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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 6:04 pm 
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What are the reasons for having faith, if neither joy nor certainty of truth is involved? That is, why would someone have faith if they neither thought they had the Truth nor experienced any joy as a result?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:37 pm 
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Prim, I heartily apologize for seeming to foist an idea upon you that wasn't yours. I know how frustrating that can be! Please note that I read your first post in quick succession with Jn's:

Prim wrote:
I'm glad the book is coming out. People of faith are not always, or even often, smugly certain. But that seems to be the widespread impression.


Jnyusa wrote:
I think that this is because there are so many people who are smugly certain, and it takes the rest of us a bit of journey to understand that they are not the ones who have faith.

It's always reassuring to me to find out that a person has been tortured by doubts about their own belief. What could free will possibly mean to a person who had suffered no doubts?

It was a combination of your comments that I was responding to.

Apparently I took the 'smugly' as redundant when you didn't mean it so. I think you're saying that you could have posted the same sentence without 'smugly' and meant something different. Whereas, I would have taken the same sentence along with Jn's observations without 'smugly' to mean essentially the same thing -- that people who believe with certainty are suspect. Without 'smugly', it is their faith or experience that would seem to be held suspect, whereas with 'smugly', it is their character as well as their faith and experience. Again let me emphasize that it was Jn's comments coming upon my misunderstanding of your first statement that led me to this train of thought.

So there are really two separate issues that I perceived (speaking of your and Jn's posts, and having misread yours):

1. Does certainty about one's beliefs imply smugness on the believer's part? I'd say, no.

2. Should certainty about beliefs imply something derogatory about the person and/or their faith? Again, I'd say no.


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Some who don't doubt (or profess not to) are smug about it, dismissing anyone who disagrees with them as stupid or ignorant or inherently evil. Those are the people I was talking about.

Thank you for clarifying on that point!


Alatar wrote:
I think its because Faith without doubt implies that one believes one is right, therefore, by definition all others are wrong

I think this is a common perception people have, yet it's so far off the mark (speaking from my own perspective). Faith without doubt implies not something about oneself, but a perception of extraordinary excellence in the thing believed in. To believe something without doubt is to be utterly convinced that that thing is right, not that oneself is right. Therefore, there is no accompanying, 'all others are wrong'.


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which automatically makes one superior.

People who become Christians (speaking from my doctrinal sense of what that means) are people who believe they need saving. People who believe they need saving are people who are convinced they are wretched sinners and deserving of eternal separation from God. That's why I find it so puzzling that people think Christians consider themselves superior. What is superior about thinking you are a wretched sinner deserving of eternal separation from God? Yes, Christians think God and His plan of salvation through Christ is superior, to put it mildly. But that isn't the same as thinking oneself superior.


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When it comes to matters of Faith, I'd say a lack of doubt is reprehensible. Simply because Faith is about things that are not known, so to have no doubts about something that is not known is naive at best. IMHO.

Given that faith is about things that are not known, I'd say it makes just as much sense not to doubt as to doubt about such things, once you've decided to believe them.

I don't think there is anything innately wrong with naivete (innocence, simplicity).



Faramond wrote:
I read a bit about these letters of M. Teresa, and it sure seems to me that what she primarily suffered from wasn't doubt, but an absence of joy. Her faith no longer made her happy. I think the best way to characterize her doubt is that it came from her despair at losing her connection between faith and happiness. In my judgement is wasn't a doubt that came from the extra-rational nature of faith, which is what people are mostly talking about here.

Thanks for explaining this, Faramond. I can relate to why that would be so devastating.



Frelga wrote:
To me, doubt implies that brain has been engaged. It is resolving doubts that makes faith our own instead of just a dull reflection from someone else's light.

Resolving doubts can serve that function, but it is not only doubt that makes our faith our own. It is all our affirming, joyful experiences as well.


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People who blithely believe what they are told without ever questioning it scare me perhaps more than anything else.

I don't think blithely believing what one is told is at all implied in the idea of believing with certainty. In fact, I would say 'blithe' (without due thought, consideration or knowledge: heedless) is antithetical to the idea of faith, which I would characterize as a deep, inner response to something meaningfully apprehended.


Axordil wrote:
That is, why would someone have faith if they neither thought they had the Truth nor experienced any joy as a result?

