Everyone wants to have faith

Everyone wants to have faith, wants to believe. The offer of meaning, the promise of an afterlife, it challenges people.

Some believe that faith is the absence of reason. That it is the act of refusing to accept what is true and instead live in an imaginary world that makes you feel better. Others believe that faith is a gift. That faith is just something some people have and others don’t and there is nothing anyone can do to change that.

But faith does not work like that. Faith is simply a way of talking about trust. To say I have faith in someone is to say I trust them. I believe their claims about themselves. This is different to faith as a gift, because it is a conscious choice, but different to a skill, because I am not attempting to delude myself.

We have faith in the world around us. I walk around trees because I trust that if I attempt to walk through them, I will hurt myself. I do not need to test my thinking on every new tree I see. If I did, this wouldn’t be a triumph of rationality; it would just take me a long time to get anywhere. We have faith in the government. We do not feel the need to arm ourselves when making long journeys. We do not stockpile food in case of civil war or maintain private armies, because we trust the government to keep order and defend us from those who would harm us.

The government is a good example of how we do not all have equal faith. Not everyone trusts in the government as much as others. Some people advocate for their right to bear arms, worried that without them they will be at the mercy of the government. Then there are groups such as Sovereign Citizens who outright reject the legitimacy of their federal government.

Whilst some ideas enjoy the trust of almost everyone, faith in God seems to have been lost by a great deal of people. But it would not be true to say that all people who say that there is no God have lost faith in God, as many do not live that way. They continue to believe in morality and at least one universe, despite being unable to explain why either exists. However, on some of the most important aspects of life, they live without faith at all. Consequently, they are constantly changing direction, making little headway towards anything.

Christians believe that faith in God is not something that is earned, but that it is freely given. And it is something which will be given to those who ask.

That is not just abstract reasoning. It closely mirrors my own path to faith. When I went to university, I was living without faith in a God. If you had asked me, I would have said my hopes lay in anarchism and social revolution. If you had observed me, you would have guessed that they lay in sex and alcohol. I believed society when it told me that they would make me happy. That was a lie.

I had some Christian friends who, I came to see, had beliefs very similar to the ones which I professed. They had dreams about a better society, a world without suffering, without conflict. But their beliefs had practical implications in their lives. From observation and experimentation I learnt that their way of life led to community, hope and a freedom from guilt. An unprecedented sense of joy then followed, along with my burgeoning faith in God. This was not simply the result of an experience of a new community; it was both less and more. I had to wrestle with my internal demons for many sleepless nights, but my faith did not leave me as I moved to a new city, leaving behind friends, family and everything which felt safe and familiar.

Ultimately, faith is something available to anyone who will reach out and grasp it. If I wish to learn Physics I will read books, attend courses and talk to experts. I will ask for help where I do not understand. If I don’t do these things, would it not be fair to say I have no desire to learn Physics? Similarly, if I wish to grow in faith, I should read books, and learn from those who have more than me. If I don’t do these things, then do I really wish to have faith?

My experience is that faith in God is deeper and more complex then faith in a government, faith in friends, faith in money or even faith in what I can see directly in front of my eyes. It is an intellectual struggle and an emotional struggle. But it leads to far greater rewards.

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