– 1 – Maybe my problem was the idea of faith itself. What is it, exactly? The Bible defines it for us, and I use this definition above Webster’s for what should be obvious reasons. “Faith,” wrote Paul, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Have you ever tried to break this down and put it into English that makes sense to the modern man? The NIV puts it like this: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” if that helps. In simple modern terms, Paul said this: Faith is believing when you have no rational reason to believe, or more simply, faith is belief in the absence of proof.
The first time I made this connection, I couldn’t believe it (so to speak :) ). Christianity’s entire basis is “Just push the I Believe button”? Really?! I struggled with this a while, reading what the Bible has to say about faith. How do you get it? “It comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” And what does this mean? Believe what you’re told. Put them together and you are faced with the requirement to believe what you’re told without proof.*
* It’s important to know the that faith Paul speaks of isn’t possible with proof. We’re required to have faith, which Paul defines as belief in the absence of proof, which means that proof of what we believe negates the possibility of faith. Think about it.
My problem was this: My “I Believe” button was broken. I was no longer capable of simply believing what I was told without proof. I had lost the ability to “become like a child.” Further, I was quite certain that regressing to childlike anything was not something anyone in his right mind would desire.
Once I realized, in plain English, what God required of me, I knew I couldn’t do it. Others, perhaps, are able to believe without question. I wasn’t one of them. I just didn’t believe, which meant that I was, by definition, an atheist. I was 32 years old.
– 2 – “Belief”, to me, is something that wells up naturally from deep within; it’s a cognitive recognition of the truth of a proposition, as well as the emotional attachment to it. It is NOT, to me, a decision to be made, or mere lip service to said proposition, as those who promote Pascal’s Wager seem to maintain. I cannot simply decide to believe in anything. I must be convinced of it – and the bigger the proposition, the more convincing that’s going to take.
I don’t trust emotions, particularly as a measure of truth. People seem to automatically assume that the stronger the emotion, the truer it or the underlying proposition is. Me, I’m almost the opposite: truth is cold and unemotional; if emotions are the only evidence or argument for something, then it’s almost by definition false.
– 3 – I never was comfortable making assertions I couldn’t support. It just took me a long time to figure out what beginning point of knowledge made sense to me, and to make peace with it.