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Faith (a Religious Issue)


Introduction

Religious faith is a confident belief in a religion, its teachings, and its supernatural beings and forces. For most things, our faith is derived from direct observable evidence, but with religious faith, we are asked to believe without this evidence. In most religions, everything that happens in our lives is supposed to happen for a reason, even when it is beyond our comprehension. For the faithful it therefore seems that there can never really be any evidence that contradicts their religious faith, which means there may be no real opportunity to learn the truth about the world.

Foundations

In general, when we have faith in something, we are confident that it is true. The sun will rise each morning, things will fall when dropped, flammable objects will burn when exposed to heat and oxygen, the car will start when we turn the ignition key, and many other things will happen as they always have. For instance, without faith, we might burn ourselves each time we came near a fire. We have faith, not just because someone told us, but because we have seen the truth in it over and over again.

Sometimes we may lose faith in something, such as when the car does not start one morning. On the other hand, faith can be regained. For instance, after the car has been repaired. Sometimes our faith is misplaced, such as when we buy a stock because its price had been rising, but then its price takes a nosedive when people learn that the company has been cooking the books.

We can also have faith in people. Our best friend who is always there for us and will always tell us the truth, the coworker who will always stab us in the back when given the chance, the cashier who always servers us with a smile and a friendly manner, and all the other people who we have become familiar with. Each person plays a role in the story of our lives, but if they change they may not play that role any longer and we would need to find someone new. Therefore, we generally expect and even hope that the people in our lives will not change.

In some cases, we do want people to change because they do not quite fit the role we want them to play, but people have a tendency to stay the same. This is because most people filter the events of their lives based on their interests and beliefs. In fact, some people only see and hear what they want to see and hear. If you believe people are good then you will see the good in them. If you think the world is against you then anything bad that happens will just reinforce that belief, but you will ignore the good that happens. Therefore, it is quite common for people to see and to report the facts of the same event quite differently. For instance, eye witness accounts of crimes are notoriously unreliable, because each person filters what they see based on what they had expected to see happen.

Although we may expect people to always be the same, sometimes they do change, which may be for the better, for the worse or just different than they were. Our best friend may find someone new, our coworker may help us get a promotion, the cashier may become surly, and others may surprise us in a multitude of ways. Therefore, we may lose or gain faith in people. People also have the ability to hide or to lie about their true feelings and intentions, which can lead us to misplace our faith in people even more so than in things, such as when our spouse cheats on us or when we buy a con man’s story.

Teachings

Most people learn about religion from their parents and relatives, and their religious beliefs usually become a matter of faith derived from their faith in those people who are teaching them. Therefore, for the most part, what any one individual believes in is dependent on what his or her parents and relatives believed in, which is heavily dependent on when and where they were born.

This is something interesting to think about. How different would your life and beliefs have turned out if you had been born in a country or region where a different religion was practiced? Just look at anyone with different religious beliefs and try to imagine what your religious beliefs would have been if you grew up as a member of that person’s family. Remember, most people are only taught about one religion, so you most likely would not know much, if anything, about your current religion.

Throughout history, religious teachings have been passed from one generation to the next. At first, this was through just word of mouth. Later, the teachings were collected into religious texts like the Bible and the Koran. These texts tell or show us how we should faithfully live our lives, and are supposed to represent the word of God, Allah or some other deity. The fact is that people wrote these religious texts and our faith is actually dependent on the accuracy and the truth of what they have written.

Let us not forget that people filter events based on what they already believe and how they want things to be. We have all seen how a story or rumor can change when it passes through and retold by a number of people. Some people may mishear or mix up some details of a story and retell it as they thought they heard it, or they may simply forget some of the details of a story and try to fill in the details as best they can, but others may purposefully change a story to make it fit better with their beliefs and view of things or to embellish it to make it a better story.

There are also numerous examples of history being rewritten and current events being distorted by propaganda. With propaganda, when the facts do not support someone’s agenda, that person may simply change the facts to something that works better. In addition, writers will often use their “literary license” to dramatize a story, even if they have to change the facts.

Both the Bible and the Koran were collected from earlier writings, which were written down based on the oral stories passed down through the ages. We may never know how accurately these stories were passed down from generation to generation and person to person, nor if anyone purposefully altered them. What we do know is that scholars have found many discrepancies within the writing in these religious texts. For instance, there are cases were descriptions of a given event differ between books of the Bible. There may not be any way to know how many inaccuracies actually exist in these religious texts, but we do know that these different versions cannot all be accurate.

In addition, there are numerous versions of these religious texts. For instance, there are some versions of the Bible that do not start with Eve being the first woman. Instead, they include stories of how Lilith was the first woman, how she was created as an equal to Adam, how she ran off when Adam would not treat her as his equal, and how Eve was created as a replacement. Why were the stories of Lilith left out of some Bibles? Could it be that the church did not want women thinking that they were originally created as equals to men and that it was the men who wanted to keep them down and that it was not god’s will that they be subservient to men?

What is the bottom line here? There are many different beliefs in many different religions and within the same religion. What most people believe in is based on what their family’s beliefs were, and when and where they grew up. In addition, religion, its stories and its teachings have changed over time and we cannot be sure of how accurately they reflect what really happened or what was taught in the past. Therefore, even though there are many religions and religious beliefs, we only really learn about one of them, and we cannot be sure if our religion or any religion teaches us an accurate story.

Choice

With so many differences between religious beliefs within a given religion, let alone between the various religions, it should be easy to see that they all cannot be correct. Of course, the leaders and followers of any given religion will likely tell you that their religion is the one true religion. They may feel that it is their duty to convert anyone who does not believe as they do to their religious beliefs. Often, this has lead to people trying to force their religion onto others.

Our history has many examples where trying to force someone into a belief has only caused resentment and conflict. By the time most people reach adulthood, they are fairly entrenched in their beliefs. Therefore, there may be nothing that anyone can say or do to convince everyone that some other religion is the correct one.

One of the principles on which the United States was founded was religious freedom. Our founding fathers believed that individuals had the right to decide their own religious beliefs. There have always been those who wanted to impose their beliefs on others, but in order to protect our own freedom, we must also protect the freedom of others to believe as they do. Whenever someone does try to force his or her beliefs on us or others, we must make them aware that their behavior is unacceptable or we risk continued religious conflict.

Another principle that we have is freedom of speech, so anyone is free to talk about their beliefs in hopes of converting someone to their religion, but no one should be forced to listen against their will. If someone does want to talk about their beliefs, then they should also be willing to listen to the views of others with an open mind. Of course, there may be one way to get everyone’s attention. That would be for the one or many true gods, if they exist, to appear to everyone and explain what the truth is. Even if that did happen, some people may still not listen and those that do listen may still hear, through their personal belief filters, only what they want to hear, so people could still end up having different religious beliefs.

The only thing that we can do is to decide what beliefs are best for ourselves. This may be one of the existing religions, a combination of them, or something brand new. Of course, a person could spend his or her lifetime learning about and analyzing all the different religious beliefs and still not be able to decide which, if any, religion was correct or right for them. There may be some basic principles like respect of self and others that everyone should live by, but, other than that, it really is up to each individual to decide what works best for them. I, for one, have looked at numerous religious beliefs and a lot of scientific evidence, and have come up with a set of beliefs that may be uniquely mine.

Next Section

Fundamentalism - How Fundamentalism leads to Religious terrorism and what we can do to stop it.

Last Updated:
Sunday, November 26, 2017
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