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Thread: What is faith?

  1. #41
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mingularity View Post
    A holy book does not constitute a foundation, but evidence does. Here, read this book I found. The book is interesting, by why should I believe it? Because the book says you should.

    That is, indeed, meaningless. It is a dopamine reservoir with a positive feedback loop.

    Many people in this thread are getting lost when discussing faith. They try to save it by equating faith with belief. You can escape this trap by updating your beliefs in accordance with the prior evidence. In this case if you have no evidence, your belief is zero, whereas if you have some evidence then you start to have beliefs. And now you can see that faith is required when there is no evidence.

    Trying to rescue faith using semantic word games is to fall right into its positive feedback loop trap.
    But it's all semantics. Some people use faith and belief to mean the same thing; others do not. The definitions are not that precise and distinct, outside of specialized fields like theology or philosophy. You are then disagreeing with someone because of their customary word usage.

    Same thing with foundation vs. evidence. If you don't think a book can be foundational, how about a few pieces of paper? The U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution are considered our foundational documents. Yes, the first especially lists verifiable grievances against King George, but most of it represents values in which many Americans still have faith/in which they still believe.

    Personally, I interchange belief and faith in some cases. If a friend is worrying over passing a professional exam, I might tell her she'll do fine, just "have faith in yourself", or equivalently "believe in yourself". On a more theoretical level, I would use faith to mean an individual's or group's body of beliefs, with "belief" defined here as those things we accept in the absence of proof. Sometimes we have evidence, but it may be far from convincing. It is almost impossible to go through life without beliefs, even if we understand they may be incorrect and are subject to revision. In one sense, they can be viewed as working hypotheses. It is not wrong to put great stock in them, as long as you are willing to revise them should (more) evidence appear. Until then, though, they are just as valid as anyone's, and are best measured on the results they produce.
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  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite Bubble View Post
    Religious faith or faith in general?
    Just religious faith.

  3. #43
    Member Ojian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mingularity View Post
    A holy book does not constitute a foundation, but evidence does. Here, read this book I found. The book is interesting, by why should I believe it? Because the book says you should.

    That is, indeed, meaningless. It is a dopamine reservoir with a positive feedback loop.

    Many people in this thread are getting lost when discussing faith. They try to save it by equating faith with belief. You can escape this trap by updating your beliefs in accordance with the prior evidence. In this case if you have no evidence, your belief is zero, whereas if you have some evidence then you start to have beliefs. And now you can see that faith is required when there is no evidence.

    Trying to rescue faith using semantic word games is to fall right into its positive feedback loop trap.
    Funny thing that you should mention semantics, because I think you are mixing up the meanings of the words. Belief doesn't necessitate any evidence or a lack of evidence. It is simply an acceptance of an idea. Faith can be a synonym of belief, but I think the meaning carries with it a bit stronger of a feeling behind it. That stronger feeling though can be as a result of evidence, or a lack of evidence. Why else would we have phrase: blind faith. Though I think in in any other reference outside of religious beliefs, faith has the connotation of having evidence behind it.

    "I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow."
    "I have faith in the *blank* system." (ie: justice, governmental, educational, scientific, etc)

    The meaning of the word really then depends on the context.

    Google definitions -

    Belief:
    1. - an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
    - something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.
    synonyms: opinion, view, conviction, judgment, thinking, way of thinking, idea, impression,..
    - a religious conviction.
    - doctrine, teaching, dogma, article of faith, creed, credo
    2. - trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.
    synonyms: faith, trust, reliance, confidence, credence More

    Faith:
    1. - complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
    synonyms: trust, belief, confidence, conviction; More
    optimism, hopefulness, hope
    "he justified his boss's faith in him"
    antonyms: mistrust
    2. - strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
    synonyms: religion, church, sect, denomination, (religious) persuasion, (religious) belief, ideology, creed, teaching, doctrine
    - a system of religious belief.

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ojian View Post
    ...
    There is a big difference between a prescription and a description, and between a description and an implementation. Your dictionary gets you nowhere with regards to what people mean when they use these words in practice, nor what is actually happening in their brains (implementation). Now, as far as I can tell, the implementation of religious faith is, as I've reiterated several times, equivalent to snorting fat rails of dopamine after which more fat rails magically reappear for free. Only self-control can prevent one from heading down the path of unlimited dopamine for life. Underneath that self-control there must be, for those of us who choose that path, the promise of a distal reward. And what would that reward be? The promise of being less wrong.

    Here's a lil' thought experiment to help make the point:

    I'll give you one marshmallow now or a whole bag in five minutes.

    I'll give you 1 million dollars now or 100 million dollars in 50 years.

    I'll give you complete confidence in your beliefs today or the knowledge that your understanding of reality is the best that science has to offer in 50 years.

    Children under 5 years old are pretty bad at this task. As are many adults. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_gratification

  5. #45
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    Talking about semantics: faith is a positive word, while scepticism is perjorative.

    This is evidenced by the fact that most vote for a faith based politician but few vote for a sceptical politician. And in fact most American politicians claim to be men of faith.

    And we call our daughters Faith, while we name none of our children Sceptic.

