisted. At this time in my life I was very interested in books. I read all sorts of books, mainly classics and encyclopedia's. These were the day's before I knew of Wikipedia, and Wikipedia at this time was only a year old I believe so I used old fashioned encyclopedia's in paper/book form in my pursuit of knowledge. The classics I read were some of the very best: The Odyssey, Don Quixote, Animal Farm, The Catcher in the Rye, and even Harry Potter (ok, maybe not all classics). I also started listening to the radio a lot. I would listen for music, then I began listening to talk radio shows like NPR and even, believe it or not, Rush Limbaugh. I was very impressionable at this age, as I imagine most are, and absorbing massive amounts of knowledge and information about the world I was in. Eventually me listening to the radio I chanced upon another type of program, one that was of a religious nature.

I remember listening for long periods of time. Trying to grasp everything that was said in the program I was listening too. The ideas presented were fascinating. There was this deep and blatant question: "Is it True?"

Allow me to explain. What I was hearing sounded good I suppose. But my memories of the incident or time tell me I was also very interested in the time in finding a place to belong. I wanted to know the truth but I also wanted to belong. I listened to the men on the radio preaching. They sounded genuine but the ideas presented were not the average run of the mill. I listened for a long time and decided to make a leap. I started to accept what they were saying as I felt it was the only way to find out if what they were saying was true. Gradually I began praying. More and more I prayed as I listened to these programs. I devoted considerable amounts of time to this. It seems somewhat amazing to me now that I had done this at this age but basically I was searching for the truth and so was praying for that. I had never seen god, and had very really been to church or anything like that. At the time I didn't even recall the incident of tracing the bible when I was 8 either as it didn't occur to me as something significant until much later in life so I was really in the dark on the subject. I prayed for truth and prayed for answers: I wanted to know: Is god real? I asked god to give me a sign, proof, anything that I might believe. I needed a sign because of course I am a logical person. Here I am reading huge books at 14 years old, you can imagine I am naturally a very analytical person and didn't leave much room for faith. Perhaps that was my downfall. At the time I didn't know what faith was. In fact I didn't start seriously thinking about faith until I was 17 and I didn't feel confident in having faith until I was 18. When I was 17 I was actually a determined atheist. That decision had been made when I was 14 though. I was an atheist for 3 years.

So you are probably wondering what happened by now if you got this far. What happened was I ended up praying a lot and I never received an answer to my question: "Is god real?". I decided at the time that I should devote my time to other things and that there was no evidence for god so it simply wasn't an issue for me: I became an atheist.

I was an atheist for 3 years and that peaked at the age of 17. I basically thought people who believed in god were moronic fools and perpetrated science as humanities only legitimate hope. Science, I thought, was key. Needless to say I didn't know very much. For all my reading and intelligence, I was really lacking. If I had only read or was familiar with placebo's it might have been different. If I had known of placebo's, I might have been better able to wrap my head around faith. As far as I was concern, faith was a meaningless emotion that I had no reason to experience. I was a cold and calculating human machine: I was a fool.

Shortly after my 18th birthday, the game changed again. Something traumatic happened to me in my life and I reached out to the unknown. That unknown was god. This time around, though, something different happened: I made a serious leap into faith.

It was truly the first time in my life that I experience faith. I recall the day, the exact moment, vividly. It seemed as though the heavens themselves literally opened up to me. I felt a presence I had never before felt in my life. That presence, I was/am sure, is God.

From then on, I knew and began to know God. I poured over religious texts. At first I simply read the bible. I    spent a tremendous amount of time doing so. After I read more and more, it led to interests in other scriptures and texts. I purchased a copy of the "Lost Books of the Bible" from the book store and poured through it. I was introduced to the supernatural world.

It didn't stop there. I soon discovered Buddhism, Taoism, and Kabballah, among others. I am somewhat ashamed of this, that I would read occult things without a proper understanding. In a lot of ways I rushed in to something dangerous and it was a struggle to stay a step ahead of that at such a fragile age. These were really dangerous ideas I was getting involved in, and getting ever more dangerous the deeper I looked. I discovered negative things in addition to the positive things. That things have opposites and there is an evil component in addition to the good component per say. One day the evil got to me and I did something I regret and would rather not share here but in which I managed to lose my faith.

