This article is about religious belief. For trust in people or other things, see Trust (emotion). For other types of faith, see Faith (disambiguation).
Faith is confidence or trust in a particular system of religious belief, in which faith may equate to confidence based on some perceived degree of warrant. According to Rudolf Bultmann, faith must be a determined vital act of will, not a culling and extolling of "ancient proofs".
The English word faith is thought to date from 1200–1250, from the Middle English feith, via Anglo-French fed, Old French feid, feit from Latin fidem, accusative of fidēs (trust), akin to fīdere (to trust).
Stages of faith development
Main article: James W. Fowler § Stages of Faith
James W. Fowler (1940–2015) proposes a series of stages of faith-development (or spiritual development) across the human life-span. His stages relate closely to the work of Piaget, Erikson, and Kohlberg regarding aspects of psychological development in children and adults. Fowler defines faith as an activity of trusting, committing, and relating to the world based on a set of assumptions of how one is related to others and the world.
Stages of faith
- Intuitive-Projective: a stage of confusion and of high impressionability through stories and rituals (pre-school period).
- Mythic-Literal: a stage where provided information is accepted in order to conform with social norms (school-going period).
- Synthetic-Conventional: in this stage the faith acquired is concreted in the belief system with the forgoing of personification and replacement with authority in individuals or groups that represent one's beliefs (early-late adolescence).
- Individuative-Reflective: in this stage the individual critically analyzes adopted and accepted faith with existing systems of faith. Disillusion or strengthening of faith happens in this stage. Based on needs, experiences and paradoxes (early adulthood).
- Conjunctive faith: in this stage people realize the limits of logic and, facing the paradoxes or transcendence of life, accept the "mystery of life" and often return to the sacred stories and symbols of the pre-acquired or re-adopted faith system. This stage is called negotiated settling in life (mid-life).
- Universalizing faith: this is the "enlightenment" stage where the individual comes out of all the existing systems of faith and lives life with universal principles of compassion and love and in service to others for upliftment, without worries and doubt (middle-late adulthood (45–65 years old and plus).[page needed]
No hard-and-fast rule requires individuals pursuing faith to go through all six stages. There is a high probability for individuals to be content and fixed in a particular stage for a lifetime; stages from 2-5 are such stages. Stage 6 is the summit of faith development. This state is often[quantify] considered as "not fully" attainable.
There is a wide spectrum of opinion with respect to the epistemological validity of faith.
Main article: Fideism
Fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths (see natural theology). Fideism is not a synonym for religious belief, but describes a particular philosophical proposition in regard to the relationship between faith's appropriate jurisdiction at arriving at truths, contrasted against reason. It states that faith is needed to determine some philosophical and religious truths, and it questions the ability of reason to arrive at all truth. The word and concept had its origin in the mid- to late-19th century by way of Catholic thought, in a movement called Traditionalism. The Roman Catholic Magisterium has, however, repeatedly condemned fideism.
See also: Role of faith in the Baha'i Faith
In the Bahá'í Faith, faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds, ultimately the acceptance of the divine authority of the Manifestations of God. In the religion's view, faith and knowledge are both required for spiritual growth. Faith involves more than outward obedience to this authority, but also must be based on a deep personal understanding of religious teachings.
Main article: Faith in Buddhism
Faith in Buddhism (Pali: saddhā, Sanskrit: śraddhā) refers to a serene commitment in the practice of the Buddha's teaching and trust in enlightened or highly developed beings, such as Buddhas or bodhisattvas (those aiming to become a Buddha). Buddhists usually recognize multiple objects of faith, but many are especially devoted to one particular object of faith, such as one particular Buddha.
In early Buddhism, faith was focused on the Triple Gem, that is, Gautama Buddha, his teaching (the Dhamma), and the community of spiritually developed followers, or the monastic community seeking enlightenment (the Sangha). Although offerings to the monastic community were valued highest, early Buddhism did not morally condemn peaceful offerings to deities. A faithful devotee was called upāsaka or upāsika, for which no formal declaration was required. In early Buddhism, personal verification was valued highest in attaining the truth, and sacred scriptures, reason or faith in a teacher were considered less valuable sources of authority. As important as faith was, it was a mere initial step to the path to wisdom and enlightenment, and was obsolete or redefined at the final stage of that path.
