Our world is built upon faith. When you close your eyes at night, you have faith that you will awake in the morning. Kissing your partner goodbye on the way to work, you have faith that you will be able to kiss them again upon your return. When you sit down in a chair, you have faith that the chair will not collapse underneath you. Faith is the belief that reality is ordered and that you understand the direction of that order. It is when your faith is shaken that you begin to doubt. Doubt is the beginning of skepticism which is the unbelief of faith. Skepticism is the belief that reality is ordered and that you understand the direction of that order. In both cases, your perception of reality is built upon faith; faith in your ability to perceive what is true.
We live on a medium sized planet in one of a billion solar systems in our galaxy, which is one of billions of galaxies in the Universe. Our species has only been present on the planet for some 100,000 to 200,000 years compared to the 4.5 billion years that the Earth exists. In other words, we live on a small, insignificant planet at the fringe of our galaxy and believe to know the order of reality! How is that for arrogance? Maybe we are fast learners, or maybe we have no idea about anything. The knowledge we believe we possess is based upon the data provided through our five senses and the efficacy of our intellect. From these limited tools, we have formulated our conception of reality. We believe this reality to be true and have faith that it will not disappoint us.
Science attempts to advance understanding by postulating theorems or hypotheses which it then proceeds to test within a controlled set of parameters. If these theories prove to be consistently accurate, they are eventually considered laws. For a scientist, a scientific law is irrefutable. Understanding is not necessarily a prerequisite for faith. In fact, understanding is often the demise of faith. When you believe you understand something, your mind stops searching for alternative answers and the conversation ends. It limits your ability to look beyond the obvious into the undiscovered.
Faith in God is to some as irrefutable as a scientific law. I remember teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution to a 9th grade biology class several years ago. When asked about the similarities in bone structure between mammals and the degree of identical genetic material between species, some students responded that it was because God had made it so and that there had been no evolution of species. Some believe that dinosaurs and fossil evidences are a lie and that everything was created exactly as it is now by God some ten thousand years ago. How do you argue against unshakable faith? Why would you? However ridiculous they may seem, propositions based upon faith are inviolate until subjected to doubt. Doubt, once again, opens the mind to explore other possible viewpoints and explanations. It is the destroyer of faith. Doubt introduces chaos into order and uncertainty into certitude.
All religions are faith based. They support their faith with documents and texts that have filtered down through the centuries and hold the teachings and proclamations of exalted holy men and prophets. The faithful believe it to be the words of God or Gods and thereby, irrefutable evidence of its truth. Accepting that, they then also accept the interpretations of those words by church representatives or holy men into established religious doctrine. The degree of faith of the converts then determines the extent of their convictions and their adherence to the edicts of the doctrine.
Faith is the fairytale we tell ourselves about reality. It is the story of who we are, what we are doing and where we are going. It is the answer to the hopeless confusion and uncertainty which surrounds us from the moment we exit the womb. Without faith we would be adrift in meaningless sensations. Faith provides order and direction to our world. It gives us a sense of purpose. We know that we do not yet understand the underlying order of things, but we have faith that, given enough time, we eventually will. Faith are the fabrications we tell ourselves to make the unknown more bearable.
Whether you consider yourself a person of faith or an agnostic; a scientist or layman; a sceptic or just someone trying to get through life, your reality is founded upon faith. Doubt is that little voice that keeps you honest and open-minded. Listen to it when it speaks and remember that, “You know nothing John Snow!”