by Morley Evans
On this first day of the new year, we can turn our faces toward virtue, embrace truth, justice and mercy and walk toward the light.
Faith in world religions
See also: Role of faith in the Baha'i Faith
In the Bahá'í Faith, faith is ultimately the acceptance of the divine authority of the Manifestations of God. In the religion's view, faith and knowledge are both required for spiritual growth. Faith involves more than outward obedience to this authority, but also must be based on a deep personal understanding of religious teachings.
By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds.
Main article: Faith in Buddhism
Faith (Pali: Saddhā, Sanskrit: Śraddhā) is an important constituent element of the teachings of the Buddha—both in the Theravada tradition as in the Mahayana. Faith in Buddhism derives from the pali word saddhā, which often refers to a sense of conviction. The saddhā is often described as:
- a conviction that something is
- a determination to accomplish one's goals
- a sense of joy deriving from the other two
While faith in Buddhism does not imply "blind faith", Buddhist faith (as advocated by the Buddha in various scriptures, or sutras) nevertheless requires a degree of faith and belief primarily in the spiritual attainment of the Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on the understanding that the Buddha is an Awakened being, on his superior role as teacher, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual Doctrine), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism is better classified or defined as a Confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and is intended to lead to the goal of Awakening (bodhi) and Nirvana. Volitionally, faith implies a resolute and courageous act of will. It combines the steadfast resolution that one will do a thing with the self-confidence that one can do it.
As a counter to any form of "blind faith", the Buddha taught the Kalama Sutra, exhorting his disciples to investigate any teaching and to live by what is learnt and accepted, rather than believing something outright.
Ethical Culture is a humanist religion that centers on living an ethical life. With its emphasis on human worth and dignity, it asks that all actions elicit the best in others in order to bring out the best in the self. The faith is in the interrelatedness of all people and in an improvable future in this world.
Sikhism, founded in 15th-century Punjab on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev and ten successive Sikh Gurus (the last one being the sacred text Guru Granth Sahib), is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. This system of religious philosophy and expression has been traditionally known as the Gurmat (literally the counsel of the gurus) or the Sikh Dharma. Sikhism originated from the word Sikh, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit root śiṣya meaning "disciple" or "learner", or śikṣa meaning "instruction".
Main articles: Sikhism and Sikh Gurus
The core philosophy of the Sikh religion can be understood in the beginning hymn of the holy Guru Granth Sahib
There is one supreme eternal reality; the truth; imminent in all things; creator of all things; immanent in creation. Without fear and without hatred; not subject to time; beyond birth and death; self-revealing. Known by the Guru's grace.
Guru Nanak, the founder of the faith, summed up the basis of Sikh lifestyle in three requirements: Naam Japo, Kirat Karni and Wand kay Shako, which means meditate on the holy name (Waheguru), work diligently and honestly and share one's fruits.
Main article: Faith in Christianity
Faith in Christianity is based in and on the work and teaching of Jesus Christ. In this way Christianity declares not to be distinguished by its faith, but by the object of its faith. Faith is an act of trust or reliance. Rather than being passive, faith leads to an active life of obedience to the one being trusted. It sees the mystery of God and his grace and seeks to know and become obedient to God. To Christians faith is not static but causes one to learn more of God and grow; it has its origin in God. In Christianity faith causes change as it seeks a greater understanding of God. Faith is not fideism or simple obedience to a set of rules or statements. Before the Christian has faith, he must understand in whom and in what he has faith. Without understanding, there cannot be true faith and that understanding is built on the foundation of the community of believers, the scriptures and traditions and on the personal experiences of the believer. In English translations of the New Testament, the word faith generally corresponds to the Greek noun πίστις (pistis) or the Greek verb πιστεύω (pisteuo), meaning "to trust, to have confidence, faithfulness, to be reliable, to assure".
In Hinduism, Śraddhā is the word that is synonymous with faith. It means unshaken belief and purity of thought. Faith is recognized as a virtue throughout all schools of Hinduism, although there are various interpretations of the role of faith in one's daily life, its foundation, and what rests upon it. Some schools more strongly emphasize reason and direct personal knowledge, while other schools of thought more strongly emphasize religious devotion. In chapter 17 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna mentions the three gunas of faith: Faith rooted in sattva, faith rooted in rajas, and faith rooted in tamas. Those with sattvic faith are said to worship the devas, those with rajasic faith are said to worship demons, and those with tamasic faith are said to worship ghosts and spirits.