While faith in Buddhism does not imply "blind faith", Buddhist practice nevertheless requires a degree of trust, primarily in the spiritual attainment of Gautama Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on the understanding that the Buddha is an Awakened being, on his superior role as teacher, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual teachings), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism can be summarised as faith in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It is intended to lead to the goal of enlightenment, or bodhi, and Nirvana. Volitionally, faith implies a resolute and courageous act of will. It combines the steadfast resolution that one will do a thing with the self-confidence that one can do it.
In the later stratum of Buddhist history, especially Mahāyāna Buddhism, faith was given a much more important role. The concept of the Buddha Nature was developed, as devotion to Buddhas and bodhisattvas residing in Pure Lands became commonplace. With the arising of the cult of the Lotus Sūtra, faith gained a central role in Buddhist practice, which was further amplified with the development of devotion to the Amitabha Buddha in Pure Land Buddhism. In the Japanese form of Pure Land Buddhism, under the teachers Hōnen and Shinran, only entrusting faith toward the Amitabha Buddha was believed to be a fruitful form of practice, as the practice of celibacy, morality and other Buddhist disciplines were dismissed as no longer effective in this day and age, or contradicting the virtue of faith. Faith was defined as a state similar to enlightenment, with a sense of self-negation and humility.
Thus, the role of faith increased throughout Buddhist history. However, from the nineteenth century onward, Buddhist modernism in countries like Sri Lanka and Japan, and also in the West, has downplayed and criticized the role of faith in Buddhism. Faith in Buddhism still has a role in modern Asia or the West, but is understood and defined differently from traditional interpretations. Within the Dalit Buddhist Movement communities, taking refuge is defined not only as a religious, but also a political choice.
Main article: Faith in Christianity
The word translated as "faith" in the New Testament is the Greek word πίστις which can also be translated "belief", "faithfulness", and "trust". There are various views in Christianity regarding the nature of faith. Some see faith as being persuaded or convinced that something is true. In this view, a person believes something when they are presented with adequate evidence that it is true. Theologian Greg Boyd argues to the contrary, that faith includes doubt.
Then there are numerous views regarding the results of faith. Some believe that true faith results in good works, while others believe that while faith in Jesus brings eternal life, it does not necessarily result in good works.
Regardless of which approach to faith a Christian takes, all agree that the Christian faith is aligned with the ideals and the example of the life of Jesus. The Christian sees the mystery of God and his grace and seeks to know and become obedient to God. To a Christian, faith is not static but causes one to learn more of God and to grow; Christian faith has its origin in God.
In Christianity, faith causes change as it seeks a greater understanding of God. Faith is not only fideism or simple obedience to a set of rules or statements. Before Christians have faith, they must understand in whom and in what they have faith. Without understanding, there cannot be true faith, and that understanding is built on the foundation of the community of believers, the scriptures and traditions and on the personal experiences of the believer. In English translations of the New Testament, the word "faith" generally corresponds to the Greek noun πίστις (pistis) or to the Greek verb πιστεύω (pisteuo), meaning "to trust, to have confidence, faithfulness, to be reliable, to assure".
Christian apologetic views
In contrast to noted atheist Richard Dawkins' view of faith as "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence",Alister McGrath quotes the Oxford Anglican theologian W. H. Griffith-Thomas (1861–1924), who states that faith is "not blind, but intelligent" and that it "commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence...", which McGrath sees as "a good and reliable definition, synthesizing the core elements of the characteristic Christian understanding of faith".
American biblical scholar Archibald Thomas Robertson stated that the Greek word pistis used for faith in the New Testament (over two hundred forty times), and rendered "assurance" in Acts 17:31 (KJV), is "an old verb meaning "to furnish", used regularly by Demosthenes for bringing forward evidence." Tom Price (Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics) affirms that when the New Testament talks about faith positively it only uses words derived from the Greek root [pistis] which means "to be persuaded".
British Christian apologist John Lennox argues that "faith conceived as belief that lacks warrant is very different from faith conceived as belief that has warrant". He states that "the use of the adjective 'blind' to describe 'faith' indicates that faith is not necessarily, or always, or indeed normally, blind". "The validity, or warrant, of faith or belief depends on the strength of the evidence on which the belief is based." "We all know how to distinguish between blind faith and evidence-based faith. We are well aware that faith is only justified if there is evidence to back it up." "Evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives."
Peter S Williams holds that "the classic Christian tradition has always valued rationality, and does not hold that faith involves the complete abandonment of reason while believing in the teeth of evidence."[page needed] Quoting Moreland, faith is defined as "a trust in and commitment to what we have reason to believe is true."
