Everybody's familiar with a face-off. It's a confrontation. Well, I'm challenging religious believers to something similar: a faith-off.
Bring it on. Your best philosophical stuff.
Let's see who can be reasonably considered to have the most faith – churchless me, and those who share my antipathy to dogmatism, fundamentalism, and other "ism's," or those who profess the traditional religious commitment to a belief in the reality of things unknown.
In my utterly biased opinion, it's no contest. Those, like me, who proclaim a faithless faith are head and shoulders above the crowd of religious believers.
For open-mindedness is a much higher virtue than walling oneself off in an illusory fortress of knowledge, that, in reality, is completely open to attack by arrows of truth.
One of my first Church of the Churchless posts was "Just have faith." Re-reading it just now, I'd say that it pretty much says it all. Such as:
Faith is wonderful.
Faith is all we need to be spiritual.
Just faith. Faith alone.
So we shouldn't have faith in anything other than pure, naked, empty faith.
What is faith stripped of thought, emotion, perception, expectation, imagination? Whatever it is, that's what we are seeking. Such is the message at the mystical core of every deep spiritual teaching.
… Such is a scientific faith, a faith that does not foreclose in advance any possibility about what reality may consist of, a faith not in the unproven pronouncements of some supposedly holy person or book but in one's own direct experience of divinity--or direct non-experience, as the case may be.
I recall several encounter groups that I took part in which included a trust-building exercise. I'd stand with my eyes closed. Other group members would be behind me.
Then I'd lean backward until I fell over, making no attempt to break my fall. It was disconcerting, requiring faith that someone would catch me before I banged my head on the hard floor.
However, I'd seen my companions take their positions. I'd talked with them beforehand. The group leader had explained what we were going to do, and why my trust was justified.
In short, I had a framework for my faith. It was akin to religious faith (except much more valid), because it wasn't really a leap into the unknown. It was a step along a well-trodden path of existing ideas and feelings.
Not what I talked about in "Just have faith." Naked, empty faith. Pure faith. Faith that doesn't require anything else to prop it up.
In a subsequent post, "Don't believe, just have faith," I quoted Alan Watts' view of how one gets in touch with the deepest roots of reality.
The discovery of this reality is hindered rather than helped by belief, whether one believes in God or believes in atheism. We must make here a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would "lief" or wish it to be.
The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.
So, yes, I'm ready for a faith-off.
I haven't yet been able to let cast off all my clinging to spiritual beliefs, but compared to religious believers I've got much more confidence that reality will catch me when I let go.