- Religion and Philosophy»
- Atheism & Agnosticism
Faith. Do we need it?
The Philosophy Of Lack Of Belief
One of the best tools I have come across is a lack of belief. Isn’t that just the opposite of what every religion tells us? We are told from a very young age to value faith and belief; and here I am telling you belief is all a crock.
Don’t believe anything at all.
This is probably the most critical point I want to make. There is no reason to believe anything, and belief in anything can lead to problems. We are taught that sometimes choices have to be based on what we “believe” is the answer rather that what we know is the answer, in the absence of ultimate facts.
But do we really have to “believe” in those choices? No we do not. We merely have to speculate on what the best choice will be. Just like gambling. We do not have to believe it.
I have said before that we must accept facts. That is, of course, logical. But lacking belief in anything at all probably sounds impossible. It isn’t. All that is not a fact is speculation. It is as simple as that. It may turn out to be true and it may turn out to be nonsense. One can not hang their complete trust on anything except facts. But when it is a fact, there is no need for belief or trust. Belief in a fact is redundant.
This is brought home best by the idea of faith. Faith is the ultimate degree of belief. If one knows something in advance as a matter of fact, then faith is made meaningless. The only way faith makes sense is when it is defined as putting your complete trust in an unknowable. The religious often take this to the extreme and continue to have faith even in the face of contrary evidence, and are proud of it. That’s not logical.
Seeking answers is not for the faint at heart. Religion assumes it knows the answers, and those it doesn’t know its gods know. Have faith. You’re covered. For some that’s a compelling stance. Religion isn’t meant to be logical. It is meant to cater to the subjective aspect of humanity. Science is interested in objective reality. Both the subjective and objective are aspects of reality, and not as separate as some might think. But we don’t have to believe anything at all, let alone have faith.
If you want to find the answers, it doesn’t matter whether a god knows them or not. The idea is for you to know them; and you can’t do that through belief. In fact, belief is something people make part of themselves. Then, when the facts are in and the belief shattered, the individual has a hard time bouncing back. It’s like a divorce. I’ve been there. I have had to change my way of thinking many times in my life. Some of those experiences were very hard. When I discovered that belief was not required for having opinions on the way things work it saved me a hell of a lot of heart ache.
Existential suffering is not required, but it can be overcome. However, one has to know how. The way to end the suffering of shattered faith is simply to not have any.
It is true that suffering teaches. But what does it teach? It teaches the way out of suffering. If you feel guilt for what you have done, make restitution and never to do it again. Learn from what you have done. Doing it again only continues your guilt and your suffering. Nothing can be gained from that. Same goes for world views. If your world view has fallen apart, learn from it. Don’t try to hang on to it. It will only mean unnecessary suffering.
To me, the first lesson in disposing of suffering and clearing the way for truth is: Don’t believe anything. If it isn’t a fact, it is speculation. Speculation is sometimes something to be pondered to be sure; but it is not the answer. If you are wrong about something you have speculated about, it doesn’t matter. If it is a fact, your belief is not required, just your conditional acceptance of it. If something is fact, your belief in it or against it is equally beside the point. Belief in a fact is redundant. Belief in speculation is irrational.
This does not mean one can’t plan for the future or that one can’t have hope. It does not mean one has to give up in the face of overwhelming odds. Lack of belief doesn’t mean a lack of will. Hope is nothing without action. Thought is nothing of substance without action. Faith is not a requirement of action. Belief is not a requirement of action.
So how can one act without believing in their actions? Without having faith that their actions are correct? How can you put forth a case for something unless you believe it to be correct? Don’t we all have faith in some form or other? After all, faith is the belief in something uncertain or unknown. You are supposed to have faith in god, faith in your employment, faith in your relationships. Why then am I trying to tell you not to believe or have faith in anything?
I am telling you this because faith in anything unknown is faith in speculation. Faith in anything known as a fact is redundant. Faith can always be broken. Trust can always be broken. And when it is, you suffer. If you believe your spouse is faithful and you are proven wrong, you suffer. If you lose your job you suffer. If your philosophy or god, or faith in anything is shattered, you suffer.
Suffering teaches us; so we need it. Yes it does. But what is it teaching us? Again, it is teaching us the ways to avoid suffering. When we suffer it is an indication that something is wrong. It may be something wrong physically, or it may be something wrong mentally. Right it.
Why do we ask the big questions? Is it just for the sake of knowing? Or are we hoping to do something with that knowledge? For most of us, particularly in our teen years, but for many far beyond, people are looking for a way to feel good about themselves; to feel comfortable in their own skin. Suffering is an indication of something that needs to be corrected; be it in our behaviour or in our way of thinking. Most often it is in our way of thinking.
