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BoBo1946's avatar

What is faith?

Asked by BoBo1946 (15285points) December 26th, 2010

Faith has been discussed here so much recently, and after watching “Miracle On 34 St,” got to really thinking about what faith meant. In the movie, the comment was made, “faith is believing when commonsense tells you not too!” That is just hit me…. How true.

What is your definition of Faith?

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20 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Faith is believing in something even with no evidence.

bkcunningham's avatar

@BoBo1946 the definition given in Hebrews 11:1 is very thoughtful and works for me.: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


Coloma's avatar

For me it is just a ‘knowing’, coupled with many 11th hour reprieves and ‘miracles’, that have taught me, PROVEN to me, to trust in something bigger than my own lowly ego.

There is much truth in ‘surrender’ no matter how much ego wants to try to force and control.

Let go and let ‘God.’ ;-)

Cruiser's avatar

Faith is believing in something you really want to be true despite certain little details that might get in the way. ;)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@BoBo1946 : GQ. Faith is something I feel is correct even though I have no evidence for it.

OpryLeigh's avatar

For me, personally, faith is believing that everything is going to be ok even when it seems like my world is falling down around me. Although I do believe in some kind of higher power, I don’t believe that, in order to have faith, you need to be religious. Faith can be about your own inner strength as much as it can be about belief in a God.

kess's avatar

Faith is “the knowledge of Truth…....”

So therefore one with little faith is one with Little knowledge of Truth.

The one with much faith is ine with much knowledge of truth.

They both will boast of having Faith,
But the one with the knowledge of Truth , Faith is far more effective.

Faith may seems illogical, but only to those who are still ignorant of Truth.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Faith is also believing in things despite growing evidence that the belief cannot be true!

JLeslie's avatar

I think faith has multiple meaning.

One is believing in something with no evidence.

Another is using it almost synonomously with the word hope. For instance: having faith something will work out when times are tough. This can be used assuming God has a hand in it, or that he does not.

Faith can be synonomous with confidence also. example: You need to have faith that you can accomplish what is necessary to acheive your goals.

wundayatta's avatar

Faith has little to do with scientific truth. Perhaps religious Truths, but not scientific truth. Faith, as others have said, is believing things without any evidence. Faith is useful for many people, because they don’t know the science involved in the situation they seek knowledge about.

Faith is also used in other ways. “I have faith in you,” is similar to saying that “I trust you.” In a way it is similar to the first meaning. In the absence to evidence to the contrary, you believe a person is trustworthy, so you have faith in them.

Faith is about explaining the way people or the world works without having much evidence to back it up. In other words, faith is a theory. As such, it is useful when we are trying to figure out what to do in a situation where there is no evidence available to help you make the decision.

bkcunningham's avatar

@wundayatta I realize this is an opportunity to post our opinions, but if I may, with all due respect to you, say something about your statement. “Faith is about explaining the way people or the world works without having much evidence to back it up. In other words, faith is a theory. As such, it is useful when we are trying to figure out what to do in a situation where there is no evidence available to help you make the decision.”

It just made me think of customary examples people give when explaining faith. I have faith that when I flip the switch the lights will come on. I turn on a faucet, water comes out. The one with the H will produce hot water. I have faith that my vechicle will start when I turn the switch. I do all of these things without much thought. Just blind faith. All of the things are faith based on prior evidence that this will be the outcome when I do the things. Although I’m not a plumber, mechanic or electrician, I have faith of the outcome when I do these actions. I have faith when I sit in a jet, that the plane will lift and I will fly to my destination. I’m not a pilot and no very little about aerodynamics, but I have faith in something so complicated that I’d risk my life with that little thing called faith.

I have faith that when my husband says he put money into my checking account. I don’t call the bank before I use my debit card. I have faith, based on prior evidence that he does what he says. I have faith based on evidence that when I type these letters on a keyboard, someone with the avatar wundayatta will read the words in a place unknown to me. I have no idea how it will happen nor could you make me understand how it works, but I have faith that it will work.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham I would not use faith in the examples of flipping on the lights, or hot water coming out of the faucet. Not unless it had not been working for several days and I was hoping it would magically happen again.