Regarding doubting Thomas in John 20:24-31, Williams points out that "Thomas wasn't asked to believe without evidence". He was asked to believe on the basis of the other disciples' testimony. Thomas initially lacked the first-hand experience of the evidence that had convinced them... Moreover, the reason John gives for recounting these events is that what he saw is evidence... Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples...But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing ye might have life in his name. John 20:30,31.
Concerning doubting Thomas, Michael R. Allen wrote, "Thomas's definition of faith implies adherence to conceptual propositions for the sake of personal knowledge, knowledge of and about a person qua person".
Kenneth Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. describe a classic understanding of faith that is referred to[by whom?]as evidentialism, and which is part of a larger epistemological tradition called classical foundationalism, which is accompanied by deontologism, which holds that humans have an obligation to regulate their beliefs in accordance with evidentialist structures.
They show how this can go too far, and Alvin Plantinga deals with it. While Plantinga upholds that faith may be the result of evidence testifying to the reliability of the source (of the truth claims), yet he sees having faith as being the result of hearing the truth of the gospel with the internal persuasion by the Holy Spirit moving and enabling him to believe. "Christian belief is produced in the believer by the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit, endorsing the teachings of Scripture, which is itself divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. The result of the work of the Holy Spirit is faith."
Main article: Hinduism
Ahimsa, also referred to as non-violence, is the fundamental tenet of Hinduism which advocates harmonious and peaceful co-existence and evolutionary growth in grace and wisdom for all humankind unconditionally.
In Hinduism, most of the Vedic prayers begins with the chants of Om. Om is the Sanskrit symbol that amazingly resonates the peacefulness ensconced within one's higher self. Om is considered to have a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also creates a calmness, serenity, healing, strength of its own to prevail within and also in the surrounding environment.
Main article: Iman (concept)
In Islam, a believer's faith in the metaphysical aspects of Islam is called "Iman" (Arabic: الإيمان), which is complete submission to the will of God, not unquestionable or blind belief. A man must build his faith on well-grounded convictions beyond any reasonable doubt and above uncertainty. According to the Quran, Iman must be accompanied by righteous deeds and the two together are necessary for entry into Paradise. In the Hadith of Gabriel, Iman in addition to Islam and Ihsan form the three dimensions of the Islamic religion.
Prophet Muhammad referred to the six articles of faith in the Hadith of Gabriel: "Iman is that you believe in God and His Angels and His Books and His Messengers and the Hereafter and the good and evil fate [ordained by your God]." The first five are mentioned together in the Qur'an  The Quran states that faith can grow with remembrance of God. The Qur'an also states that nothing in this world should be dearer to a true believer than faith.
Main article: Jewish principles of faith
Faith itself is not a religious concept in Judaism. The only one time faith in God is mentioned in the 24 books of the Jewish Bible, is in verse 10 of the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43. In this verse, the commandment to know God is followed by the commandments to believe and to understand, thus denoting descending importance.
However, Judaism does recognize the positive value of Emunah (generally translated as faith, trust in God) and the negative status of the Apikorus (heretic), but faith is not as stressed or as central as it is in other religions, especially compared with Christianity and Islam. It could be a necessary means for being a practicing religious Jew, but the emphasis is placed on true knowledge, true prophecy and practice rather than on faith itself. Very rarely does it relate to any teaching that must be believed. Judaism does not require one to explicitly identify God (a key tenet of Christian faith, which is called Avodah Zarah in Judaism, a minor form of idol worship, a big sin and strictly forbidden to Jews). Rather, in Judaism, one is to honour a (personal) idea of God, supported by the many principles quoted in the Talmud to define Judaism, mostly by what it is not. Thus there is no established formulation of Jewish principles of faith which are mandatory for all (observant) Jews.
In the Jewish scriptures trust in God – Emunah – refers to how God acts toward his people and how they are to respond to him; it is rooted in the everlasting covenant established in the Torah, notably Deuteronomy 7:9:
Know, therefore, that the Lord, your God He is God, the faithful God, Who keeps the covenant and loving kindness with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.
— Tanakh, Deuteronomy 7:9
The specific tenets that compose required belief and their application to the times have been disputed throughout Jewish history. Today many, but not all, Orthodox Jews have accepted Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief.