If faith is the belief that something unknowable is true (or right), then one wouldn't be said to have faith, if one didn't think the matter of faith was the Truth. Would one?

Perhaps it would help to define faith and doubt for the purposes of the discussion.

I think of faith as conviction.

Conviction and doubt are antithetical, aren't they? I mean, if you doubt something, you are by definition not convinced of it?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:49 pm 
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The problem with that definition if faith, as I see it, Cerin, is that people very often do not experience faith as a conviction that something is true. Sometimes all it is is a hope, or even a wish. Faith can mean saying, "I believe that this is true, but I can't prove it, even to myself. But I choose to live as if it is true."

If only complete conviction is faith, then a lot of us who think of ourselves as believers should not do so. I'm sure most people have at least moments of complete confidence, but it's a pretty small percentage of the time, for me at least, and counterbalanced by moments of intense doubt. Yet I think this is only to be expected.

Note that I come from the perspective that faith can't be proved right by any process of reason or any empirical evidence. Someone who believes a reasoned proof is possible and who accepts such a proof probably would not waver, any more than I waver in my belief that the earth goes around the sun.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:14 pm 
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Prim wrote:
Note that I come from the perspective that faith can't be proved right by any process of reason or any empirical evidence.

I agree, I think that's what makes a matter of faith, a matter of faith.


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Someone who believes a reasoned proof is possible and who accepts such a proof probably would not waver, any more than I waver in my belief that the earth goes around the sun.

I don't consider belief that the earth goes around the sun to be a matter of faith, at least, not to any meaningful degree (meaning, meaningful to a discussion of the kind of faith I take us to be discussing).


To clarify, I was not suggesting that faith can or should only be equated with conviction.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:23 pm 
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Thanks for clarifying, Cerin.

No, the Copernican model isn't a matter of faith! :) I just meant that I have met people who have proved the existence of God through logic to their own satisfaction, and of course having arrived at their conclusion through what seems to them irrefutable logic, there's no longer any room for doubt in their minds.

I've not known many of those. Most people I know who don't have doubts are just a different kind of person from me; they accept what they've been taught, or they accept what the Bible tells them, and see no need to question it. Whereas a lot of us would be one of those people who ask, what's holding up the turtle that holds up the world?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:52 pm 
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If faith is the belief that something unknowable is true (or right), then one wouldn't be said to have faith, if one didn't think the matter of faith was the Truth. Would one?


Ah, but is that truth or Truth, that is, is that a personally held conviction, or is it the Only Truth There Really Is?

What I'm saying is that as I see it, there are two reasons to have faith. One is because it brings one joy/makes one feel better/makes life bearable. The other is because one believes the particular faith one has is the Only True One.

That's not saying one can't have faith that's both. Nor is it saying that one can't have faith in a truth that one doesn't believe is universal...but in that case, one hopes it's a strengthening and joyful faith (I can't imagine a less attractive proposition than a faith that one feels is neither big-T truth nor joy-engendering).

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:25 pm 
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People who become Christians (speaking from my doctrinal sense of what that means) are people who believe they need saving. People who believe they need saving are people who are convinced they are wretched sinners and deserving of eternal separation from God


I really, really don't see it that way at all. It's rather that the thought of separation from God is unbearable- and any person with a conscience is aware how often and how easily one separates oneself.


One place where certainty and smugness manifestly go together is seen in the attitude of one strain of atheism (i.e. Richard Dawkins) which plainly holds that lack of certitude of the nonexistence of God is for deluded simpletons.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:12 am 
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axordil wrote:
What I'm saying is that as I see it, there are two reasons to have faith. One is because it brings one joy/makes one feel better/makes life bearable. The other is because one believes the particular faith one has is the Only True One.


I don't know about that, Ax. I don't believe that my faith has the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth, if only because the Truth = God, which I see as being slightly bigger than a human can encompass in the world-that-is. I believe that we are all reaching for the Truth in our way. And of course, I believe that my faith takes me closer to the Truth than any other faith I know could take me. YMMV. :P

Yes, it brings me joy, but it is not what makes my life "bearable." What it gives me is a moral compass. Whenever I had a choice to make, I have not gone wrong as long as I followed what my faith teaches me.

But certainty has no part of this. I think humility is a more appropriate attribute of faith.

