Many people dismiss faith as “believing what you know isn’t true.” But that’s wrong.
At its most helpful, faith is believing what might be true:
- We will be alive tomorrow.
- The future can be good.
- Life has meaning and purpose.
- There is a moral order in the universe.
You don’t know any of those things for sure. Neither do I. I certainly can’t prove them. But I urge you to believe them anyway.
They’re what the philosopher William James called “forced options.” They can neither be proven nor disproven. You cannot avoid making a choice about them. Even if you try not to make a choice, you’ve made your choice.
If you abstain from believing you’ll be alive tomorrow, then you’ll live as if you expect to be dead. If you abstain from believing that the future can be good, then you won’t do anything to help make it good.
The same applies to meaning, purpose, and moral order. Those things might not exist in any transcendent sense — but then again, they might.
If you don’t believe in them, you won’t look for them. If you don’t look for them, you won’t find them. And amazingly, you can find them even if they weren’t there before you looked. Your sincere efforts can bring them into existence.
But none of that will happen unless you first believe. Believe not just in what you can prove. Believe in a future that you can’t prove at all, and in a moral order that you can prove only by how you live.
Then work for that good future, and try to be living proof of that moral order.
American industrialist Henry Ford supposedly said that “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.”
Have faith. Make it happen.
Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”
What gentle, generous advice.
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