A traditional example of Emunah as seen in the Jewish annals is found in the person of Abraham. On a number of occasions, Abraham both accepts statements from God that seem impossible and offers obedient actions in response to direction from God to do things that seem implausible (see Genesis 12-15).
"The Talmud describes how a thief also believes in G‑d: On the brink of his forced entry, as he is about to risk his life—and the life of his victim—he cries out with all sincerity, 'G‑d help me!' The thief has faith that there is a G‑d who hears his cries, yet it escapes him that this G‑d may be able to provide for him without requiring that he abrogate G‑d’s will by stealing from others. For emunah to affect him in this way he needs study and contemplation."
Main articles: Sikhism and Five Ks
Faith itself is not a religious concept in Sikhism. However, the five Sikh symbols, known as Kakaars or Five Ks (in Punjabi known as pañj kakkē or pañj kakār), are sometimes referred to as the Five articles of Faith. The articles include kēs (uncut hair), kaṅghā (small wooden comb), kaṛā (circular steel or iron bracelet), kirpān (sword/dagger), and kacchera (special undergarment). Baptised Sikhs are bound to wear those five articles of faith, at all times, to save them from bad company and keep them close to God.
Religious epistemologists have formulated and defended reasons for the rationality of accepting belief in God without the support of an argument. Some religious epistemologists hold that belief in God is more analogous to belief in a person than belief in a scientific hypothesis. Human relations demand trust and commitment. If belief in God is more like belief in other persons, then the trust that is appropriate to persons will be appropriate to God. American psychologist and philosopherWilliam James offers a similar argument in his lecture The Will to Believe.Foundationalism is a view about the structure of justification or knowledge. Foundationalism holds that all knowledge and justified belief are ultimately based upon what are called properly basic beliefs. This position is intended to resolve the infinite regress problem in epistemology. According to foundationalism, a belief is epistemically justified only if it is justified by properly basic beliefs. One of the significant developments in foundationalism is the rise of reformed epistemology.
Reformed epistemology is a view about the epistemology of religious belief, which holds that belief in God can be properly basic. Analytic philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff develop this view. Plantinga holds that an individual may rationally believe in God even though the individual does not possess sufficient evidence to convince an agnostic. One difference between reformed epistemology and fideism is that the former requires defence against known objections, whereas the latter might dismiss such objections as irrelevant. Plantinga has developed reformed epistemology in Warranted Christian Belief as a form of externalism that holds that the justification conferring factors for a belief may include external factors. Some theistic philosophers have defended theism by granting evidentialism but supporting theism through deductive arguments whose premises are considered justifiable. Some of these arguments are probabilistic, either in the sense of having weight but being inconclusive, or in the sense of having a mathematical probability assigned to them. Notable in this regard are the cumulative arguments presented by British philosopher Basil Mitchell and analytic philosopher Richard Swinburne, whose arguments are based on Bayesian probability. In a notable exposition of his arguments, Swinburne appeals to an inference for the best explanation.
Professor of Mathematics and philosopher of science at University of OxfordJohn Lennox has stated, "Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.” He criticises Richard Dawkins as a famous proponent of asserting that faith equates to holding a belief without evidence, thus that it is possible to hold belief without evidence, for failing to provide evidence for this assertion.
Bertrand Russell wrote:
Christians hold that their faith does good, but other faiths do harm. At any rate, they hold this about the communist faith. What I wish to maintain is that all faiths do harm. We may define “faith” as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups substitute different emotions. Christians have faith in the Resurrection; communists have faith in Marx’s Theory of Value. Neither faith can be defended rationally, and each therefore is defended by propaganda and, if necessary, by war.
— Will Religious Faith Cure Our Troubles?
Evolutionary biologistRichard Dawkins criticizes all faith by generalizing from specific faith in propositions that conflict directly with scientific evidence. He describes faith as belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking. He states that it is a practice that only degrades our understanding of the natural world by allowing anyone to make a claim about nature that is based solely on their personal thoughts, and possibly distorted perceptions, that does not require testing against nature, has no ability to make reliable and consistent predictions, and is not subject to peer review.
- ^ ab"Faith – Define Faith". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
- ^Plantinga, Alvin (January 27, 2000). Warranted Christian Belief. USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 169–199. ISBN 978-0-19-513192-5.
- ^Boa, Kenneth (March 1, 2006). Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. USA: IVP Books. pp. 251–255. ISBN 978-0-8308-5648-0.
