Saturday, September 13, 2008

What is "faith and belief"?

It appears that central to religion is a “faith” or “belief”. What is faith or belief? We are asked to believe in ourselves, for example, by motivators. They argue that such a belief will bring forth positive behaviour and therefore positive results will ensue. “A positive mind is one that believes”. If you still keep having negative behaviour, it is then argued that you have not believed enough.

This line of thinking positions “belief” as infallible and the starting point. You believe and the cosmos will fall into place. It has nothing to do with how the natural laws relating to the cosmos works or whether you have any rational basis for the belief.

We have heard the argument that religion is not in the realm of reason or rationality. Is this so? If it is so, does it not contradict much of the way we live where we are constantly reasoning out things – even reasoning as ‘trivial’ as how to tie the shoe lace?

Is religion incompatible with reason? Or is there a “middle ground”? How central is the “middle ground”? Sometimes, what is stated to be the middle ground appears to be either too far left or too far right.

Must you believe first, think later? Or does your thinking lead to a belief? What happens if your thinking makes you uncomfortable with your belief?

Which do you abandon when there is a conflict – your thinking or your belief? We know that both faith and reason have their respective roles.

If I tell you that I can make iron float in mid air under normal conditions. You will not believe me. You know that the law of physics and gravity will make it impossible. You know however, that you can make iron float in mid air by being consistent with the law of physics and gravity –airplanes.

In these circumstances, your belief is the product of reason and logic. Your starting point is reason and logic based on available knowledge. You abandon belief in favour of logic when there is a conflict.

How does it work in religion?

In fact, how many who profess to have a religion has actually undertaken a systematic study of their own religion? Or is that unnecessary?

And if I may ask one more question: Is religion necessary to understand God?

Note: no conclusion has been made in this article. Just questions.


mohd asyaharim said...

Salam. I would like to share my thoughts. My understanding of religion is a way of life.In it the most central is belief, belief in an omnipetent entity that created everything and administers it constantly. Acknowledging this fact and living within the scope of this acknowledgement is the best thing in life. This belief i have derived from personal observation in life. I have noticed that life is governed by laws and these laws are constant and it's forces prevails even in the face of extreme oppositions. Thus it is impossible that it exist without a creator and controller. This to me is the first tier of reason and the most important. Reason devout of this equation constantly fails and reason within this equation bears no dissappointment. Through my personal journey I have notice the laws of the universe is that of preserving harmony and foremost signs of the creator. Reasons contradicts its outcome once the reasoning is personal or compartmentalised to benefit only a few. The universe seems to exist in a balance and clearly has an owner. Rogue elements within the universe that challenges this authority and harmony hurts only themselves. Elements in the universe that acknowledges the supreme authority and work within its laws of maintaning harmony, benefits itself and bears no detriment to other elements but rather compliments it. The role of human being seems to be to surrender it's faculties to the supreme authority, adhering to HIS laws of balance and harmony thus benefitting its ownself and bearing no detriment to its neighbours whether they be other human beings, other beings or even inanimate objects. To me the role of belief is crucial to negate dissapointment whether temporary or permanent. Without belief how can we live with the fact that we have no control over our own lives. Well some humans are happy with the thought that they are in control but have they stop to consider the variables involve in life. For us to be in control we must be in control of these variables. This can never be true. Thus to me life i.e. religion cannot exist without reason, and this reason can never contradict belief. If it does than that reason is a rogue element and is doomed to failure. I have no monopoly on the truth, this is my observation of my life in it's short span . Salam.

jahamy said...


Thank you for sharing your interesting insights. In summary, you noticed that there is a "law" that governs the universe and hence conclude that the harmony and the synchronization is so consistent that there must be a creator. You obtained this knowledge through your observation and reflection of the natural laws (if I may call it so). Your reflections and observations must be through the process of reasoning and the use of the mind. Once you able to ascertain the existence of these laws and its nature, then you conclude there is a creator. You believe in the natural laws because you existentially observe and experience. You conclude that there is a creator because of the idea of cause and effect. If this is so then possible 3 points emerges:
1) There are natural laws and humans have to "surrender" to it, meaning co-exist with it and not go against it. eg, you destroy nature, it protects itself by attacking you in turn. In a broader sense, your way of life must be in sync with the way of nature. eg take poison and your body is damaged, etc.
2)You came to a considered and reasoned conclusion that there is a creator and not through merely reading a scripture. You have an understanding and basis for your conclusion or belief. The other possible position that we may encounter is where people express an unthinking belief that there is "God" because some scripture told them so or they feel a psychological need to believe in a superior being.

