A Commentary on Faith
Someone recently asked me if I am a man of faith. I knew that this person meant faith from a religious perspective, yet being me I took this simple question and expounded on it in thought until I had more thoughts on the subject than ever before.
I've never met anyone who didn't have faith in something. Whether it be in religion or science or technology or their fellow man, everyone I know or have ever known has had faith. Looking back through history, faith is a recurring theme in humanity. From the time when mankind began keeping written records, the subject of faith has been recorded. The ancient Egyptians had a pantheon of gods which they worshipped for everything from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night. They placed their faith in life on these gods and it was this faith that empowered them to go about their daily lives, doing what the priests told them, and obeying the edicts of pharaoh because they thought the gods would punish them in some manner if they didn't. It was their faith, and their fear of straying from it, that made theirs the ultimate in early human civilizations.
One has to wonder if faith in religion is all about serving a deity in the hopes of having something better once this life is over, or if religion itself causes faith in the first place. Religion is also a recurring theme throughout human history. People have had gods and goddesses in who they believed and worshipped for many thousands of years. We have archeological evidence that people were carrying out religious ceremonies even before the advent of writing. So this is something that goes almost as far back as we do.
Why do people need faith? I think the answer is simple. Life has been hard for as long as people have been living it. Getting along has always required hard work, sacrifice, doing without one thing or another, and people have undoubtedly felt the need to develop belief systems that promised something better, something more, and something of a reward for their labors during life. If there wasn't something wonderful to look forward to then what would be the point of all the hard work? Faith serves many purposes and an escape is chief among them.
Faith is something that has been abused by the crafty and the unscrupulous throughout history as well. It has been used to keep the masses in line, to make them obey, and to get them to do things they wouldn't otherwise have wanted to do at all. Look at Adolph Hitler. He preached to the German people of his time that they were a superior race who deserved to be above all others in the world. Hitler used his god to back up his ravings and he condemned millions of Jews to atrocious deaths because of it. He convinced a kind, gentle people to take up arms against everyone who believed differently than themselves, and religion was one of the most powerful tools in his arsenal. And Hitler is just an example. Men like Jim Jones, Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, Osama Bin Laden, and on and on have been using religion to further their own agendas. It comes to no good for them or those that follow them.
So what happens after a deceiver meets his end, leaving his followers to fend for themselves? These people either become disillusioned and lose what faith they had to begin with, or find a new source for their faith and they start over again. It's the latter that generally comes out on top. We need faith so badly that we're willing to take the worst experiences in our lives and use them to sustain our yearning for something higher than us, something in control of everything. Whether it be the Christian god, the Jewish god, the Muslim god, the Buddha, Krishna, or whatever else people worship and believe in, they go to extremes to protect their faith in these deities.
I always hesitate to poke holes in the faiths of others. Because I do know what it means to believe in something more powerful than myself. I know that faith is something very important to the people in my life and I don't see myself as worthy or as having the right to tell anybody that what they believe in is wrong. I am a pacifist at heart and I believe we should live together in respect for each other's beliefs, not trying to extinguish them. I think that this is an ideal we should strive to achieve. Have respect, even we feel disdain, for another's beliefs. This is where I ultimately fall out with most organized religions. I don't see one as being more important or more real than another.
So am I man of faith. I think so. I have faith in my fellow man, up to a point, and I have faith that someday people will learn to live together without all the hatred and intolerance. I don't think this will happen in my lifetime but I think surely one day it will come to be a reality.
I also have faith in myself. I know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to as long as I have the patience to work toward doing so. I can depend on myself because I believe in myself, I like myself, and I've already overcome a great many obstacles to be where I am today.
I have faith in the universe and I believe that this grand journey we are all taking through it will lead us to something. I don't know to what but I do know that even out of chaos order arises and the course something takes once it becomes orderly is set. Look at the concept of the Big Bang. Everything from nothing. In the blink of an eye. Light out of darkness. Life out of sterility. Meaning out of bedlam. Whether there is an all powerful god behind all this I don't know. I am not sure there could be. But I am not sure there can't be either. It's all very intriguingly complicated for one consciousness to be in charge of, I do know that.
So yes, I am a man of faith. Maybe not the same faith as everyone else in my world, but my faith sustains me and it keeps me believing in the meaning of life.