June 09, 2010

Ken McLeod on Faith and Belief

In a recent post on his blog Musings, Ken McLeod discusses two familiar terms: faith and belief. How he understands these terms, however, might not be so familiar. He argues that belief is a closed system in which we rely on past conditioning and ideas to interpret our experiences. Faith, he says, is a much more open way of operating where we still allow past conditioning and ideas to arise, but we are not bound by them: We remain open to both mysteries and new ideas.

Ken writes:

In ordinary English usage, the words "faith" and "belief" are often used interchangeably and the difference between these two ways of meeting experience is confused or lost. One of the results is the pseudo-tension between science and religion, where science is presented as the willingness to open to new information in the form of experimental evidence (i.e., faith) and religion is portrayed as relying on fixed tenets that are held no matter what evidence is offered to the contrary (i.e., belief).

Belief kills both science and religion while faith is necessary for both.

I think that it’s skillful for Ken to use the word faith to talk about living a life of openness. When we think of the faithful as narrow-minded it gives many open-minded, spiritually inclined people a bad rep. Presenting “religious” terms in a way that is palatable to “secular” folks might bridge an unnecessary, made-up gap between the two “groups.”

Read the rest of Ken's post here.

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Mark's picture

Ken makes, I think, a valid semantic distinction, but it's one he has to make because in most religious uses, "faith" and "belief" are synonymous. To be a member of a religious faith is to accept its beliefs; and belief despite an absence of evidence is used by some as the very definition of faith (or as Huck Finn put it, "Faith is believing something you know ain't so"). Personally, I don't see any value in rescuing religious terms or making them more palatable to those who don't hold metaphysical beliefs. The essence of the dharma, it seems to me, is not faith but wisdom, the wisdom that arises when we look and notice for ourselves how things really are. This is where Right View arises from, and from there, the entire Path. We should not be shy about recognizing metaphysical beliefs as another form of delusion and another source of clinging and suffering, and rejecting them as we would any other unskillful means.

Kyle's picture

I agree with Ken's ideas about the difference between faith and belief.

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[...] Tricycle » Ken McLeod on Faith and Belief tricycle.com/blog/?p=1873 – view page – cached In a recent post on his blog Musings, Ken McLeod discusses two familiar terms: faith and belief. How he understands these terms, however, might not be so familiar. He argues that belief is a closed system in which we rely on past conditioning and ideas to interpret our experiences. Faith, he says, is a much more open way of operating where we still allow past conditioning and ideas to arise,... Read moreIn a recent post on his blog Musings, Ken McLeod discusses two familiar terms: faith and belief. How he understands these terms, however, might not be so familiar. He argues that belief is a closed system in which we rely on past conditioning and ideas to interpret our experiences. Faith, he says, is a much more open way of operating where we still allow past conditioning and ideas to arise, but we are not bound by them: We remain open to both mysteries and new ideas. View page Tweets about this link Topsy.Data.Twitter.User['ogmin'] = {"photo":"http://a1.twimg.com/profile_images/678256712/0g252_normal.jpg","url":"http://twitter.com/ogmin","nick":"ogmin"}; ogminHighly Influential: “RT @tricyclemag: Are "faith" and "belief" the same thing? http://www.tricycle.com/blog/?p=1873 ” 16 minutes ago retweet Topsy.Data.Twitter.User['tricyclemag'] = {"photo":"http://a1.twimg.com/profile_images/314841142/big_t_normal.jpg","url":"http://twitter.com/tricyclemag","nick":"tricyclemag"}; tricyclemagHighly Influential: “Are "faith" and "belief" the same thing? http://www.tricycle.com/blog/?p=1873 ” 20 minutes ago retweet Filter tweets [...]

Cris Holanda's picture

I read a good text from Taitetsu Unno about shinjin concept in Shin Buddhism that is usually translated as faith. He says that in Buddhism we find three sanskrit terms that are sometimes translated as faith. They are sraddha (trust),prasada (clarity and equanimity), and adhimukti (understanding). Faith in Buddhism is not blind faith but incorporates the teachings of Buddha, practice and aspiration to Buddhahood. I think buddhist concept of faith is wider than other religions. We can see this in the intense dialogue between tibetan Buddhism and neuroscientists