Expectation is another thing one should strive to avoid. It causes a lot of problems when it is not met. My suggestion is to not expect anything. But that is harder than having no belief. One is justified in expecting certain things, like being treated with dignity and common courtesy. One is justified in expecting people not to do violence to each other. One is justified in expecting others to hold up their end of a bargain or contract. But for the most part when it comes to looking for the truth, don’t expect anything, and if you can avoid it in other parts of your life, do so. It can only help in most cases.
One objection to the idea of cultivation of a lack of faith and a lack of belief is that one can no longer love with passion or even care about anything. The person that does not trust or care can not be fully capable of love. Having trust and faith in your spouse is a virtue and symbol of love.
The answer is that first of all, trust is earned, and not exactly the same thing as belief or faith. Trust can and should be based on facts. That’s why it should be earned over time. Trust is not belief, though they are related. Caring has nothing what so ever to do with belief or faith. I might care whether or not my spouse is faithful and keeps to her promise, but care in this case is hope not belief. Love has noting to do with belief and neither does passion.
I am not suggesting you actively disbelieve anything either. That’s the key. What I am suggesting is that you should cultivate a lack of belief one way or the other. Some might call it cultivating a wait and see attitude. That’s all it boils down to.
That’s not so complicated is it? Is it just semantics then? No. It pays not to be sloppy when you are defining things. One could say that some people use the word belief in the same way they would use the word “think”. “I think.” does not imply faith. It is a clear indication of a speculative thought. On the other hand, “I believe” has the connotation of faith and for some, authority.
Don’t dismiss speculative subjects either. Lack any sort of belief in them what so ever. Process them. Wait for evidence, if there is a lack of it, or file it under: pure speculation if it is illogical nonsense. Make judgments based on the best facts and logic, but understand they could be wrong, and be willing to change your judgments as required by new facts. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to admit it to yourself.
The hardest part of this is exactly that. We always want to know for certain. Our brain seems to always want to fill in the blanks regardless of whether or not they fill them in correctly. Not knowing is, in our culture and our human mind, something to be afraid of. It is even sometimes thought of as something to be ashamed of. As it turns out though, it is our state of actual being a great majority of the time. The least we can do for our peace of mind is to get comfortable with not knowing the vast majority of answers with any certainty.
That’s why there are so many religions. Each tells us that they know, even if we don’t. Therefore, follow their path to what will surely be heaven for you. The trouble is, there are so many of them, and very, very, few rely on facts. Most rely on and value faith in varying degrees.
Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean you don’t know a lot about the subject at hand. It means that from the facts you do have you don’t have enough basis of fact to make a factual conclusion on them. Science is full of facts, yet there are aspects of life that we know with certainty we know nothing about.
Another objection to lack of belief is the question: How can you act if you lack belief in your solution? Ergo, you must believe in your solution. Why would anyone act if they didn’t believe their action would achieve their goal?
The answer is that belief is irrelevant. One bases judgment on the best facts at hand. One can speculate based on that evidence without having faith that their solution is correct. They may hope it is, but hope is not faith. You may suspect based on the evidence. But that’s not belief or faith. You may hope you win the lottery, but no amount of faith will make it happen. We act because we must. Our actions cause consequence we can not always factor in. We may not know they exist. Having faith or belief in our solutions will not do anything and therefore will not change anything. When you pay the gas bill you might assume the payment will be received and your obligation will be fulfilled. You can not be sure this process will go smoothly. It either will or it will not depending on conditions you can not factor in with your check or your will. That’s a fact.
So the next question is obvious. Do I believe in the philosophy of disbelief? Do I believe what I say? Have I made the same mistake Nietzsche made when he said there is no objective reality in a way that meant he considered his view an objective reality? The answer is no. Through my experience with it, it has become my “opinion” that it is the best method I have yet found to clear the way to understanding. I have no faith in the method and it is not required.
For me it has become a fact of life and it has served me well. I wait and see, and then make judgments based on the facts or evidence at hand, speculating that my outcome will be favourable. If not, then that is a fact. No reason to wonder what if, unless you can do something about it.
The Dali Lama once said: “worry is useless. If you can do something about it then do it. No need to worry. If not, there is nothing to be gained by worrying. Accept it.” The same holds true for belief. Belief is useless. If it is a fact, accept it. If it is speculation, wait and see. No reason to believe anything.