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    Theta Male Julius_Van_Der_Beak's Avatar
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    My right nipple is named Skeptic. The left nipple is named Equestrius.
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  7. #47
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    Bad-Faith

    Of course even more important than faith is bad-faith.

    For faith is something we strive for, while bad-faith is what we long for.

    We long for bad-faith because we are imbued with ressentiment.

    Ressentiment is bone marrow deep disenchantment, even hatred, of what is good.

    Of course we can't consciously admit we roil with ressentiment, so instead it comes out unconsiously.

    Ressentiment is expressed in the plethora of American revenge movies, and most of all, ressentiment is expressed in our daily betrayal of one another.

    But our daily betrayal of others is not enough to sate our desire for revenge, no, ressentiment demands we betray ourselves.

    And so, although we will never admit it to ourselves, our lives are built on bad-faith.

  8. #48
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mingularity View Post
    Just religious faith.
    Your OP didn't specify faith had to be religious. Why make the distinction now? How is faith in god or some spiritual notion different than faith in democracy, your own ability to take care of yourself, or even your SO's love? You can find evidence for all of these things, but proof of none, and much/most of that evidence will be highly subjective.

    Quote Originally Posted by mingularity View Post
    There is a big difference between a prescription and a description, and between a description and an implementation. Your dictionary gets you nowhere with regards to what people mean when they use these words in practice, nor what is actually happening in their brains (implementation).
    Exactly my point above. Before you criticise someone's notions of faith or belief, you must understand what they mean by that. It might not be what you mean.

    Quote Originally Posted by mingularity View Post
    Now, as far as I can tell, the implementation of religious faith is, as I've reiterated several times, equivalent to snorting fat rails of dopamine after which more fat rails magically reappear for free. Only self-control can prevent one from heading down the path of unlimited dopamine for life. Underneath that self-control there must be, for those of us who choose that path, the promise of a distal reward. And what would that reward be? The promise of being less wrong.
    Not everyone's spiritual experience is like this. Oftentimes, it is quite the contrary.

    Quote Originally Posted by mingularity View Post
    I'll give you one marshmallow now or a whole bag in five minutes.

    I'll give you 1 million dollars now or 100 million dollars in 50 years.

    I'll give you complete confidence in your beliefs today or the knowledge that your understanding of reality is the best that science has to offer in 50 years.

    Children under 5 years old are pretty bad at this task. As are many adults. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_gratification
    Sucker's choices.
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  9. #49
    Wake, See, Sing, Dance Cellmold's Avatar
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    Faith is a useful tool in our human delusions and one of the safeguards that stops us screaming every second.

    I mean nothing to do with religion either.
    'One of (Lucas) Cranach's masterpieces, discussed by (Joseph) Koerner, is in it's self-referentiality the perfect expression of left-hemisphere emptiness and a precursor of post-modernism. There is no longer anything to point to beyond, nothing Other, so it points pointlessly to itself.' - Iain McGilChrist

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    "Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
    Piglet was comforted by this.
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  10. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by mingularity View Post
    There is a big difference between a prescription and a description, and between a description and an implementation. Your dictionary gets you nowhere with regards to what people mean when they use these words in practice, nor what is actually happening in their brains (implementation). Now, as far as I can tell, the implementation of religious faith is, as I've reiterated several times, equivalent to snorting fat rails of dopamine after which more fat rails magically reappear for free. Only self-control can prevent one from heading down the path of unlimited dopamine for life. Underneath that self-control there must be, for those of us who choose that path, the promise of a distal reward. And what would that reward be? The promise of being less wrong.
    I disagree. There has to be some agreement on definitions of words, otherwise dialog is meaningless. Semantic agreement is vital.

    I agree with Coriolis comments to that effect.

    The whole point of my earlier post was to show what the normal meaning of the words "faith" and "belief" most often were, with the understanding that the meanings can change depending on the context.

    I often find myself having this discussion on the meaning of "faith". Frequently, in forums and discussions like this, the meaning of the word is often made to be 'belief without evidence'. And that is usually the definition used and pushed by those against or holding a negative view of religion. That definition is fine if all parties in the discussion agree to it, but I often wonder what word to then use for 'a belief based on evidence'. I also sense that most persons supportive of or in favor of religion would normally balk at that definition.

    In practically all other instances where the word "faith" is used (that is any usage other than religious debates), the word bears a meaning of "belief with evidence". It matters little how strong or not strong that evidence is, but there is something in the way of evidence. "I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow" - has pretty good evidence behind it. "I have faith in the justice system; I have faith in you" - evidence may not be so good (subjectively), but the person saying it has at least something behind their belief. If you have a non-religious, but common usage example of someone using the word "faith" and them not having any reason/evidence in mind, I would like to hear it.

    An extra note: faith defined as "belief without proof" is a really poor definition and makes no sense, it is illogical. Faith invariably has a meaning of hope or expectation in some future action or event. The thing that consists of "proof" would be when the future event occurs, and once it occurs there is no longer any faith. "I have faith that the sun will come up" - the proof is when the sun comes up, but once the sun comes up the person no longer has faith, they have the fulfillment of their expectation. But a person can have evidence for their hope or expectation, and based on that evidence have a high level of trust that it will occur. So then, faith is better defined as "belief with evidence".

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