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We need faith to grow

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RNS photo
RNS photo

Why do we need faith? An Atheist friend of mine challenged me with that question. I told my friend we need faith to help us grow. She was unimpressed. She replied that growth does not come from faith, but from fear. We fear the unknown and that challenges us to grow, that any type of religious faith is designed to lessen our fear. She said the comfort it brings retards our spiritual growth.

Whilst I do not agree with my associate whole-heartedly, I must confess that she does have a point. Change does come from discontent. We grow because we desire change. Perhaps many religions have suffered because they have become comfortable with their faith. It had taken away their fears and unintentionally created a stagnant atmosphere. We are all seeking happiness, comfort, contentment. But at the same time we are seeking to improve; improve the world around us, improve our collective experience, advance our collective knowledge and consequently our species. Some people would argue that religion is rooted in our fear of the unknown, our attempts to explain the unexplainable. In turn we resist the change that might come with knowledge. Some 1,500 years ago, humans with faith burned “witches” and enslave men. Knowledge and intellectual growth has helped put a stop to those practices. I've heard it argued that faith has caused division amongst all humans; that in a John Lennon utopia, we'd be free from petty differences if we started anew — a sort of spiritual Tabula Rasa.

I believe this view is perhaps a little oversimplified. If you'll indulge another pop culture reference, I sometimes think of the human desire for conflict as depicted in South Park. A future where all of humanity has become Atheists and are now locked in terrible conflict over the name of their Atheist association. Suicide bombers crashing into buildings shouting “science damn you!” While amusing, this picture is somewhat realistic. Religion is likely not the reason we fight. We are the reason we fight, our reluctance to be wrong.

But I digress. Why do we need faith? I still think we need faith to grow, it's a framework from which we build ideals and progress. However, I will add that within this framework we should allow for error. We should make ourselves uncomfortable occasionally by consenting to change. Admitting our wrongs, and willingly allowing others to be right. Perhaps by embracing this idea, we can reach a place where humanity as a whole can advance beyond our current intellectual and spiritual imaginations into places truly unknown and wholly remarkable.

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One comment

  1. Pearce,

    Good thoughts. It seems that there is a bit of the uncomfortable in growth, so while the catalyst for growth may not always be fear, it might easily have to do with being uncomfortable.

    And yes, it is sometimes easy to become complacent. I like that at Spokane Faith and Values, I am often challenged and presented with new perspectives. It’s a good antidote to complacency!

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