Recently, I have become increasingly aware that the concept of faith is being viewed as something that is, for the most part, stale and dripping with thousands of negative connotations. I speak mainly of religious faith, though other kinds of faith are certainly not “off the hook” in this matter, which consistently meets harsh criticism, usually on the grounds of it simply existing. Look at the situation in the modern world today, should an individual speak openly of their faith, the likelihood that they will be met with some level of hostility is remarkably high. So much for our highly evolved, cultured society.
If we consider what faith is, independently of any of the acidic religious connotations (I use the word acidic because in our society there is an underlying opposition to religion which seems to throb through throughout our foundations, not because I myself have any anti-religious views) then we can come to see that all faith is, in essence, is commitment. Faith represents conviction and solidarity in one’s views and one’s cause. Considering this, I cannot say that faith is anything but a virtue that more people need to have. I don’t mean to say that I think that everyone should have faith in the same things, only that faith in some kind of cause only seems to elevate people’s lives.
Now, it is all well and good to say that faith in a cause makes things better, but we all know and have experienced what happens when people take their faith far too far. If we considered an Aristotelian view on the nature of virtue, we are led to his concept of a golden mean. He argues that each virtue lies in the centre of two vices, one of excess and one of deficiency. Without this, something cannot class as a virtue. Faith is surrounded by twin vices, as other virtues. Too much faith and one becomes a zealot. Too little and one becomes withdrawn and flooded with little more than overwhelming apathy.
Thus, I argue that faith in something is necessary for humanity to endure the travails of life. Without it, we are locked into a state of isolation, finding no reason to care for the world in which we inhabit. However, we must always temper our faith with some rational basis. If our faith is fed and fed and fed without end, it will grow beyond our rational abilities and become zeal, which always ends with corrupting the very faith that birthed it. Fundamentalism is a prime example of zeal. It starts with faith and conviction, both of which are allowed to increase beyond rationality until both are destroyed by zeal.
Faith should be nurtured and grown correctly, so that it may become powerful faith and not zeal. In this modern world, where faith is so often attacked for the crimes of zeal, it is among the hardest virtues to cultivate. However, that does not provide grounds for us to ignore it and allow ourselves to slip into a dreadful apathy. Without faith, we are not human, we are nothing more than empty organic machines, drawing out an empty level of being.
Take heart and believe in something.