Saturday, May 26, 2007

Interfaith Event: Faith

While I was in Europe, the sixth Interfaith Blog Event took place. As I wasn't able to get to a computer around the time that it was posted, I am now getting around to posting my response to this month's question. So here it is.

Welcome to the sixth Interfaith Blog Event! In each installment of this monthly series, we'll take a look at a single topic from the perspective of our different religious traditions. I am writing from a Pagan/Unitarian Universalist perspective. Mike, from Unknowing Mind, writes from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and Jon, from Jesusfollowers Journal, will be writing from a Protestant Christian perspective.

And introducing our two new members: Jeff, from Druid Journal, writes from the Druid perspective and Matt, from Journeys In Between, writes from an Evangelical Christian perspective with influences of Wicca, NeoGnosticim, Yoga and Zen.

The topic we'll be discussing today is the following:

What is your view regarding the meaning and the role of faith? What importance does it play in your community and in your daily life?
(Links will be provided as they become available)
[Jon's Essay] [Mike's Essay] [Jeff's Essay] [Matt's Essay]

The Meaning/Definition of Faith

One of the first questions that comes to mind when talking about faith is "What is it?" According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of faith has many parts to it:

(1) allegiance to duty or a person
(2) sincerity of intentions
(3) belief and trust in and loyalty to God
(4) firm belief in something for which there is no proof
(5) complete trust
(6) something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
While we have this formal definition, we also have the connotations that go along with the word that also tell us something about the meaning. Words that come to mind when thinking about the meaning of faith are hope, trust, belief, relationship, complete confidence (in someone or something), love, peace, religion, intuition, gut feeling and wishing. And I'm sure that everybody reading this can think of other words as well. Faith is a much bigger concept than just a irrational belief (i.e. - not based in fact) in something that can't be confirmed by our senses.

As the word "faith" is used for so many purposes and has so many connotations, it is sometimes difficult to come up with a meaning for the word that everyone would agree with. Because people have different ideas of what it means, it has almost become a word that is not to be talked about in some circles (religious or otherwise). One reason why this might be (especially in Pagan circles), is that some definitions of faith give the impression that to have faith in something/someone, one must follow blindly and believe what is presented to them. I have noticed that there are not many Pagans that discuss faith in regards to their religious views because of this very idea. Pagans as a whole do not like to think that they are blindly following anything. However, there is more to faith than just believing that something is true.

The Role of Faith

Faith is not something that can happen over night; it is something that needs to be developed over years. It is something that is developed as a result three ideas - believing, practice, and experiences. While most ideas of faith revolve around believing, we can't forget that putting belief into practice, as well as the experiences that result, helps us to strengthen our faith and make it personal.

But there has to be a balance between all three of these ideas for faith to be personal. I think that making faith personal is what should matter. If one has faith in something, but it is based on someone else’s beliefs, it would not be an authentic faith; it would just following the words of someone else. For faith to be authentic, it has to based on all the three of mentioned ideas of belief, practice and experience.I see the role of faith as helping to discover and bring about a deeper, personal understanding of our religious belief through these three ideas.

The Importance of Faith

As I mentioned before, I really don't think that the concept of faith is seen as overly important in Paganism. Sure, people have faith in their beliefs, their gods, and their experiences, but they necessarily talk about it in terms of faith. The concept of faith has too many strong connections to Christianity for many Pagans. I think that we need to learn to express our faith, no matter what our beliefs are.

Part of having faith is making your views known. Declaring your faith in something, either to others or just yourself, helps to not only to come to an understanding about your beliefs, but also helps to strengthen those beliefs.

Faith in My Daily Life

I admit that I have a difficult time putting my beliefs (and experiences) into practice. Part of my problem is that I tend to intellectualize my beliefs rather than listening to feelings and intuition. Understanding for me tends to come from facts, research, and study. I forget that there is more to understanding then knowing "facts;" understanding can also come many other areas of my life.

Even with this dilemma, faith is something that I try to keep in mind on a daily basis. I know that sometimes I tell myself that it is a matter of not “having enough time” or it is a matter of not knowing what to do to express my beliefs and faith; I have to change this. Instead, I know that I need to make the time for practice and realize that knowing what to do comes through my experiences. Even though I know that, it still is difficult. I am coming to realize that the concept of faith is much more complex than just pure belief.

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