Living with faith

Atheists often ask how anyone can base their lives on things for which there is no evidence. Things which they argue are manifestly not even true. Sometimes it seems as though belief and disbelief are the only options open to a person. If you’re even slightly philosophically minded, pure blind faith is virtually impossible. The questioning mind demands to know why, how, and what if? For some druids, personal experience offers a strong enough basis not for faith, but for a sense of certainty that the world works in certain ways. And then there’s the rest of us.

I’ve come to think that belief and disbelief are not the only two positions available to me. I’m going to play out the options by poking some issues.

I don’t think anyone knows what happens when we die. Some people have vivid past life memories, but I don’t know if that’s reincarnation, an ancestral remembering, something about the nature of time, or a brain malfunction. And even if you do remember a previous life, it is no proof there will be lives to come, just as remembering yesterday is no proof that tomorrow will happen. Near death experiences, ghosts, and other paranormal things encourage people to think they know, and yet everything we know about biology makes it hard to see how consciousness continues after death. I must add that everything we know about biology makes it hard to explain how consciousness occurs during life as well.

So my first held position around the afterlife, is one of total uncertainty. I do not know. Holding that thought, I can then go on to say that I believe there is more, and for me reincarnation makes sense. I find I can hold belief as belief, without having to believe that it is fact. It works just as well for gods. I do not know if gods exist, I choose to believe that they do, whilst recognising that this is a position of belief and not an assertion of fact.

I live guided by my beliefs, but these beliefs all hold within them the awareness that I could be wrong. So, for example, while I mostly believe in the possibility of reincarnation, I live this life as though it is the only one I have, because that’s a far more pragmatic call. My belief in gods leads me to honour and respect them, and seek insight, but at the same time my doubt requires me to take full responsibility for myself and not hold out too much hope for divine intervention. I don’t find I need any proof of anything, working this way. Not least because it makes me very aware that ‘proof’ is a flawed, subjective thing and largely isn’t available anyway.

I choose to believe in other things too. I believe that justice matters, that life should be respected, I believe that life is rich with meaning, and that everything we do, matters. These are also faith positions, with no ‘proof’ to back them up. Most values are in fact faith positions, based on beliefs we have chosen. I believe we can make those choices consciously. I would rather be the person who lives a life shaped by positive beliefs and aspirations, both about other people, and the nature of reality as a whole, than someone who chooses a perception that is gloomy and hopeless. I would rather assume the best of people. I would also rather have faith in myself, and those close to me, than choose not to, even while I still retain my capacity to doubt.

I have no idea if there’s a technical name for holding a space that encompasses both belief and disbelief in this way – if anyone knows what it’s called, please do leave a comment.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Living with faith

  • Ali Lilly

    To my understanding, what you describe here is the original meaning of the word “faith” when used in a spiritual context. In recent times, “faith” has come to mean mostly “blind faith” or superstition. But I think the older connotation was faith as a kind of trust, a willingness to hold certain ideas, practices and relationships as valuable even in the face of acknowledged uncertainty. Etymologically, the word “faith” is related to the same Proto Indo-European root that has the meaning of “to stretch out, reach out, offer, present.” (Related, f’ex, to the word “bid” in “I bid you farewell.”)

  • bish

    Most excellent post. Sums up my position winderfully. 🙂

  • bish

    ok, “winderfully” may be down to the large forage-based lunch I’ve just enjoyed. Let’s try /wonderfully/ :p

  • connie

    A very rational and well-thought out philosophy and sums up a lot of what I believe in too. To believe or not believe. Some non-believers hold onto their position so fanatically that they are, quite literally, believers. Believers of a lack of something to believe in. Almost a religion in itself! You’re right that there seems to be a tendency for folks to be one or the other. To me, it came down to a decision. I understand that there is a certain amount of science that we know, much that we don’t, and some we might never figure out. Some of that which we don’t understand, might go beyond ‘science’. Can I prove that? No. Can anyone? No. So, the decision is… which equally valid theory do I WANT to pursue? Belief or unbelief? With or without being able to ever prove either. Me? I choose a divine option full of limitless possibility because, well, why not?! I like possibility of having a bit sparkle-y magic in my reality, even if I can’t prove it real, it makes my soul happy.

  • Terry Mace

    Dearest Nimue 😉

    As always, an excellant post. As an ex-philosophy student you may find, ‘Ocram’s Razor’ a useful construct. Ocram, a philospher was asked similar questions by his peers. He offered in summary the follolwing paraphrased construct:

    ‘If I live as if God and Heaven exist, even though I hold no knowledge, fact or information to attest to this consideration, then, once dead, having lived as a Christian or follower of a kindly faith to others it would seem rational to assume I would be granted entry to the kingdom. However, believing nothing and following my own best interests in life assures me of nothing either. Thus, even if I am wrong to have walked a life of Christian kindness, I shall have lost nothing by my ‘good’ life upon my death for others will remember me as one who was kindly. If I am upon death proved correct that to have done so was my makers design, it is a bonus to the life I’ve already lived and I for one will enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven greatly. Thus, I shall believe in God, Heaven and being kindly in a Christian way, for, to do otherwise is to live no more or less than an empty life with perhaps at the end of that life an empty space called death.’

    The idea where another hedges or balances such ideas is often refered as using ‘Ocram’s Razor’ as a construct. Sadly, little seems to be on the internet about this idea so in this sense I’ve taken some creative liberties with the concept.

    Speak to you soon…

    Terry 😉

    P.S. ‘The Awen’ is in process and coming on…

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