Three Senses of “FAITH”

In casual discussions, and even often in formal dissertations, the word “Faith” is often used, somewhat loosely. It should be understood that it can be meant in one of three senses.

Faith as in Tenacity, as a belief despite evidence to the contrary.

Faith as in the Will to Believe, a belief in the absence of evidence either way.

Faith as Expectation, a belief based on previously observed evidence in the expectation that that evidence will continue.

The first is what sells Lotto tickets to people who know that the chances of winning are usually astronomically bad. In fact, I am quite sure that the majority who purchase Lotto tickets do so because they know that most weeks someone, somewhere, will win and just maybe one day the Gods will smile on them.

The second fills the pews at the corner church despite the failure of there being a shred of evidence that prayers will increase the chances of a favorable result to their requested outcome. Note the selective memory that is displayed when what they prayed for occurs. “God was looking after me.” But they never accept the logical conclusion for all the times their desired outcome failed to materialize; “God sure had it in for me when the tornado went through town.”

The last sense in which people have faith is what gets the seed corn planted in the springtime.

Because I might buy a Lotto ticket on occasion should never be confused with a belief in some imaginary good buddy in the sky who will bless the numbers I have chosen as long as I promise to tithe the local church, give up chocolate ice cream or mumble through the sixty odd rosary prayers every night for a week..

Nor should my plans to take my children on a picnic next Sunday be confused with anything deeper than that, for all my life Sunday has followed Saturday and the weather in Florida is usually quite amenable to such outdoor activity. It is reasonable for me to act upon that expectation without implying some metaphysical belief that Amun-Ra is personally interested in my tan lines.

Confusing the usage of one with an example of the other is careless if unintended and deceptive if intentional. It often makes logical discussion between well-meaning friends difficult or even impossible.

Substituting a contrived construct like “pre-supposition” for one sense or the other can be acceptable, but the intention of the user will still determine which of the three diverse senses controls the intended meaning. Conflation either way still leads to misunderstanding and confusion. That leads to debaters talking past one another and eliminates any possibility of compromise and agreement.

© 2014, Charlie Jensen, All Rights Reserved

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