Cerin, I noticed you quoted the first and last paragraph from my post, where the second paragraph was central to conveying my meaning.

Cerin wrote:
I don't think blithely believing what one is told is at all implied in the idea of believing with certainty. In fact, I would say 'blithe' (without due thought, consideration or knowledge: heedless) is antithetical to the idea of faith, which I would characterize as a deep, inner response to something meaningfully apprehended.


Right, that's what I was saying (in that second paragraph :P ) Certainty attained through due thought and consideration is a happy quality and deserve a bit of blitheness.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:40 am 
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Frelga wrote:
Right, that's what I was saying (in that second paragraph ). Certainty attained through due thought and consideration is a happy quality and deserve a bit of blitheness.

It still seems to me as though we're saying different things. Due thought and consideration don't necessarily include wrestling with doubts (but perhaps it's the concept of doubt that we're thinking of differently).


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But certainty has no part of this. I think humility is a more appropriate attribute of faith.

See, here is another unexplained juxtaposition of certainty that would seem to say that certainty this time, implies a lack of humility. The certainty isn't certainty about oneself, it is certainty in the goodness and greatness of something else, which is itself a manifestation of humility (recognizing something vastly greater and better than oneself). I just don't understand this thinking, that associates certainty of belief in something other, with derogatory character attributes in the believer.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:18 am 
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Yes, it brings me joy


Well there you go. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:41 am 
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axordil wrote:
Of course, it probably matters what one has faith IN too. I could have absolute faith in my own error, for example. :D



I share your faith, Ax.


Can we pray together?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:56 am 
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solicitr wrote:
One place where certainty and smugness manifestly go together is seen in the attitude of one strain of atheism (i.e. Richard Dawkins) which plainly holds that lack of certitude of the nonexistence of God is for deluded simpletons.



I love it when people talk about me.



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Wheresoever one or more of me is gathered together...no wait, that's not right... ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:00 am 
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Ax :hug: bt

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:20 pm 
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Get a room, you two!

;)


Again, I still very much agree with Cerin as to the meaning of certainty and humility.
But I'm thinking that maybe there's a different idea of what constitutes 'doubt' behind the disagreement?
Because, Frelga, you say that your faith gives you joy. But if you were not certain of your faith, if you found yourself wondering time and again whether God really existed or whether you were maybe just a victim to a giant swindle, and things like this...how could it still give you joy? I think that joy can only come with certainty.
So, that's why I wonder if maybe we mean different things when we talk about 'doubt'?

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:39 pm 
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I just don't get how anyone can be "certain" about something that can't be proven. Thats just strong belief, surely, not certainty?

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:43 pm 
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I would also expect that joy tends to come from certainty. But I would not expect that certainty is a constant thing, so I would not expect joy to be constant either. I must admit that if someone told me they were constantly joyful, I would check to make sure my wallet was still in place.

A request that people, myself included, keep some circumspection to the discussion. We have skated around the lip of this particular volcano before from other directions with unpleasant results.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:52 pm 
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That's a good request, Ax. I have been enjoying reading this discussion (though I haven't found much to add myself), and it is definitely an important subject, but also a potentially volatile one. The more people keep that in mind, the more likely it is that there will not be unintended hurt feelings.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 4:15 pm 
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Alatar wrote:
I just don't get how anyone can be "certain" about something that can't be proven. Thats just strong belief, surely, not certainty?


I "get" it, though I share your concerns about why it could be problematic. You can have a strong emotional (spiritual?) "certainty" about something, even as the logical/analytic parts of your mind admit that you cannot "know" that thing - in the sense of earth-based/human understanding - to a certainty.

Those of us who value human-comprehensible logic to a fault may feel that this emotional "certainty" is not true "certainty," but that doesn't change the fact that a believer may experience it that way. I emphasize "may" because it sounds as though some religious people (e.g. Prim) do NOT experience faith that way, if I'm understanding correctly.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 4:30 pm 
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How does one know when one is certain? When one feels the hallmarks of certainty--in this case, joy. I suspect this is true even for those of us who are strangers to faith. We see the proof, and we acknowledge the proof, but it is only when we feel the click in our heads that it becomes for us truth. I can recall seeing geometric and mathematic proofs and exercises that were quiet literally like that... Perhaps what I felt then was wonder, which is really a kind of joy, isn't it?

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