Q. I have been struggling for some time now. It seems as if my faith is being tested. I am beginning to have doubts. Should I keep my faith?
A. I have always thought that if someone has God in their life that they are quite fortunate. Not because I necessarily believe that this thing called God actually exists but rather that having this faith seems sometimes, from my experience to give the faithful something, a quality of life that feels different, more clear perhaps?
Having faith connotes that the person living the faith knows that the description of reality or ultimate reality they hold really exists. In truth they cannot know but they can believe it exists.
Some would argue that believing in God is an example of ‘magical thinking’. Others would say that there exists no way to prove that God exists; it is easier I think to show products of the belief in God much of which may be considered good and worthy.
Of course many would argue as to the definition of proof.
Alas it is also possible to demonstrate products of the belief in God that contribute to violence, human degradation and endless killing…often in the very name of God. The National Party of South Africa; purveyors of that great social engineering experiment legislating structural persecution and inequality; apartheid, used to claim that God was on their side. The products of this faith resulted in nothing short of evil; bringing untold suffering, deprivation and indignity to millions of black citizens. Is that a faith worth keeping?
Yet what if God through his mercifulness, if he exists, gives us the gift of confidence, optimism resilience compassion and concern for our fellow human beings; surely such a faith would be worthy of keeping.
I was presenting a workshop once with a fellow professional friend of mine. She appealed to me not to describe a belief in God as magical thinking. By doing so, she believed I would be violating the faith of people for whom faith was centrally important in their lives; a faith that gave hope, succour and a sense of not being alone in the world. I don’t think their faith would have succumbed to that view actually.
What I am trying to say is this. It is true that what we believe has a direct link to what we do. If we believe that there is no hope we are probably going to act or fail to act in ways that will impact unhelpfully on our lives. If in having hope derived from a faith in God we act in ways that are optimistic, patient, committed and healthy for ourselves and others or if we believe that God directly gives us optimism, patience, and commitment, does it really matter if God is real or not so long as the holder of the faith believes it to be true?
Faith is a knowledge or belief in a particular reality. Sometimes the testing of faith results in a stronger faith. Sometimes the actual knowing or faith erodes away and simply one struggles to hold the faith.
So what does holding your faith do for your life? What does it make possible and what does it make not possible? What things are open and what things are closed? I think that ultimately faith might be about connection…does your faith pull you away from or towards connection…to yourself, others and the world?
The cautionary note is to not exploit the notion of faith in God to perpetuate immorality, violence and inhumanity. In this life, in this world each of us is answerable to each other, responsible for what we do; whether God exists or not, whether one has faith in God or not, whether there is a world to come or not, whether the human world we live in is considered temporary or ultimate reality.
Why “Magical Thinking” Works for Some People http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=superstitions-can-make-you
George Michael – Faith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu3VTngm1F0