(Due to strong interest, this is a repeat of the January 19 Meetup on this topic.)
Although most of us think first of religion when we hear the word “faith,” in this discussion we’ll take a look at the secular side of faith. For a working definition of faith, here’s the second definition in the Miriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary: “firm or unquestioning belief in something for which there is no proof” and the fifth definition: “something that is believed or adhered to especially with strong conviction, such as the fundamental tenets, views, or beliefs of an individual or group on a particular subject or in a particular field.”
How often do we take a “leap of faith” in committing to an idea or course of action on the basis of intuition? How does it usually turn out? Could better awareness of faith - what we believe in and trust - help us come up with better ideas and make better decisions? Does faith enable us to make quick decisions that are essential to our survival, as evolutionary psychologists suggest it did for our ancestors? Or, in today’s complex world, does faith usually lead us astray? Can faith be based on knowledge and rational process or is it all intuition? How much of secular faith is based on superstition? Can we control faith or does it control us? We can explore faith in science, engineering, economics, finance, politics, the arts, personal relationships and any other area of interest to the participants. Do you have faith in democracy, public education, the dollar, the scientific method, the Internet, your employer, investigative journalism, your computer’s hard drive, or that the other driver will stay on his or her side of the road? Is your faith limited or absolute?
At the beginning of the creative process, faith seems to give us the power to formulate an idea, embark on a journey, or conduct an experiment before we know whether it’s worth pursuing. Getting started is important, but how can we exercise rational supervision to keep us on the right road? Later on in the thinking or doing processes, faith seems keeps us going. But what about confirmation bias? Can we objectively judge the validity of our own ideas and creations? Faith alone may lead to pipe dreams instead of the results we seek. We may admire commitment when it’s based on faith but we are also wary of blind faith and over-commitment. How can we know the difference or find a balance?
The idea for this topic came to me while reading Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” for the Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society series, “The Art of Living.” The author extolled the virtues of faith so effectively that, even though I disagree with Kierkegaard’s Christian theology and existentialist philosophy, I admired the biblical Abraham, who Kierkegaard presented as the archetype of faith – having the courage to sacrifice his son without reason or understanding – without even questioning. I realized that, like Abraham, we must often trust our faith when there is no other way to know. But unlike Abraham, my faith is in science and rational processes and I continue to question the sources and validity of my faith.