The Word "Faith" is Synonyms with Wish-thinking!

… Or at least it is if we go by how it is used.

When was the last time you heard someone have “faith” that their last sexual encounter gave them aids? Or have “faith” in their cancer’s ability to kill them slowly and painfully? Or have “faith” that their God was going to send them to hell?

But think of something which is considered by the speaker to be a positive thing…And It’s a whole different story.

But some people who like the notion of “faith”, but don’t want to accused of wish-thinking will argue something along the lines of: I have a personal subjective experiences that validate a truth that I can’t honestly deny and I call it “Faith”… But you have to wonder, If he fealt true despair at the hands of his cancer… and i mean truly had lost all hope of survival to the point that he couldn’t convince himself that there was any hope… would he ever say he had “faith” that the cancer was going to kill him? Would the word “faith” fit into that context? Is that really how we commonly use that word?

How then is the word faith to be understood if our understanding is to be derived by how and when it is used… or in other words, if our understanding of the word comes from our personal experience and in the context of our daily lives (and not from some definition given to us by a religious person who wants to glorify the practice of having faith) if not another, and more prestiges, word for wish-thinking?

Probability? Likely? The most beneficial outcome? Desired outcome?

For what the average person will talk about, translate, “Faith”, as “Trust”.

Unless the context is referring to their Religion, then they mean, “religion”, and they are at the same time telling you that they hold to their religion by, “trust”, that it is true.

So I wouldn’t so much class it typically with wish-thinking directly, though because it involved trust, if they want something out of their religious icons and think that it is of their religious icon’s ability to grant it, and they are basing their hope for fulfillment on trust that it will be done by their religious icon, then the trust would indeed reflect wish-thinking.

On a static basis of just having the religion, however, and basing the holding that it is true off of trust that it is true, I would not say is directly inherent with wish-thinking.

It can’t be probability or likelyhood, since you can have faith in a thing that you admit is unlikely… and it’s more than just an expression of hope or a wish (although I think an expression of hope is implied), it seems to indicate a willingness to believe in the fullfillment of that hope as well.

I do think faith can be translated to trust… but like I’ve tried to point out above it seems to indicate a trust in positive aspects or things you wished were true. “I trust my enemies will seek to destroy me”… I don’t know if I could say “I have faith my enemies will seek to destroy me” without sounding like I had a death wish or somehow had something to gain from it… Trust seems to indicate confidence, while faith seems to indicate confidence in a hope.

But it’s more than that… I trust the theory of evolution to be true… but I might very well wish it wasn’t true! I might really dislike the notion and yet trust it to be true. With faith however… I can’t seem to say I have faith in something, yet I wish it weren’t true or wasn’t going to happen… or something of that nature. The word faith seems to indicate a desire for it’s truth as well as the confidence.

The concept of the Trust is different in it’s use.
What you are talking about is placing assurance, like one does for probability.
It is the most likely, or it seems inevitable, therefore I trust (I am assured) that, etc…

Meaning, you are using Trust as a transitive verb meaning something like, “To expect with assurance; assume”.
Where as, when someone says, “I have Faith in God” and you replace it with, “I have Trust in God”, then we are using Trust as an intransitive verb meaning something like, “To have or place reliance; allow to be dependent upon”.

So you don’t “allow to be dependent upon” that your enemies are coming, but you, “assume” that your enemies are coming.

And it’s not so much a wish that God exists, but a reliance that God exists without any way to assure one self that God exists.

Where as the Trust you are talking about has an assurance of probability that a thing is or will be.

What happens is that people try to take Faith and make it into an assurance through subjective proofs to themselves that validate why they have this unstable Trust of reliance.

The hope is a causal extraction of humans being afraid that they are completely wrong, so they hope that they aren’t and won’t be screwed over by holding the Trust/Faith.

Like when you tell someone that you Love them for the first time.
You are placing Trust that they Love you, but you also hope they do.
But, it’s important to note, that the vulnerability of the Trust is what causes the Hope and not that the Trust/Faith is a hope in itself.

For instance, I have Faith that there is a God.
I Trust that God exists.
I place reliance on this as true.

I have no basis for this Trust; it is purely emotional, as Trust of this kind (just like that Love above) is.

However, I don’t have any hope that God exists, as counter to the norm, I don’t fear God not existing at all, nor do I care.

I simply Trust that God does exist and leave it as that.
Just as I have Trust that you should give your life a purpose and meaning or it is just pointlessly depressing (I don’t mean religious, I just mean general purpose and meaning).

I don’t, however, hope that it does have purpose and meaning, as I won’t ever be able to tell if it doesn’t, as this Trust is done because I’m blinded by subjective experience regarding something that can only be non-locally proven.
Unfortunately, I am bound to the local measure on intangible constructs.

