Faith


Should humanism or atheism be described as a faith? Can theistic beliefs be considered knowledge because they are produced by a special cognitive faculty or “divine sense”? Does faith meet a psychological need?

The term “faith” is most frequently used to refer specifically to religious faith, but can also be used in a secular sense as a synonym for trust. Although most associated with belief in a God or gods, faith can be religious without being theistic, for example, in Buddhism. Alternatively, it can be seen as a commitment to a particular interpretation of experience and reality which is not necessarily religious at all, such as humanism. Logical positivism claims that statements of faith have no meaningful cognitive content, so it doesn’t make sense to speak of faith as a way of knowing. However, for many people faith is a key way in which they try to understand and explain the world.

The evidence on which faith is based on is often controversial. This is particularly the case in the example of scripture, which those within the religious group often see as infallible evidence, while those outside the religious group might be more circumspect. While critics argue that faith is irrational and incoherent, others would argue that faith should be seen as a way of going beyond reason rather than being purely irrational. Indeed, although faith is often contrasted with reason, many religions regard faith and reason as interdependent, for example, natural theology argues that it is only possible to access God through reason, and many religions regard reason as a God-given gift.

Some would argue that the criticism and controversy surrounding the evidence for faith claims is misplaced, arguing that faith is an act of trust and is an example of knowledge which is not evidence based. Indeed, in some traditions belief that is not based on evidence is seen as superior to belief that is based on evidence, the demand for concrete evidence being seen to signify a lack of faith. Given this controversy, teachers should provide the opportunity for a critical discussion of faith as a way of knowing. Its inclusion as a way of knowing should not be seen as an excuse for unthinking acceptance of knowledge claims in religion or other areas of knowledge.
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