What’s in it for me? Listen in on the religious reflections of a former American president.
Faith Summary – Billions of people around the world follow religious doctrines and teachings. But even the strictest atheist has faith. Whether it’s trusted institutions, secular creeds such as human rights or simply our blind faith in everyday technologies, we all believe in something.
These blinks argue that, despite their differences, different faiths share a great deal of common ground. Indeed, the major religions have many of the same core commitments, as do religion and science.
So the real question isn’t whether Christianity or physics is better at explaining the universe, but how we use our beliefs to change the world for the better. After all, faith has long been at the forefront of struggles for justice. And that makes it a wonderful resource for those trying to tackle today’s most pressing problems.
In this article, you’ll learn
- why a nuclear physicist has no problem believing in God;
- about American missionaries living under Idi Amin’s dictatorship; and
- how a young Jimmy Carter took on the Ku Klux Klan.
Faith means many things, but it’s always fluid.
Faith is linked to all sorts of ideas. Devotion, commitment, allegiance and loyalty are just some of the more common associations. So what does it actually mean?
Well, it’s hard to pin down a precise definition. Faith can mean different things to different people. It all depends on which lens one uses to look at it.
Let’s start with the broad and secular understanding of the concept. Here, faith usually refers to a belief in fundamental values and the institutions that uphold them. Take the United States. The country has a widely agreed upon set of principles expressing its shared values. These are clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Common principles can also be found at the global level. Think of international agreements ratified by the United Nations. These include the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of wartime prisoners, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Then there’s the religious understanding of faith. Believers form communities based on common values that provide moral guidance in their members’ lives. The Bible’s Ten Commandments are a good example of what those values can look like in practice.
But there’s also a more personal meaning. We first experience faith as children. We learn to trust our mothers; we believe that they’ll protect and feed us. Later on, we begin to establish faith in our fathers, siblings, friends, teachers and others who are close to us.
The one thing these different interpretations have in common is that they’re not limitless. We can lose faith in things we used to value. Friendships and marriages, for example, can break down when we come to think of them as ill-conceived. The same goes for business deals and other practical arrangements.
Another limit is our own behavior. Our faith is challenged when our actions don’t match our principles. Some people might, for example, believe in the idea of racial equality. But they allow selfishness, pride or envy to cloud their judgment and end up disrespecting their African-American or Hispanic peers.
This raises an interesting question: How did we first acquire faith? In the next blink, we’ll take a closer look at why we start believing in the first place.
Faith is blind sometimes, but religious belief is about searching for higher truths.
We aren’t born with faith. It isn’t part and parcel of our genetic makeup or a quirk of our DNA like the color of our eyes. It’s something we acquire after we’re born.
And there isn’t a single source of faith – in fact, our beliefs draw from numerous wells.
Take faith in God. Parents are often the source of religious belief. If we trust our parents’ judgments, it’s easy to accept their creed as our own.
Other types of faith might be rooted in experiences outside the family home. A belief in the truth of science, for example, can often be traced back to a trusted teacher or the common assumptions of one’s community.
These kinds of beliefs are molded early on in life. As we grow older and more independent, we start questioning our ideas and flexing the muscles of our reasoning powers.
But becoming rational adults don’t entail a loss of faith. Indeed, we sometimes begin believing in things that we don’t understand at all. Think of technology. Every day, millions of people turn on their TVs, use their computers or listen to the radio without having the faintest idea how these appliances function. Yet we don’t really need to know how electromagnetic waves are transformed into moving images or sounds – all that’s necessary is that they work!
That’s an example of blind faith.
But there are also other kinds of faith. Some, like religious belief, require a more conscious commitment. Religion is about the higher truths of life and God’s nature – and it’s much more personal than the belief in the functionality of everyday gadgets. We each have our own unique experience of religious faith.
Religion is about the search for answers, which is a quest often accompanied by doubt. President Carter himself has experienced such……
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