The Dangers of "Having Faith"
by Michael J. Hurd (October 11, 2005)
Article website address: http://www.CapMag.com/article?ID=4437
Summary: Does it make sense to "have faith" as a way of coping with life?
Does it make sense to "have faith" as a way of coping with life?
Literally speaking, to "have faith" means to suspend reason. Reason includes looking at facts, logic and using simple common sense. Reason is our means of coping and, ultimately, survival. Reason is responsible for our intellectual development (e.g., the Declaration of Independence) and reason is responsible for our technological development (e.g., strong and good buildings that keep our cities from looking like Pakistan after a major earthquake). It's obviously not a good idea to suspend reason.
Sometimes when people use this expression, "to have faith," they are acknowledging the fact that they don't have control over everything and don't know everything. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to recognize, and it is sometimes healthy to simply "let go" of what you cannot control and wait to see what happens. I wouldn't call it "having faith," though.
Exactly who or what are you having faith in? There's no reason to believe that things will necessarily turn out well or turn out poorly, and assuming that someone or something else is taking care of all of this for us can be dangerous to the values of personal responsibility and self-determination. And be careful about something else. There's always a possibility that you
have more control over a situation than you realize, and you have to remain open to seeing that possibility.
If you submit to a state of passivity and even helplessness, you do your psychological health--and ultimately your entire life--no favors at all.
About the Author: Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychologist, psychotherapist and author of Effective Therapy (New York: Dunhill, 1997) and Grow Up America! Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.
This is typical of simplistic Ayn Rand -style thinking. I happen to appreciate Ayn Rand quite a lot but I take a nuanced view of her teachings. Within that community (as with so many others), a great many people have knee-jerk reactions to certain ideas. Faith evokes an emotional response with these people.
Faith is not a suspension of reason, nor is it a giving up of control. (And Control anyway is as elusive a concept as Consciousness and Free Will.) For argument's sake however, and as a practical matter, one can have Faith in oneself - in one's own abilities and competency to handle whatever life will send your way. This can be a quite reasonable conclusion from past experience. One can have faith that things will work out for the best even though you cannot apprehend or anticipate all the twists and turns of events that may transpire or your reactions to them. It is in that last bit however, your reactions to events, where Faith can help you. Faith is the opposite of Fear. If, as we SF geeks learned from Frank Herbert's, Dune, "Fear is the Mind-killer", then I venture Faith is the Mind-nuturer.
Faith becalms the passions that cloud thought thereby allowing for advantageous and desirous responses. This is how Faith, "gets you through hard times." While it may be irrational to believe in a generally-benevolent universe, as a practical matter, one may quite rationally to choose to believe it is so. It makes you a more effective person. Who does not want to be effective?
There is another order of Faith. Simply choosing to believe is not easily distinguished from fervently hoping it is so. This other order is a kind of Knowing. It feels different than just believing. I do not know the source of this though religious types would be quick to offer an answer. It comes to you not by a process of believing long enough but more of a direct access. There is a Sanskrit word for it in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali but I do not have my copy handy. I recall that Patanjali or perhaps someone else broke down the different sources of knowledge:
3. Deduction (arrived at by reason)
4. Direct (revelation)
A strict rationalist may not accept #4 as a valid source or may at best study it as an outsider. (e.g.. "Consider this curious malfunction of the human brain. He claims he is part of the mind of God!") To experience it is something else altogether. It is the same as the difference between taking something on authority and seeing it with your own eyes.
How could direct revelation, this deeper knowledge work? It could be a mental process which is beyond the apprehension of the mind. Can the highest order of mental process apprehend its own workings? I do not yet know.
There lies Faith I am sure.