- ^Works of Daniel J. Levinson
- ^Fowler, J.W.; Stages of Faith – The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning
- ^Lewis, C.S. (2001). Mere Christianity: a revised and amplified edition, with a new introduction, of the three books, Broadcast talks, Christian behaviour, and Beyond personality. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-065292-6.
- ^"Fideism". stanford.edu. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
- ^Baha'i World Faith – Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 383
- ^ abcSmith, P. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. p. 155. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
- ^ abGómez, Luis O. (2004). Buswell, Robert E., ed. Faith(PDF). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York [u.a.]: Macmillan Reference USA, Thomson Gale. pp. 277–9. ISBN 0-02-865720-9.
- ^Kinnard, Jacob N. (2004). Buswell, Robert E., ed. Worship(PDF). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York [u.a.]: Macmillan Reference USA, Thomson Gale. p. 907. ISBN 0-02-865720-9.
- ^Tremblay, Xavier (2007). "The spread of Buddhism in Serindia". In Heirman, Ann; Bumbacher, Stephan Peter. The spread of Buddhism (online ed.). Leiden: Brill Publishers. p. 87. ISBN 9789004158306.
- ^Fuller, Paul (2004). The notion of diṭṭhi in Theravāda Buddhism : the point of view(PDF). London: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 36. ISBN 0-203-01043-4. [dead link]
- ^Conze, Edward (1993). The Way of Wisdom The Five Spiritual Faculties. www.accesstoinsight.org. Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 978-9552401107.
- ^Leaman, Oliver (2000). Eastern philosophy: key readings(PDF). London [u.a.]: Routledge. p. 212. ISBN 0-415-17357-4.
- ^Bielefeldt, Carl (2004). "Japan"(PDF). In Buswell, Robert E.Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York [u.a.]: Macmillan Reference USA, Thomson Gale. pp. 389–90. ISBN 0-02-865720-9.
- ^Reynolds, Frank E.; Hallisey, Charles (1987). "Buddha"(PDF). In Jones, Lindsay. Encyclopedia of religion. 2 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson Gale. p. 1068. ISBN 0-02-865997-X. Archived from the original on 2017-03-02.
- ^Shields, James Mark (2013). "Political Interpretations of the Lotus Sūtra"(PDF). In Emmanuel, Steven M. A companion to Buddhist philosophy. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 512, 514. ISBN 978-0-470-65877-2.
- ^Hsieh, Ding-hwa (2009). "Buddhism, Pure Land". In Cheng, Linsun; Brown, Kerry. Berkshire encyclopedia of China. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing Group. pp. 236–7. ISBN 978-0-9770159-4-8.
- ^Hudson, Clarke (2005). "Buddhist meditation: East Asian Buddhist meditation"(PDF). In Jones, Lindsay. Encyclopedia of religion. 2 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson Gale. p. 1294. ISBN 0-02-865997-X. Archived from the original on 2017-03-02.
- ^Conze, Edward (2003) . Buddhism, its essence and development. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. p. 158. ISBN 0-486-43095-2.
- ^Dobbins, James C. (2002). Jodo Shinshu: Shin Buddhism in medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 34–5. ISBN 0-8248-2620-5.
- ^Gombrich, Richard F. (2006). Theravāda Buddhism: a social history from ancient Benares to modern Colombo(PDF) (2nd ed.). London [u.a.]: Routledge. pp. 196–7. ISBN 0-415-36508-2.
- ^Ahn, Juhn (2004). "Popular conceptions of Zen"(PDF). In Buswell, Robert E.Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York [u.a.]: Macmillan Reference USA, Thomson Gale. p. 924. ISBN 0-02-865720-9.
- ^Dore, Bhavya (1 October 2016). "Rising caste-related violence pushes many Indians to new faith". Houston Chronicle. Religion News Service. Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
- ^"Strong's Greek: 4102. πίστις (pistis) -- faith, faithfulness". biblehub.com. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
- ^Wilkin, Robert N. (2012). The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible. Corinth, TX: GES. p. 221.
- ^Boyd, Gregory A. (2013). The Benefit of the Doubt. Grand Rapids: Baker. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-8010-1492-5.
- ^"(PDF) Jeremy Myers, The Gospel Under Siege: 3 Views on the Relationship Between Faith and Good Works"
- ^Wuerl, By Donald W. (2004). The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, Edition: 5, revised. Huntingdon, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Pub. Division. p. 238. ISBN 1-59276-094-5. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
- ^Migliore, Daniel L. 2004. Faith seeking understanding: an introduction to Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans. pp. 3-8.
