"Faith" is one of those words that people use a lot, but sloppily. That is, the meaning is assumed rather than being clearly defined.
So I enjoyed reading a message ("why argue faith?") over on the Church of the Churchless Google Groups discussion forum, which is rarely used – except by spammers. Jptxs (probably not a real name) has some interesting things to say about faith.
So you can take the definition of faith and now use some substitution
and come up with this:
Faith is an opinion or conviction not based on proof.
If that is true, then one can't really disprove a matter of faith,
either. Right? If there was no proof in the first place, how can one
offer any argument or proof that would sway someone who actually had
real faith in something.
All this brings me to my question: why does anyone bother to argue any
issue to which they claim to have faith? If you truly have faith in
something, isn't it beyond reproach? You may have lots of little
beliefs that have built up around your faith you may argue about, but
why argue about the core articles of faith?
Bonus points question: if someone is willing to argue about something
they claim to have faith in, is that a sign that it's really only a
belief that they will drop with proof?
Good questions. It seems to me that what people usually call "faith" really is more akin to a belief founded on shaky evidence.
They have faith that Jesus saves because the Bible tells them so. They have faith that a guru is God because they sense divinity in his presence. They have faith that keeping kosher is correct because their culture supports the dietary laws.
In each case, the faithful can provide reasons – albeit flimsy – that a theological position is founded in reality rather than fantasy. Thus their faith actually is a semi-logical conclusion, not a blind leap.
So, hey, if you want to embrace faith, why not go all the way? Open yourself to the unknown, a.k.a. God, without a whit of proof, none at all, nada, nothing, about what, if anything, lies over the horizon of Mystery.
I've plowed this philosophical ground in a number of posts, including "God wants to be forsaken." However, Alan Watts says it much better (not surprisingly). Here's some quotes from one of my favorite books, "The Wisdom of Insecurity."
We must here make 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 it 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 condition that it fits 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.
…To discover the ultimate Reality of life – the Absolute, the eternal, God – you must cease to try to grasp it in the form of idols. These idols are not just crude images, such as the mental picture of God as an old gentleman on a golden throne.
They are our beliefs, our cherished preconceptions of the truth, which block the unreserved opening of mind and heart to reality.
…What religion calls the vision of God is found in giving up any belief in the idea of God.
…If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.