So too with Faith for religious reasons.


As an afterthought…let’s look at something real quick:

Here’s a nice definition of Faith from the dictionary, as it relates to religion:
The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.

So it’s not hoping for something, but accepting…like submission to not knowing.

Alright… for the sake of argument… I’ll accept that this is so. Would it seem apropriate if a person, who has lost all hope of surviving his cancer and in considering suicide as an alternative to the painful end that cancer would bring, were to say “I have faith that my cancer will kill me”? If that were to mean “to place reliance” or “depend upon” than it makes sense, in that his decision to commit suicide depends upon this belief, his despair is relying on this notion… in fact in this moment, his thoughts and views are relying on this notion.

This sounds utterly nonsensical to me… It seems to be clear as day that the object of “faith” should be a positive force or otherwise something worth of wishing or hoping for…

That just sounds schizophrenic to me… It’s motivated purely by emotion but you don’t care?

This statement makes no sense to me… Hope dosn’t require that you be able to prove it or be able to “tell” at some point. I hope my grandmother was happy in her last days on earth… I’ll never know… but that dosn’t disqualify my “hope” as “hope” nor, if I were to trust in the truth of that hope, would it disqualify my “faith” as wish-thinking.

I’m not interrested in definitions based on dictionaries… I’m interrested in the definition we can derive from how the word is commonly USED in actual spoken or writen language. Not by having them explained to us, but by looking at the ways in which it is used and what it indicate in those contexts.

I’ll reveal the source of my interrest in this matter, since it might help direct the conversation.

This whole thing came about as a result of reading about some studies done on how language affects perception and is tied into our value systems… So I began thinking to myself that if faith truly was used to indicate confidence in what is essentially a hope or a wish (which I think it very well might be) than because of it’s prestige as a word (It is not a word or term used to disparage someone or some idea like “coward” or “wishful-thinking”.), it might seem a respectable undertaking in general and indeed expected or admirable under the circumstances where we are accustomed to hearing it used. In which case it actually serves as a kind of sub-conscious suggestion carried by nothing other than our use of it in language. The same way that our uses of the word “coward” and the meaning we can derive from those uses indicate to us that certain behavior is bad. Even if someone were to present us with reasonable argument as to why we ought to behave in a way that seems “cowardly” in a perticular case, we would be resistent to the notion because of this powerful suggestion.

So i’m looking for uses of the word “faith” that do not indicate wish-thinking… or better yet uses that exclude the possibility of it being thought of that way.

Now notice how I am only interrested in USES… not in definitions or explinations of it… I want a context in which the word can be used without seeming odd or out of place…

Perhaps, considering what you are after are results, I would best serve your inquiry by just using myself as an example, as it seems to have already peaked an interest.

So I’ll start there, and if you want me to go back over and respond to one of the other points, I’ll gladly do so, but for now I’ll work from the idea that I was providing non-useful discussion for your ends up to this point.

So let’s look at what I said:

And then how it remarked in your mind.

lol…yes, I get that allot.

I don’t care if God exists because it’s not what is vital.
I hold that my Faith that God exists is what is vital (per our other discussion) but not that God does.
If God does, great, fantastic.
If God doesn’t, great, fantastic.

What matters is that I hold that God exists, not whether God exists.

And yes, it is emotional, in that it is not a reasoned judgment that causes me to choose to say that God exists.
It’s an implicit signaling and chemical compound that causes dopamine production from an evocation of my implicit sensory memory and presented to me as what I call, “intuition”, that causes me to choose to say that God exists.

Meaning, my brain and body combines a series of effects from the word, “God”, that causes my implicit memory to suggest that God exists from sub-cognitive sensory inputs that have been combined over time.

I can’t pull these forward and use them to argue that God exists.
I can’t assure myself that God exists.
Nor do I care that God exists.

“God exists”, because it is part of my nature to have Faith that God exists; that much I can determine easily from just feeling my body’s, “intuitive”, systems.

So no…I don’t have hope about it.
I just sense it via my implicit mind and body.

Regarding this bit…

I shouldn’t have added the last part; that was more a side-tangent on the futility I consider it to try to prove something like Life as having a purpose and meaning.

Instead, I hold that life does.
I have Faith that it does, but I don’t hope that it does.
Nothing will be gained or lost if life does not have a purpose or meaning.
There is a large amount of difference, however, if I hold Faith that life does or that it doesn’t.

If I’m understanding your correctly…

You are suggesting that “faith” refers to the practice of holding in your mind an idea or image that does some good for you (emotionally)… But is otherwise divorced from your image of reality?

If so… I can’t tell in what way it is different from hope…

I hold Faith is a doomed position, for better or worse.

If you are compelled to hold something in Faith, then you are compelled to do so, regardless if you want to or not.
This is how I feel about God.