bkcunningham's avatar

@JLeslie really? Perhaps your lifestyle is very different from mine. I have lived my entire life with that faith in any home I’ve lived in unless there is a storm that knocks my electricity out temporarily (or some other reason for the electricity to be off temporarily). Then I have faith some person I may never see will turn my power back on. I even exercise that faith when I go into the home of strangers, friends or into rooms in places too numerous to list.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham There is tons of evidence my faucet will turn on. I don’t really need to have faith in it, not the way I use the word. I use faith when it seems difficult to believe in, whatever it is.

bkcunningham's avatar

@JLeslie just to show you what I mean, what evidence do you have that your faucet will turn on? I mean what are a few of the tons of examples of the evidence you say there is that water will come out each time you mindlessly turn the handle without faith it will happen.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Because it has done it a hundred times before. I understand what you are saying, I am just explaining how I use the word.

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham What you are talking about is not faith. Rather, it is evidence-based actions. You turn the faucet because you have noticed a cause and effect relationship that almost invariably works. If it stops working, you assume there is something that a plumber can fix, not some magical hitch in the system. What you call faith is what I would call a model of the world that has a lot of evidence to support it.

Faith is a model of the world with no independently verifiable evidence to support it. I don’t know. Perhaps we should be talking about big F Faith and little f faith. The terminology gets muddled a lot because we tend to throw around words in everyday talk trusting that people will know what we mean. Mostly, we get away with it.

When we are asked to define it, any number of things might happen. We might all give a personal explanation, and we all listen, and say, “aha, there are commonalities here,” or we might look at other people’s explanations and try to pick them apart and tell them how they are wrong.

I don’t think we necessarily have a disagreement. I think it is more likely that we use the words differently, or we use them the same, except with different emphases. To resolve our apparent difference might require careful definition of terms and a lengthy discussion of all the different ways we use the term.

I think the way you use the word is shared by a lot of people. I think that I use the word that way in normal, everyday talk. It’s just how we talk about it when we don’t think too much about what we are saying.

However, lately there have been a lot of questions about believing and having faith, and I’ve been thinking about it more. I realized that I don’t like to use those words in certain contexts because they encourage people to think I think something I don’t. In other contexts, I’m perfectly happy to say I have faith and I believe this and that, because it doesn’t really matter if people think I think magic is going on.

An interesting (to me) side point here is that lately I have been experiencing a lot of magic. I have absolutely no faith in it, but it is kind of cool to see weird purple glows around things as I drive along at night. It’s weird to make guesses about people based on very little information and to find out I’m right. It is weird when I experience something very similar to what someone else is experience at exactly the same time, except we are thousands of miles apart. Makes me want to believe in ESP or magical powers, but I don’t. I’ll wait until the evidence comes in on this. I think it is likely that there are explanations I haven’t thought or heard of yet.

So I try to distinguish between two different ways of modeling the world. One is a model for which you have evidence, and the other is a model for which there is no verifiable evidence, but there are feelings and testimony as evidence. You may call the former faith, but that’s not faith to me, although I understand why you use the word.

The latter, I hope, we can both agree is faith.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“Faith” means not wanting to know what is true.
—Friedrich Nietzsche

This is, of course, a deliberately polemical statement on the part of Nietzsche. He does not mean it to be taken literally, but rather is pointing to a potential downfall of faith. We only need faith when we lack justification for our beliefs; but we sometimes stop looking for justification—or worse, become blind to countervailing evidence—when we have faith.

I would say, then, that faith is when we believe in something without sufficient evidence to justify our belief. It involves a certain amount of trust in the unknown, and so objects of faith cannot also be objects of knowledge. That is to say, it is inappropriate to say both “I have faith that x is true” and “I know that x is true” unless “know” is being used emotively in the second sentence to express not literal knowledge but some form of strong confidence (e.g., faith).

I have specifically left the word “proof” out of this because the standards for proof are often held very high. Some go so far as to assert that absolute certainty is required before we can say that we have a proof of anything. A belief can be justified and reasonable, however, without being absolutely certain. Therefore, I will contrast what is held as a matter of faith not with that which is certain, but that which is justified.

bible4girl's avatar

My definition of faith is when you have a religion and you live it out. Im a christian and faith for me is that when i struggle with thinks,i pray to God that he can help me through it. Faith makes a person stronger as well. Both personally and religiously. Faith is nothing if you just believe it. I think that we have to actually live it out and show others who dont know, what faith can do.
There are many ways to describe faith, but what im describing is faith for religion.

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