A Question of Faith
By Chris Wilson
For those of a religious persuasion the title of this chapter may cause concern, but unfortunately, for such individuals, the title must stay, for, as we shall see any basis of faith, or at least many elements of faith become questionable when they are examined to the full. Why so, because, faith, any faith, is at best only based on currently available information, and at worst it is based on a mere hunch or potentially convenient conjecture, and yet we all cling to our own particular brand of faith as it were a life raft in a storm.
This being said the notion of faith, very much like a life raft, offers solace, support, and comfort to us all, as it acts as a point of reassurance and reference when times are hard. As such it deserves both our time and attention and, what I would like to do is to split subject into two separate areas, then bring them together to form an informed cohesive union. In this chapter the concept of orthodox faith will be reviewed followed, in a later chapter by apparently non- faith and scientific approaches. Finally in this, later chapter, both strands will be merged as one and a possible harmonious future for both explored. That is still to come, so let us now move outside of what we know, and move into strange and mysterious worlds whose power seems to enthral and enchant us all. Lets talk about faith, let’s try and work out what we really believe in.
It is very hard for us to know what our ancient ancestors believed in as no tangible records exist, but by reference to ancient writers and archaeological data certain inferences and conclusions may be drawn. From such sources a pattern emerges, whereby mankind seems to recognise external powers or power well beyond its control. Once recognised, or imagined, a point or points of reference were possibly created and accepted in order that others might know and understand about what was all around. From such a base this special meeting places have been formed whereby power from this source might have been channelled to the believers, and where corresponding tokens of gratitude were maybe given.
As stated this is largely conjecture, but whatever the precise details of early belief it is fair to make the following six assertions. There has always been a need for mankind to believe in something or somebody outside of his control. If you wish to convince a community of this power a point of reference is needed. In order to perpetuate such a belief some recording system or transference system must be utilised so as to inform the generations to come. It makes sense to incorporate a reward and/or punishment system so as to either attract newcomers to the cause, or to dissuade resident cause members from leaving or forming antagonistic groups. Any such message or reference point must be transferred in a mode or system the community understands, and finally such transference must have a variable nature in order to reflect both cultural and language diversity.
Why this particular assertion group, because it makes sense within a human matrix or community to develop this way, and if you, as a set of believers, don’t operate this way, some other group will, and in doing so they might pinch your followers and, more importantly, your power. If this argument is correct, and historically and logically I assert it almost has to be correct, might not all the world recognised religions or codes of living have developed this way, and to this very day has anything really changed? After all don’t we all hold onto one strand or another deep within us all, and don’t we all think that what we believe in is probably true?
One of the major dilemmas facing any faith provider is substance, for try as you might the power source you so earnestly believe in probably has no form. As early religions formulated a lot of their belief systems from the power of nature around them, it was easier for them as at least objects associated with such power were there. Sure they could not demonstrate the power itself, but the interpretation of such power is always easier when channelled through a tangible form. Advanced faith however has no such comfort zones, for in truth be told there is no evidence say that of conceptual belief, and certainly no proof in any location or setting we know. Quite simply there is nothing there. Think of a pine tree bending in the wind, how would we really demonstrate air passing through its branches, let alone demonstrate its power to move? We might point to the movement of the trunk and the branches; we might tell our companion to feel the movement of air on their face, and finally we might try to explain what air is, and that without air all parties would both be dead. To a neutral observer hoewever, would that really be proof?
The pine might have been pulled rather than pushed, the sensation we call air and wind might be caused by other elements and forces, and as regards the technical data, so what. We say we are alive but we might all be in a dream where, as we know, anything is possible. In light of such difficulties can any one faith claim superiority, or justify suppression or destruction over or of another, and how can they do so when the very root source is probably or potentially the same?
So it is we are potentially sold a dream, over and over again, and, strange creatures that we are, we not only accept what we are told, but probably continue to buy such dreams over centuries to come. Is it right that we follow our dreams, maybe yes, maybe no, it all depends on their usage, and it all depends on whether they are used to build or to kill?
On the positive side individual and/or communal faith can bring many advantages, as it can bring hope where there might be despair, and it can bring confidence to light many a darkened mind. Most importantly though it can give a sense of purpose which we always seem to need, Despite having a staggeringly powerful brain, and despite our undoubted powers of intellectual and logical reasoning we still, as a species, seem to look further. We seem to need these nebulous worlds, despite the fact that we may never see them, let alone prove that they are there. In reality the dogmas, doctrines, artefacts, and creeds of all the great faiths stand as nothing beside this desire, for can they be proven to be any more than handy representations of this far greater power? Might not all the great faiths be as the pine tree; an emblem, or a token, pulled or pushed by cognitive or non-cognitive powers?
We need to source this power though, so maybe there is a role for the advanced religions within this world, but not, I feel, as a series of separate forces. Keep cultural richness by all means, keep the lingual and iconic diversity we all need to understand, but why should we not all work as one to maximise such a wonderful energy flow? If truth were told might we not have already done so over the centuries past? Have not all the great religions built upon the wisdom, the yearly celebrations and the communal spirit of older faiths that have gone before? For example look at Christmas, whose celebration is it really. Pagan, Roman, Judaic, Christian or Hindu, take your pick, they all hold celebrations at that time; and so many themes within those celebrations intertwine.
On the negative side we cannot seem to do so, and this is where the crimes of religion really begin to kick in. How much more killing must occur in the name of religion, how much more greed, suffering, suppression, theft, cruelty, ignorance, and hypocrisy, must the world endure? Are other disciplines, outside of accepted faith, any better, most assuredly not, for all must share the blame, but what others do outside of religious belief cannot wash away what lies within.
Can we absolve ourselves of blame, and just blame the clerics, no, how can we as are we not the ones who, through our support and attendance, have put them there, and do we not support them to this day? Such is faith, and such is the paradox of faith that befuddles, confuses and mystifies us all. Will we give up our dreams, and go to cold logical reality; will we merely look to what is only there? I do not see how as dream we will and, seemingly, dream we must, that I think will never change.
If we do believe there is often, but not always, one dream that we all such believers adhere to, or desire to behold. This is the notion of life after death, or a re-location to a happier, or possibly more painful location. This is the area we will discuss next, as well as looking at reincarnation, other powers that may or may not lie around us, and the potential presence of souls or spirits that have, as yet, not moved on