Faith is an amplifier. If you have it, or work at it until you’ve deluded yourself that you have it, it will help you accomplish things you never thought you could. Be it terrorist deeds or an interesting and fun invention or a work of art.
I passed confirmation with flying colors, but in the back of my head something tells me I really did it because it was the norm and I wanted my confirmation gift: a bike. I soon lost my faith, had I any to begin with, since faith in the Christian god didn’t seem to affect my life in the least. In my late teens I became a searcher and devoured pretty much everything – Martinus’ Cosmology, the Bhagavad-Gita, Castaneda’s books of drug abuse and wizardry; joining Christian friends and going to Mass, inviting Jehova’s Witnesses and discussing the age of the Earth and much more over a coffee.
Like many other variants of Christianity, they refuted scientific evidence (where it suited their needs) and to make the timescale fit with their beliefs, they patiently explained that in the olden days, some people lived to be a thousand years old.
After learning more about the mainstream religions, I soon came to the conclusion that it was much more likely that they were all wrong than that one specific religion was right and all the others wrong.
There was also the problem of the Creator. If the Creator created the Universe, where was he? And who created him? And what existed before? (Don’t get me wrong, Science wrestles with these problems as well.) To me it seemed much more likely that the Universe had always existed and the Creator was a phenomenon inside all things.
During this time I really was a true philosopher; though choosing my sources from a gut feeling rather than conducting disciplined studies on a schedule, I reached some interesting conclusions and wrote them down and tested them again. This was long before my year of Theoretical Philosophy at Stockholm University. Those studies were mostly focused on memorizing the crackpot rantings of some 17th century German philosopher, rather than forging a new breed of philosophers that could bring new approaches to the history of ideas. I did enjoy Socrates, Sartre, Russell – and found I had a knack for logic, limited as its use may be in these matters.
But faith. Even if you, like me, haven’t experienced something that can help you in the nerve-wracking choice of the only right religion, there’s something to be said for it. Some inspiring fiction springs to mind; The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, wherein a lazy rich man’s son reads a novel about a guru and spends years practicing to aquire his ability – to see without his eyes. Or James Clavell’s Shogun, where Anjin-San is taught a technique for enhancing willpower: to meditate in front of a small stone every morning, attempting to lift it with his mind.
While studying in Stockholm, I meditated on my balcony once a day, sitting in front of a speckled paper. I still pursued my cartoonist career, and I wanted to aquire the ability to have visions, to be able to do it on demand. I started by counting my breaths and trying to “find” the digit in the mass of dots before the next breath. Pretty soon I could visualize every digit in about a second. After a few weeks, when I closed my eyes, visions came to me. Not grand visions, like what the world will look like in 100 years, but things that I could use in cartooning – mostly funny little characters and faces. Some of them were good and those that I could “hold” long enough (can’t explain it better) ended up on paper.
These esoteric practices required faith; faith in reaching a distant goal, and faith in that you weren’t deluding yourself – sounds like religion. Faith in myself is what I seem to have lost now. But maybe if I allow some time for reflection and practicing a simple skill, rather than try to do everything instantly, it will find me again.
This was an example of a non-religious type of faith. If you’ve found another one like it, please share. Those with religious faith may find it’s hard to shake it; habit, community, friends all might contribute to you keeping a faith that you, deep down, know isn’t true, and make you support or do things that you, deep down, know are wrong.
People who don’t believe in religions are atheists. This atheist’s sales pitch contains some arguments for atheism and against religion. If you’d rather believe in something, anything, I’m on your side. Just make sure it’s something benevolent, and not a spiteful god justifying war for a holy cause.