On Faith

Everyone believes.  Everyone doubts.  There are no pure believers or pure doubters.  For every belief implies doubt, and every doubt implies belief.  They’re two sides of the same act.  To believe one thing means to doubts its alternatives.  To doubt one thing means to believe an alternative.  Belief and doubt necessarily coexist.  Indeed, doubt never exists in a vacuum, as if doubt is the absence of all belief as some claim.  A particular doubt can only be portrayed as a lack of belief by keeping the doubt’s supporting beliefs hidden, whether they’re simply taken for granted by the one who doubts, or they’re deceptively masked behind false pretences and appearances.

Doubt always exists alongside some belief.  I cannot doubt something without first coming to believe something else.  Perhaps I doubt one belief because I hold a different belief.  Or perhaps I form a habit of doubting by default because I have learned to believe that always doubting is a virtue.  Whatever the case may be, to doubt is to believe.  So whenever a person doubts something it raises the question, what does he believe?   And whenever a person believes something it raises the question, what does she doubt?  Doubts never spontaneously emerge from nothing.  Doubts emerge from the constellation of my experience, learning, and knowledge, which shape my most deeply held beliefs about life.  Doubts are derivatives of beliefs.  In the absence of absolute omniscience, belief is necessary fact of life.  To be human is to believe.  For if I cannot know everything then I must choose to trust something.

Portraying disagreements over higher things in simplistic dichotomies like “belief versus doubt” mischaracterizes and obscures what is actually going on.  Such portrayals only highlights one side of the story, one slant, one angle, and often one agenda.  What is actually going on is one constellation of beliefs is conflicting with an alternative constellation of beliefs.  But the conflict tends to go even deeper than mere cognitive beliefs, ideas, and concepts.  The conflict descends down into tacit sociocultural imaginaries of images, values, stories, and symbols that guide individual and group experience, and which also influence what one assumes to be believable or unbelievable, prior to cognitive or formal reasoning. This tacit level of knowledge is often so assumed, so deeply taken for granted, that it frequently remains unacknowledged and unarticulated.  But there is also a battle of imagination occurring.  Everyone and every group imagines what life is like and lives by what they come up with.

The real scenario is belief versus belief, or imaginary versus imaginary, where “believers” and “doubters” can easily exchange roles depending on which belief is under consideration.

 

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