Separating Faith from Belief

By Tacey, David | Tikkun, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

Separating Faith from Belief


Tacey, David, Tikkun


IN HIS REVIEW "WAITING FOR SPIRITUAL ATHEISTS" (TIKKUN, MARCH/APRIL 200) Dave Beiden wrote: "Faith is often used as a synonym for belief, but can better be seen as its opposite, if faith is the quality that allows us to go forward in love, service, and joy when we have no certainty. If we have no certainty of belief and no compensating rational hope of progress either, then what stops us from sinking into despair?"

I would like to support these words and expand on them. It is important today to separate faith from belief. Belief is a rapidly diminishing element in human society, especially among the educated and those who are exposed to scientific principles and methods. It is clear that belief is in decline in the West, but we cannot afford to lose faith as well. Unless faith and belief are untied and separated, we will find that the loss of be lief encouraged by science and education leads to a corresponding loss of faith-not only in God, religion, or transcendence, but also in humanity, society, and the future.

Many religious traditions seem to deliberately fuse faith and belief, and this is selfserving on their part. The ideological component in every tradition would compel us to "believe" in their propositions, and claim that this is the only way to "faith." It is said that if you believe in the tenets and dogmas of a particular tradition, you are a person of faith. But many in religious traditions are people of belief, and have not yet arrived at faith. It is possible to "believe" in God, but not to have faith in God, in which case the be lief is merely conceptual or intellectual, and does not involve the whole person in an ongoing relationship with mystery or the universe. Faith is more spiritual and more difficult than belief. It is not the result of intellectual assent to a series of propositions but comes from a spiritual commitment to reality. Belief is no more than intellectual compliance with things presented for our consideration. As such, it is one step up from opinion.

For many of us today, the journey of true faith begins when the safety and assurance that belief provides is discarded, and we stand before the mystery of life, unarmored by dogma or creed. …

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