One thing seems to be consistent about religions all through human history; faith in the literal truth of the religion’s doctrines and dogmas is strongest in the least educated and least widely experienced, while the “elite” tend to range from religious beliefs with agnostic admissions to full-blown, cynical atheism. This aspect of societal religion tends to favor the more partisan of each camp; the “masses” are peer-pressured to “show faith” and not think too much, while the “elite” are pressured in the same way to deny ALL aspects of deity and belief and God(s). For those of us to whom seeking understanding of God in a REAL sense, as opposed to a political or emotional/security sense, this is a bit of a hindrance.
To try to avoid the almost inevitable miscommunication that occurs when attempting to discuss God let me define my own terms; belief is not the same as faith; faith is something that causes grief and only causes good by accident, belief is what built civilization as we know it. Faith is defined in Western culture as belief in something unseen, unproven, un-EVIDENCED other than by certain scriptural testimonies; this is a fools game at best!
This pseudo-religion has taken over much of the world’s “Faithful” by taking advantage of that tendency of the masses to desire a simple creed with authority to follow; just so they do not have to ponder things that they do not have the experience or education to ponder with any confidence. It is not enough, their preachers say, to belief in the bridge over the canyon, you must have absolute faith that it IS there… sound of crunching bones at the bottom of the canyon. And if the snake oil social system from perdition they are selling fails the test in the real world then it is the fault of the poor soul who failed to “show enough faith”!
As you can see Virginia, I have never completely gotten over my desire to seek God and lead others to know God better! mea culpa. I still care, I just recognized that all the “named religions” had been co-opted by pirates, parasites and otherwise religious reactionaries who become their own enemies fighting the first two.
Belief on the other hand is based on facts and experience and yes, even intuition, if that intuition has a good track record; if every time you had something very bad happen in your life, and you had ignored a strong, distinct feeling to avoid the situation, eventually you would “believe” in it enough to listen; even though you have not had the “faith” for years to gamble on it not being coincidental indigestion!
I have beliefs, I have no faith; I like it that way. Faith has to be blind, and the blind tend to step on things, including other people’s toes, property, pets and even bridges that are NOT over canyons.
This is not to say that I do not think that many of the things that can fall under either label are good, or useful; far from it! In the documentary film about the life and death of comedian Andy Kaufman (Man on the Moon) there is a scene where he is waiting to undergo a faith healing in India in full belief, from things he has seen and read and experienced, that he would find healing; but he sees from where his stretcher is laid that the “healer” is faking the procedure, and his belief dies.
Of course the proponents of “faith” will tell us that if he had continued to have FAITH, instead of merely believing, the placebo effect would still have worked and he might have found healing; I do not disagree, but I find that level of blind faith an evil, black magic; one that is less a slippery slope than an escalator to horrific abuses that we have seen over and over again in history when people forget the reality of their fellow man and treat them solely according to “faith.” Q.E.D. Virginia, Q.E.D.!
Bottom line? The true God lovers are recognized in spite of their religion, not because of it; every one mostly stays in the religion they were born in, in some religions it is almost impossible not to, yet there are good, godly people wherever you find human hearts and human tears. Unless you want to have faith in the notion that God made you to be born in the faith you believe in just so YOU could be “saved”, while anyone not so favored was caused by the infinite power of Deity to be born in an unGodly cult; if you do, there is a quote from the Christian’s Bible that I believe is appropriate: “Jesus Wept”!