Swami Tripurari states:
Faith for good reason arises out of the mystery that underlies the very structure and nature of reality, a mystery that in its entirety will never be entirely demystified despite what those who have placed reason on their altar might like us to believe. The mystery of life that gives rise to faith as a supra-rational means of unlocking life's mystery—one that reason does not hold the key to—suggests that faith is fundamentally rational in that it is a logical response to the mysterious.
Main article: Iman (concept)
Faith in Islam is called Iman. It is a complete submission to the will of Allah which includes belief, profession, and the body's performance of deeds consistent with the commission as vicegerent on Earth, all according to Allah's will.
Iman has two aspects:
- Recognizing and affirming that there is one Creator of the universe and only to this Creator is worship due. According to Islamic thought, this comes naturally because faith is an instinct of the human soul. This instinct is then trained via parents or guardians into specific religious or spiritual paths. Likewise, the instinct may not be guided at all.
- Willingness and commitment to submitting that Allah exists, and to His prescriptions for living in accordance with vicegerency. The Qur'an (Koran) is the dictation of Allah's prescriptions through Prophet Muhammad and is believed to have updated and completed previous revelations Allah sent through earlier prophets.
In the Qur'an, God (Allah in Arabic), states (2:62): "Surely, those who believe, those who are Muslims, Jewish, the Christians, and the Sabians; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve."
Main article: Jewish principles of faith
Although Judaism does recognize the positive value of Emunah (faith/belief) and the negative status of the Apikorus (heretic), faith is not as stressed or as central as it is in other religions, e.g. Christianity. It is a necessary means for being a practicing religious Jew, but the ends is more about practice than faith itself.
The specific tenets that compose required belief and their application to the times have been disputed throughout Jewish history. Today many, but not all, Orthodox Jews have accepted Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief. For a wide history of this dispute see: Shapira, Marc: The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Series).)
A traditional example of faith as seen in the Jewish annals is found in the person of Abraham. On a number of occasions, Abraham both accepts statements from God that seem impossible and offers obedient actions in response to direction from God to do things that seem implausible (see Genesis 12-15).
In the Jewish scriptures it refers to how God acts toward his people and how they are to respond to him, it is rooted in the covenant established in the Torah, notable Deuteronomy 7:9 (New American Standard Bible)
"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, (the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments"
Very rarely does it relate to any teaching that must be believed.
Criticisms of faith
Allegory of Faith, by the Spanish sculptor Luis Salvador Carmona (1752–53). The veil symbolizes the impossibility of knowing sacred evidence directly
Rationalists criticize religious faith arguing its irrationality, and see faith as ignorance of reality: a strong belief in something with no evidence and sometimes a strong belief in something even with evidence against it. Bertrand Russell noted, "Where there is evidence, no one speaks of 'faith'. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence."
Many Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that there is adequate historical evidence of their God's existence and interaction with humans. As such, they may believe that there is no need for "faith" in God in the sense of belief against or despite evidence; rather, they hold that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that their God probably exists or certainly exists.
Faith as religious belief, has been advanced as being desirable, for example for emotional reasons or to regulate society, and this can be seen as "positive" when it has "benign" effects. However, rationalists may become alarmed that faithful activists, perhaps with extreme beliefs, might not be amenable to argument or to negotiation over their credulous behavior.
In the rationalist view, belief should be restricted to what is directly supportable by logic or scientific evidence. Robert Todd Carroll, an advocate of atheism, argues that the word "faith" is usually used to refer to belief in a proposition that is not supported by a perceived majority of evidence. Since many beliefs are in propositions that are supported by a perceived majority of evidence, the claim that all beliefs/knowledge are based on faith is a misconception "or perhaps it is an intentional attempt at disinformation and obscurantism" made by religious apologists:
There seems to be something profoundly deceptive and misleading about lumping together as acts of faith such things as belief in the Virgin birth and belief in the existence of an external world or in the principle of contradiction. Such a view trivializes religious faith by putting all non-empirical claims in the same category as religious faith. In fact, religious faith should be put in the same category as belief in superstitions, fairy tales, and delusions of all varieties.
—Robert T. Carroll
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins contends that faith is merely belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking. He states that it is a practice which only degrades our understanding of the natural world by allowing anyone to make a claim about reality that is based solely off of their personal thoughts, and possibly distorted perceptions, that does not require testing against nature, has no ability to make reliable and consistent predictions, and is not subject to peer review.