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September 9th, 2019

Faith has a hazy cloud of meaning. 


“I have faith in that person.” 


“I have faith in this belief.”




But what is this word?  And what is really meant when it is used?





“I have no faith in myself. . .”





It clearly has something to do with trust and belief.   Perhaps faith is where belief and trust overlap?


But trust and belief are not the same thing.   As it is often said, trust is earned.  Reliability must be proved.  Or at the very least, when it proves otherwise trust becomes broken.


What about belief?


Is belief earned?  Does a belief earn our credulity or does it gain it’s footing in our minds via some other conduit?


Credibility, is the quality that indicates that something can be trusted. .


Credit, to have good credit, to be credible, means that we can be trusted and believed.


A credible source provides information we can trust and therefore believe.


Credit itself is also how we refer to money.


And money is perhaps the best example of fungible trust.  If someone has ‘good credit’ we have reassurance that they will pay their debts.


But money is just a concept.  There is nothing inherently valuable about a piece of paper with a number on it. 


(unless you’re really cold and you have a lighter and desire about 5 seconds of fire.  So as kindling, money might have some inherent value.)


All the value that money realistically has is due to a commonly held belief in this money, which is built on a common trust that has been earned by continuous exercise of this system of money.  We sit down at a restaurant with full confidence – faith -  that the money in our wallet will be accepted because we have tested this hypothesis many many many times.  We have tested this belief so often and for so long that we do not even think to question it.



Much like gravity.



We still don’t know exactly how gravity works.  But all of us have supreme confidence that while we are close to the surface of the earth, things that we let go of will fall.  Gravity is something we trust because it has proved very reliable and credible through constant experimentation.  We do not even question gravity because of how consistently reliable it’s effects are.



If trust is earned through proven reliability.  Where does this leave belief?   Belief merely means ‘held dearly’.  So a belief is primarily and at it’s base, just an idea that we like to hold on to and feel warmly towards.


Is faith reserved for ideas we like that we can’t prove?



Is faith perhaps also reserved for ideas that we don’t want to test because we are frightened of the results we might find?


Could it be that we manufacture a false sense of trust in untested ideas and call it faith?  Merely because the idea is comforting.  This can easily create a false sense of comfort because our ideas are not in line with reality.



“I don’t have any faith in myself. . .”




Well you were able to put that sentence together.  Do you have faith in your ability to transmit that idea? 


Faith is unneeded, there’s proof. 


And that tiny success, even if it’s negative, is proof of agency.  Build on that.  Expand on it.  Perhaps it’ll turn into an award-winning tragedy.



it’s important to remember while writing, reading, speaking or listening, that:


The meaning of words change over time. 


S.I. Hayakawa goes so far as to make the argument that words mean something different every single time they are used.


Is the word ‘faith’ useful today, or is it more likely to confuse and obfuscate?  Does it really address issues or does the bloated haziness of faith simply end the conversation by blotting out the question altogether?


Would it be better ascribed to things that we do not understand but have high reliability?  Like gravity?  Like money?  Things that are ‘provable’ in a reliably consistent way but not necessarily understood?  Ideas that we simply can’t help but to believe because they are so reliable?




I don’t know what step I must take next, but I have faith in myself because I’ve figured things out from an uncertain position before.  I’ve tested that situation. 


We all have.  Because once we were all screaming, squabbling, confused babies.


Faith is probably a good starting point.


But making the continuous effort to move from faith to trusted and reliable, durable ideas is far better.




Unfortunately, this is not the common choice of process for most people.


It seems that for many, faith is a label that we retreat to when we have an emotional connection…


to bad ideas.


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 512: Faith

Tinkered Thinking

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