Faith and Doubt


We may look upon faith as implicit belief in the existence or quality of something. Pure rationalists sometimes argue our beliefs should be based on poof and evidence, and not be based on faith. However, it is impossible to go through like without faith in many matters. In the early stages of life, we have faith in our parents, and faith in the correctness of what our teachers teach us. We have faith in the bank where we deposit our money, and faith in our friends. These are matters we accept without any proof. This kind of faith may be called trust
But there is a deeper kind of faith that is associated with religions. This consists of faith in God, faith in the sacredness and correctness of scriptures, faith in what we are told about after-life, and so. Here too one often accepts what one is told without concrete proof or evidence. But there is more to religious faith than this. Sometimes, one may be confronted with logical proofs that go contrary to what one is asked to believe in. One does not abandon one’s faith in such situations. So we realize that:
Faith isn’t just with no proof for it;
It’s belief with proof for the opposite.
*** *** ***
In the religious context, one may argue about particular details and establish or repudiate particular dogmas in the religious framework. But in every tradition there are certain fundamental tenets which have to be accepted without demanding a change. Thus, it is expected that a Hindu believe in karma and reincarnation, A Buddhist will have to accept that Sakhya Muni attained Buddhahood (Enlightenment). One cannot be a Christian without accepting Jesus as the Savior, nor a Muslim without declaring that Mohammed was the last prophet, and so on. Thus, one simply does not ask for reasons why the core doctrines of one’s religion are to be accepted.
Such unquestioning faith is also present in many non-religious contexts. When we board a plane we don’t ask on what basis we should take the flying competence of the pilot. We implicitly believe that he will take us safely to our destination. When we have a meal at a restaurant we assume that the food has not been poisoned. These too are examples of faith.
Faith accepts without asking for reason,
As one eats a meal without thought of poison.

*****
We live on land and feel at home in the stability of terra firma. We are familiar with the territory where we make our lives, and with others who share the same scenes and regions. We form a community wherein we feel safe and secure. One experiences a similar sense of psychological safety when one holds on to a faith system that provides a reassuring framework. Moreover, communal comfort is generated when one is part of a faith community. Thus, faith is relevant to us personally in that it enables us to tread many paths in life’s journey because of its reassuring certainty; and it also provides a sense of collective belonging when we are part of a faith group..
When faith instigates the idea that every aspect of the complex world has been stated correctly in specific sacred books, there is little incentive to explore further. It is somewhat like the belief that the land which one inhabits is all there is on earth. With such a conviction one may not explore the seas to seek what is beyond. Doubt is uncertainty about the truth-content of views, visions or statements. It urges us to seek newer aspects of truth than what we accept on the basis of faith alone. In this sense, doubt may be compared to a sail that enables us leave the shores and look for other exciting realms of which we may as yet be unaware. We may therefore say:
Faith is an anchor: it keeps you on shore;
Doubt is a sail: it helps you explore.

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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