Now, however, if you want to hold something in Faith, then you are purposefully disengaging cognitive reason that you would otherwise apply for some kind of means to an end.

While these are both Faith, I would suppose that the second would be more likely closely linked to Hope than the first.

If one is compelled to hold something in Faith, they don’t have cognitive peace fighting against it.
They must hold the Faith for peace in their implicit emotions.
Or go through allot of personal therapy to convince their body and mind that they don’t actually need this thing.
It is a natural extension by consequence of their essence (previous conversation again).

So I don’t see what I have in Faith as Hope at all.
One primary difference is anxiety.

My Faith lacks a desire for fulfillment in anticipated anxiety.
My Faith just is because it is.

My Faith is not because I long for something.

In fact, it would be far easier if I could gouge out the compulsion that is my Faith that God exists considering what I know scientifically about the religious experience as it occurs in man.

As it is, however, I am stuck in that duality that you remarked upon in our other discussion; that skeptic and faithful in one shot.

I’m sorry Stumpy… but this distinction cannot be made without making some unevidenced assumptions about the nature of the human mind. (in fact it contradicts much of what we have learned through neuroscience)

At best what you are saying is that one kind of faith is held for reasons you cannot explain or do not understand and over which you don’t percieve yourself as having any control… and the other kind is held for reasons that you are aware of.

Also “it just is because it is” is nonsense in terms of meaning… “because” indicates a “cause” a cause indicates it wasn’t always there, which means it was caused by something other than itself… so it cannot be becuase of itself…

I’d just like you to comment on this bit first so i know if i’m doing you justice before moving on…

Well, what I meant by, “is because it is”, was that which I explained earlier in neurological break down.

It is a compelled Faith because it is not a cognitive Faith.
I hold a distinction between the two, as the motivations for both are entirely different in what our brains are doing.

I don’t seem to be choosing to believe God exists in Faith.
Instead, I am compelled by a series of neurological instances that provoke an intuitive pull to it.

This, I know, is due to implicit sensory memory.

So there is a distinction.
I am not aiming for something in anticipation.
I am instead, simply occurring with Faith just as I occur with compulsion for analyzing systems.

I don’t Hope God exists.

Did I answer what you were concerned with?

I’m not sure… my hoping that my grandmother was happy before she died isn’t in anticipation of anything either… I’m occuring with that hope… I just happen to know why.

Unless you mean to say that your faith in God has no emotional consequences for you?

Or maybe the difference is in being aware of why you feel the way you do?

That’s what I meant.
My Faith in God bears no emotional consequence to me.

However, humanity does.
I believe in God and my religion of God is man.

Exploring why we are the way we are is to examine the brilliance of this existence.
It’s absolutely mind blowing.

Just with what man is all on it’s own and on it’s own accord.
The more credit I give to man, the more credit I give to God for creating a thing that creates what man has, including Religion.
To me, the brilliance is that Religion was rudimentary unavoidable for humans, and so was the unknowing.

That…that is just shear brilliant!
And that our souls are actually a result of our implicit memory creating an essence of a person in totality of who they are and projects them eternally into the present tense that causes the eternal state sensation in our mind counter to their rather material form cognitively is just that much more mind blowingly amazing regarding man, and regarding God.

And the why of what I feel is base level.
It is a culmination of all states and atmospheres that my genetic form has experienced and cataloged in it’s memory so acutely that I can’t even pin down all of the specific variables that bear influence on my desires and choices.

That’s why.

Now, as to why there is that?
We then have to address why every state and atmosphere that I have experienced occurred the way they did, to include all things that have existed in the forms that they have occurred for the durations that they occurred at the same time.

In the following, when I say, “I have Faith in God because…”, treat the “I have Faith” like we treat, “A bird has wings”, or, “A cat has a tail”.

I have Faith in God because of a massive entanglement of probabilities that baffle the mind to near infinities.
And others have yet no Faith in God because of the same.

And man is a collection of these probabilities just as complicated as me, but seven billion fold.
That’s nearly an infinities of possibilities seven billion fold…that’s what the probability is for man to exist just as man does and think religiously about God and existence in just the way that he does.

Collectively…undecided, and free to believe either.

Seven billion fold and man isn’t uniformed on that decision.
That we all have awareness suddenly seems like a cake walk of a probability to this.

To me…that’s more breath taking than anything any astronomer could ever show me in space.

But I’m straying…
Regarding Hope and Faith.

I don’t have Hope because I’m too busy being amazed at what man is to care too much about whether God exists or not.
I hold Faith that God does, but the worth of that effect of God existing is like the worth in taste of cardboard in an ice cream shop.