- ^Inbody, Tyron. 2005. The faith of the Christian church: an introduction to theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. pp. 1-10
- ^Thomas, Robert L.; Editor, General (1981). New American standard exhaustive concordance of the Bible:. Nashville, Tenn.: A.J. Holman. pp. 1674–75. ISBN 0-87981-197-8.
- ^Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, 198.
- ^McGrath, Alister E. (2008). The Order of Things: Explorations in Scientific Theology. John Wiley & Sons. p. 33. ISBN 1-4051-2556-X.
- ^Robertson, Archibald Thomas. WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. pp. Chapter 17.
- ^Price, Thomas.
Beliefs have a major effect on today's society. Our life seems almost entirely based on institutions and beliefs like marriage, religion, and fate. With nearly the entire world taking part in some sort of belief system, how is it that an intelligent young woman like me believes in absolutely nothing?
I cannot believe in gods, heaven, ghosts, destiny, magic, or any other non-tangible concept – not because I do not want to, but simply because my mind cannot fathom it. To me, facts are critical. Yet, I would never say that those who choose to believe in faith-based concepts are wrong; rather, they simply do not think like me and are able to maintain faith without proof to back it up. In a way I envy them. I wish for one minute I could believe in something spectacular and paranormal.
As humans, we are constantly changing. Who we were two seconds ago is not who we will be two seconds from now. Every situation, every word, every thought, and every blink changes who we are. This is the part of humanity I find the most fascinating: we are always developing, always growing, always evolving.
As a result of this amazing phenomenon, I cannot, and will not, make a long-term commitment such as marriage. In my eyes, these commitments are fundamentally immoral. Simone de Beauvoir once said, “The horror of the definite choice is that we commit not only the self of today but also that of tomorrow.” By giving yourself over to marriage, you are compromising and throwing away yourself as an individual. How can you promise yourself to someone when you have no idea who you will be in five years? You have no idea what you will want or what the other person will want. The only way you are going to last “'til death do us part” is if one of you completely stifles your personal growth.
Hence, the only relationships that last forever, besides those very rare lucky ones, are ones in which one person stops developing him or herself, and instead follows the direction of the other. One remains a flower, while the other turns to gardening their partner. This is no way to live. We each need to be a flower; we each need to develop ourselves to our full potential and grow in whatever direction we want. We cannot prioritize another over ourselves, for if we do, we will soon become their gardener, rather than our own being. I long to be my own individual, so the only commitment I will ever make is to myself. I promise to never compromise my growth and independence. I am committed to myself and my development.
People always tell me, “You have to believe in something. Everyone believes in something.” My response is: “I believe in myself.” Although that may not be considered a “belief” per se, it does require faith, understanding, devotion, and everything else your religions and marriages have. Every single day I whisper to myself, “Self reliance, self reliance, self reliance,” usually multiple times a day. Or even, “Ne te quaesiveris extra,” which is Latin for “Do not seek outside yourself.” I am full of substance, possibilities, and burning intensity. I am an individual who strongly believes in individualism.
When a large portion of the world believes the same exact things about religion and fate as you do, you are not unique: you are simply a part of a group. People always say that groups are stronger than individuals, that there is strength in numbers. However, I believe the opposite. There is more strength in myself alone than there would be if there were a thousand people just like me. Because I am an individual – rather than part of a group – my thoughts are mine alone. I am not influenced or pressured by anyone but myself, and this creates a refreshing comfort and strength I can only find within. I am my own best friend, and becoming true best friends with myself is probably the thing I am most proud of in my life. No matter what happens, I will always have myself.
All that love and devotion people put into marriage, religion, and all those other beliefs, I put into myself. I put it into my thoughts, my dreams, my work, my writing, my art, my ability to love: my everything.
People turn to beliefs when they feel they have nowhere else to turn, because beliefs justify their actions and bring them comfort. I view believing in marriage and religion to be the same as eating an entire box of chocolates when you are down: comforting at the time, but unhealthy in the long run. I do not waste my time on comfort foods; instead I invest all my love, faith, and strength in myself. Growth and development are what I emphasize in my life. Every day I change and I learn about myself. Infinite possibilities lie ahead of me. I am my own best friend, for I am all I have in this world. I love myself, and I believe in myself.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the November 2012 Teen Ink EBSCO POV Contest.