If the above is so, then your way of life is one that acknowledges natural law and the existence of the Creator that created the natural laws and what it governs. This cannot mean that you believe in a religion as the word has been commonly used and agreed upon through usage.

I would say that acceptance of natural laws is universal and those who do not, do so at their own peril. Everyone can accept or reject natural laws. The rewards or punishments are inherent in these laws itself. You do not need humans to mete out goods or the whip.

Religion on the other is exclusive, it is a club - either you belong or you do not. And it is determined by humans who mete out goodies and the whip.

The universe has space for everyone while religion does not.

Think about this - how many different interpretations can scholars of physics give to the idea of gravity?

Hew many different interpretations can the scholars of religion give to "God", etc?

just sharing. Salam

Anonymous said...

Again we must be careful when using English words like religion, faith etc which are all derived from the Bible's impact upon the English language.

The Arabic Quran says 'IMAN' and 'AMANU' which is translated as 'faith' or 'belief' using the 'religious' precepts of the Bible influenced English language.

What does the Quran say? The Quran says 'Ya aiyyuhalazi na aamanu' which is often (and incorrectly) translated as 'O you who believe'.

The word IMAN and AMANU are derived from the arabic word AMANA. Amana means 'trust'.

For example the Amanah Saham Nasional means the National Unit Trust. So amanah means trust, not faith or belief.

Ya aiyyuhalazzi na aamanu is therefore 'O you trusted'. It is past tense.

The correct translation should be 'O you trusted ones' or 'O you who can be trusted'.

The significance? By tweeking just one word, they have created religion.

'O you who believe' is misleading because it can include people meditating on hilltops (Ya Allah, Ya Allah, Ya Allah), people who zikir inside caves (Ya Allah, Ya Allah Ya Allah), people who seclude themselves inside mosques and madrassahs in 'worship' as well as others who thus isolate themselves from society under the guise of 'religion' and being believers who are full of faith.

"O you trusted ones" is an entirely different cup of tea. You have to go out and earn peoples' trust.

If you are a lawyer, you have to earn the trust of your clients. Dont take them for a ride. If you are a barber you have to earn the trust of your customers. Dont give a shoddy haircut and charge them money.

If you are a husband you have to earn the trust of your wife. Dont cheat on her.

If you are a friend you have to earn the trust of your friends. Do not let them down.

This is 'O you trusted ones'.

It is a life of participation, a life of action, a life of doing things, a life of getting involved - and all of it done with complete trustworthiness.

Sayings like 'a man is only as good as his word', 'we only have our honour and our pride', 'we must uphold our obligations' all refer to the same thing : trust.

Just this one word makes kings out of men. Makes immortals out of mortals. Makes monetary wealth out of almost nothing (this last one is proven).

Ya aiyyuhallazi na aamanu : O you who can be trusted

Anonymous said...

ok...well according to my own reasoning that might be flawed in a way or biased in another based on the difference of nature and nurture i would say that the reasoning to the world or divinity or whatever it is that is the source of religion is all logical.
i think that the basic laws or rules for religion are more or less the same in all of the texts we have as a reference to religion.
Man being the selfish little thing that he is thinks that the world revolves around him and tries to be his own God by controlling the world. which doesnt work really.
However all the thinkers that tried to contemplate on nature and how things work outside of themselves reached a conclusion about divinity in whichever form they called it at the end and this is how the world is controlled and not by them.
after adopting this main belief they have come up with a set of rules that they see fit which have eventually become different religions.
But the main common thing between them all is using logic, one which is not based so much on the senses as senses are flawed in a way, like we can always think we see something then we find out it was a mistake, or an illusion.
however in order to satisfy the masses that are thriving to hold on to something other than their parents and themselves, something to reassure them that their lives have a meaning, they took theses rules from one or the other and took them for granted without paying much attention to the underlining reasoning or logic they have.
i think religions the way they are represented now would be just to control the masses into doing this or not doing that rather than wisdom or piety.
belief however is something that one reaches through their own contemplations.
and that i have to admit is very hard to reach and takes a lifetime or more to reach.
we cant have everything presented to us in a book, that is too easy and very unwise which is not what divinity would be all about.
again as i mentioned before i could be wrong, and if that is the case i would love to see more light someday, its always for the best.

Jahamy said...

Anonymous 9:11

It would be easier for response if you had used at least a nickname. Thanks for your comment. The very fact that you are wiling to explore is already a journey towards discovery. The mind and heart is "funny" - you need to move it for it to move in the correct direction. But most of the time, the "correct" direction is found after going through all the "wrong" doors. This is probably because often times it is easier to identify what is false than to recognise what it true.