Is belief the enemy of faith?

19 Sep

Belief is the enemy of faith. That is the title and main point of a recent article in the UU World by UUA President Peter Morales.  And this idea has touched off quite a discussion in the UU Blog-o-sphere, with folks like Rev. Erik, Tom Schade, and (my favorite response) Kim Hampton weighing in.

As I think about what each of these wise folks had written, I have come to a conclusion:  this is a false dichotomy.  Belief and faith are not opposites.  They are in tension with one another, though.  So if one is not the opposite of another, if one is not the enemy of the other, then where does this tension come from?

I think the answer is humility.  As I understand it, the difference between belief and faith is the level of humility or arrogance with which I hold an idea.

Let me explain.  My grandmother was a devout Christian.  When I came out to her as agnostic at best, neo-pagany at worst (in her opinion), it was quite startling to her.  On the one hand, she believed in God and in the Bible.  On the other hand, she knew that I was a good person.  She had faith that God would see into my heart and determine that I would be in heaven with her when she died.  She still believed in that particular type of God that judges and determines our worthiness for heaven or hell, but she had faith that this God would not love me any less than she did.  She held her belief with conviction – some might even say with arrogance. She held her faith humbly.

We believe a lot of things, and we usually take these for granted as “how the world works” – at least until they are proven wrong.  But we hold faith much more tenuously.  Again, referring to my grandmother, she shared with me once that her faith and her doubts were like butterflies flitting around her.  Problems came when they stopped moving and landed on her, when either solidified and became belief.

So is belief the enemy of faith?  I don’t think so.  I think pride and arrogance are the enemy of faith.  I think we each go about each day with a whole lot of beliefs, and a whole lot of things we have faith in.  And this is fine, for the most part.

I think that what separates faith from belief is a sense of humility, a sense that “I might not be entirely right on this, but I sure do hope so.” And humility is not something we Unitarian Universalists do very well.  But I have faith that we can learn.

2 Responses to “Is belief the enemy of faith?”

  1. Paul Dalzell September 20, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Rev. Dawn, Rev. Steve Edington (Rose’s brother) gave an excellent sermon on this at UUC this summer, I’d be happy to share with you if you’d like to see it. It is such an interesting subject, and seems uniquely UU.

    • Rev. Dawn September 20, 2013 at 6:56 am #

      That would be wonderful! Thank you! I think you have my email, or you can send it via facebook.

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