The incident where I lost my faith happened shortly before my 19th birthday (I was born in June). I did not stop believing in god though. By this time it was not about believe anymore. In my mind, having experience and read so much, it was no longer a question of belief: Logically I had now perceived that there was beyond a doubt a god. Although I will not relate the incident to you exactly as it happened I will say that the reason I chose to give up or lose my faith was because I had felt that god abandoned me in my greatest hour of need, up to that time. An event happened to me that was out of my control and I asked god for help and, after feeling like the help wasn't sufficiently given, I literally decided I no longer liked god the same and more or less lost my faith.

I have never since regained the faith I once had, but I have made great strides. I sincerely regret my actions and regret losing my faith more than any other thing in my life that I regret. It has been nearly six years since the incident and I have grown tremendously since in many other areas and am now much more confident and getting stronger in my faith. In my journey to do so I have picked up a few tricks to faith and found a pretty good definition of it in the process.

The definition of faith I have discovered is not big secret. It is philosophically defined in the best selling book of all time, the bible, in Hebrew 11:11:

Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, though not beheld.

I believe this means many things, among the obvious of what it states that faith is invisible and it is based on fact or evidence. It not really a difficult concept though, that something could be invisible yet real. Of course we know that now, gravity for example, is invisible. Two-thousand years ago they didn't so much though. Most people believed what was in front of them and didn't think about such things. Life was hard enough as it was. Faith must originate somewhere though. I hate to speculate too much on the subject. I will leave that for my thoughts and not for my writing, but I can say with relative certainty that faith has a dual nature.

The dual nature of faith, is saying that faith has an opposite. The opposite to faith is doubt. I am not intending to imply that doubt is evil, but I do agree that doubt may be used for an evil purpose(s). To some extent faith maybe effectively be able to conquer doubt, but in areas where this is proving difficult due to a lack of faith here is a trick to conquering doubt:

Doubt Negates Doubt.

In a situation where a person is attempting to increase their faith, it is useful to remove doubt. One way to remove doubt which hinders faith, is to doubt the doubt which hinders faith: As our minds may come to thoughts of doubt in our beliefs, our God, or our spirituality, it is useful to remove those doubts by doubting their power to do so: by doubting their validity to be true.

4 comments:

Phaedrus said...

Isn't this kind of reasoning all a bit suspicious? If a belief cannot survive your own doubts, do you really believe it?

If all that is required to believe is faith, then do all gods and supernatural entities exist? If the argument is "God exists because I have faith," Then all that is required for any supernatural being to exist is faith (faith in fairies, Allah, Shiva, Unicorns)

Why is it sinful to entertain a doubt about your opinion? For that matter, why is some extraordinary leap of faith even necessary?

If god is real, then we don't need to appeal to faith. If the idea of god does not sit well with the evidence and reasoning presented, then we should reject it and it would be a moral wrong to seek to cling to it by giving it some privileged exemption from critical thought.

David Ramsay Steele states that "Faith is always at war with truth, because if we try to make ourselves arrive at a predetermined conclusion, we run the risk of not dealing honestly with the evidence"

Someone who refuses to entertain any doubt or counter-argument that might cause them to change their views already believes that his/her views are shaky and poorly acquired. In what sense then are they really YOUR views? If you are not allowed to question your own beliefs and justify them, then are they yours? Of course not! They have entered your mind without the consent of your deliberate reason (which god, if such a creator exists, probably gave you to discover his existence right?). Such a person who cannot entertain doubt has just crossed the boundary between *actually believing* something and pretending to believe something. If a belief cannot survive doubt, then you don't believe it bro.


Faith allows the justification for all the atrocities committed by religion throughout history.

Derek Staroba said...

I make the argument that faith is based on evidence, otherwise why should anyone have faith or why should anyone even ever conceive to have faith? I would argue that the very fact that we, as thinking beings, do, is a testament to it's usefulness. The scientific method is based on faith, because we use science to reason out what we can immediately comprehend from basic senses like sight or touch alone: Faith is required to accept things things; faith is required to accept any abstract idea which does not have an immediate physical reality, and by further extension, faith is required to accept everything because no one can truly be sure of anything except perhaps that "I think, therefor I am" (Descartes)

Phaedrus said...

if it's based on evidence, isn't that just a belief and not faith? Define faith for me in simple terms if you will. I always thought it was a "leap". Something you believe without evidence. Are you redefining faith to help your argument?

Derek Staroba said...

I'm using the same definition of faith that's in the new testament of Hebrews 11:1 as "faith is the evidence for things not seen" I present Faith as more like abstract knowledge: what you reason to be true with your mental ability but which cannot be directly perceived by the senses. I believe this would be the same or similar argument of empiricism vs. rationalism and revolves around idea's such as Plato's forms or the essence elan vital.

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