So if i’m understanding you right…

Your faith in God isn’t motivated by emotion nor reason… but rather is conditioned into you?

if so than I’m not sure that’s much of an improvement over “wish-thinking”.

Why is conditioning bad?
It’s what caused us to exist in the first place.

You have to understand that your personal brand of theism is very different from the avrage joe… It’s not that I think it’s a bad thing, but if faith is either wish-thinking or conditioned into you that seems to me to be something the avrage theist would want to deny.

True, the average theist, in my opinion, needs an overhaul of perspective, and how that doesn’t make it less true, but more brilliant.

Theism hasn’t caught up to the times, and it’s far long past needing it.

In regards to forced, or chosen Faith, (which we’ll assume is the typical Theist form) I would venture to suggest that it’s completely dependent on whether or not they look forward to their afterlife construct, and if they need God to exist as a core of accepting reality as it is.

If they don’t, then their Faith is without Hope.
If they do, then their Faith is with Hope.

But I wouldn’t say that the two are equal, but I would agree that Hope tends to follow close on the heals of Faith.
Somewhat like how a wave isn’t water (because a wave is just the force), but the two come together so they seem to be the same.

First of all, awesome point you raise. I think the issue here is that we’ve got two kinds of ‘faith’, or two understandings. One, is faith as a virtue, the other is faith as a faculty. Faith as a virtue is what you talk about in your OP- people are encouraged to ‘have faith’ that something good will happen, or that something bad will not happen. But never the other way around. Why?

Well, look to the nature of virtues- go back to Aristotle.  You'll see that [i]eudaimonia [/i] was the goal of virtuous behavior, and if nothing else, it was a sort of happiness. As such, despair, fear, anguish, and etc. are all signs of a non-virtuous life. If you're feeling those ways, something is going wrong. Now, Aristotle, as far as I know, didn't have faith as a virtue, the Christians introduced it, along with hope and charity.  But the same sort of rule applies-  happiness is a sign of a virtuous life, so a virtue, like Faith, is going to be something that leads to human happiness (among other things), because what's what it is to thrive ([i]eudaimonia[/i]). 

Also, you have the whole ‘benevolent God’ thing- presumably, since God wants the best for us, demonstrating faith that things will go right is demonstrating faith in God’s Will. An expectation that things will go shitty doesn’t demonstrate a faith in anything- at least, not of the sort that theists are after. Faith that one’s dog has psychic powers, even if it’s only used in positive ways (to anticipate good news) wouldn’t be the sort of faith a theist would consider praiseworthy- it was to have an appropriate object. If Christians believed that their God was evil, then Christian faith could easily have been an expectation of the worst, in just the way you point out never happens.

Great response Uccisore!

I’m understanding you to say that “faith” is a virtue only in so far as the object of your faith contributes to your eudaimon or mental well being… but falls short of that if the subject were something trivial like your dogs telekenetic powers or some such.

I can even see that reflected somewhat in the common uses of the word… but how exactly does that differ from wish-thinking, other than condone it or condemn it depending on how meaningful the wish is? I mean, If we look at other virtues, such as honor, bravery, loyalty, integrity ect, we notice how they are all qualities that would be benificial to more than merely yourself and would lend themselves to your eudaimon by way of satisfying your self-image in a social context… Braging rights, in a way, but also points of pride that no one could really deny you (without contradicting their own social nature). Faith stands out in that it dosn’t do anyone but yourself any good…

Unless there really IS a God In which case “faith” in him indeed becomes a point of pride on the day that you meet. Lack of faith would bring you shame when God turns out to have been wishing you well and thought of you with love, while you questioned him, rejected him and/or thought poorly of him.

But you see the circularity inherent in this, right? Faith isn’t really a virtue like any other…

Right. I think you could call the Christian virtue ‘faith’ by the title ‘faith in God’, which would eliminate faith in your dog, and because of the understood nature of God, and the nature of virtue, it’s inevitable that people will have it when hoping for the best, and not fearing the worst.

Well, does wish-thinking really bring about a change in attitude towards a situation? It seems pretty fundamental to me that faith that something will turn out well, and wishing that it would turn out well are pretty different- the first one implies a will to belief, and the second doesn’t. I can wish I had a gold toilet all I want, but I can’t see ever having faith that I will - you know, unless it’s on it’s way in the mail.

I’m not following what you mean here. It seems to me that for a virtue to benefit someone else, it has to be through the behavior of the virtuous person, right? My courage benefits you because I DO a courageous thing that aids you in some way. To that end, it seems to me that faith can be as beneficial to others as any other virtue. This is just a wild stab, though, I’m not fully understanding the point above.

Faith in God isn’t a virtue unless there’s a God, sure, which does make it quite different. Makes me wonder if there’s non-theistic ways to demonstrate the virtue of faith after all. Not sure.