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The word faith has various uses; its central meaning is similar to "belief", "trust" or "confidence", but unlike these terms, "faith" tends to imply a transpersonal rather than interpersonal relationship – with God or a higher power. The object of faith can be a person (or even an inanimate object or state of affairs) or a proposition (or body of propositions, such as a religious credo). In each case, however, the faithful subject's faith is in an aspect of the object that cannot be rationally proven or objectively known. Faith can also be defined as accepting as true something which one has been told by someone who is believed to be trustworthy. In its proper sense faith means trusting the word of another.

Religious Faith

In religious contexts, "faith" has several different meanings. Sometimes, it means loyalty to one's religion. It is in the latter sense in which one can speak of, for example, "the Catholic faith" or "the Islamic faith." For creedal religions, faith also means that one accepts the religious tenets of the religion as true. For non-creedal religions, faith often means that one is loyal to a particular religious community. In general, faith means being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see with your physical (as opposed to spiritual) eyes.

Sometimes, faith means a belief in a relationship with a deity. In this case, "faith" is used in the sense of "fidelity." Such a commitment need not be blind or submissive, although it often shares these types of characteristics. For many Jews, for example, the Hebrew Bible and Talmud depict a committed but contentious relationship between their God and the Children of Israel. For quite a lot of people, faith or the lack thereof, is an important part of their identities. E.g. a person will identify him or herself as a Muslim or a skeptic.

Many religious rationalists, as well as non-religious people, criticise implicit faith as being irrational. In this view, belief should be restricted to what is directly supportable by logic or evidence and nothing should be believed unless supported by the Scientific method. Others say faith is perfectly compatible with and does not necessary contradict reason.Sometimes faith can be referred as ignorance of reality. It is a strong believe in no proof.

Sometimes, faith means a belief in the existence of a deity, and can be used to distinguish individual belief in deities from belief in deities within religion. However it can also be used in context of belief in deities within religions. Many Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that there is adequate historical evidence of their God's existence and interaction with human beings. As such, they may believe that there is no need for "faith" in God in the sense of belief against or despite evidence; rather, they hold that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that their God certainly exists, and that particular beliefs, concerning who or what their God is and why this God is to be trusted, are vindicated by evidence and logic. There is no historical evidence, which convinces the whole community of historians that any one religion is true. For people in this category, "faith" in a God simply means "belief that one has knowledge of [any particular] God". It is logically impossible that all these different religions with their mutually contradictory beliefs can simultaneously be true. Therefore the majority of believers have faith in a belief system which is in some ways false, which they have difficulty describing at least. This is disputed though by some religious traditions especially in Hinduism who hold the view that the several different faiths are just aspects of the ultimate truth that the several religions have difficulty to describe and understand. They see the different religions as just different paths to the same goal. This does not explain away all logical contradictions between faiths but these traditions say that all seeming contradictions will be understood once a person has an experience of the Hindu concept of moksha.

What is believed concerning God, in this sense, is at least in principle only as reliable as the evidence and the logic by which faith is supported.

Finally, some religious believers – and many of their critics – often use the term "faith" as the affirmation of belief without an ongoing test of evidence, and even despite evidence apparently to the contrary. Most Jews, Christians and Muslims admit that whatever particular evidence or reason they may possess that their God exists and is deserving of trust, is not ultimately the basis for their believing. Thus, in this sense faith refers to belief beyond evidence or logical arguments, sometimes called "implicit faith". Another form of this kind of faith is fideism: one ought to believe that God exists, but one should not base that belief on any other beliefs; one should, instead, accept it without any reasons at all. Faith in this sense, grounded simply in the sincerity of faith, belief on the basis of believing, is often associated with Søren Kierkegaard for example, and some other existentialist religious thinkers; his views are presented in Fear and Trembling. William Sloane Coffin counters that faith is not acceptance without proof, but trust without reservation.


Although Judaism does recognize the positive value of Emunah (faith/belief) and the negative status of the Apikorus (heretic) the specific tenets that compose required belief and their application to the times have been heatedly disputed throughout Jewish history. Many, but not all, Orthodox Jews have accepted Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief.

For an English translation of his Principles, see: [[1]] For a wide history of this dispute, see: Shapira, Marc: The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Series).)


Faith in Christianity centers on faith in the saving grace of Christ the Son of the living God, who died for the sin of the world. The precise meaning and content of faith in Christianity differs somewhat between the various Christian traditions. The definition of this quality for Christians is found in the scriptural text at Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see". (NIV)

For more, see: Faith in Christianity


Faith in Islam centers on faith in the fulfillment of prophecy by Muhammad, the prophet and messenger of the holy God Allah.

For more, see: Faith in Islam


Faith (saddha/ sraddha) is an important constituent element of the teachings of the Buddha - both in the Theravada tradition as in the Mahayana. While not of the “blind” variety and on occasion linked with insight (prajna), Buddhist faith (as advocated by the Buddha of the various scriptures) nevertheless requires a degree of trusting confidence and belief primarily in the spiritual attainment and salvational knowledge of the Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centres on belief in the Buddha as a supremely Awakened being, on his unexcelled role as teacher of both humans and gods, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual Doctrine), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism functions as a form of motor, which propels the Buddhist practitioner towards the goal of Awakening (bodhi) and Nirvana.

For more, see Faith in Buddhism


Faith to the Rastafarians implies knowledge of the divinity of Haile Selassie rather than belief in this proposition, as Rastas claim not to hold belief systems. The word faith does not hold such negative connotations. Their faith in Selassie as God, and as the being who is going to end their sufferings at the day of judgement when they will return to live in Africa under his rule is at the centre of their lives. The dreadlocks are worn as an open declaration of faith in and loyalty towards Haile Selassie, while marijuana is seen to help cultivate a strong faith by bringing the faithful closer to God. Rastas have faith when 2 or more of them come together to reason about their religion that Haile Selassie is with them. Selassie is seen as both God the Father, who created Heaven and earth, and as God the Son, the Reincarnation of Jesus Christ. To complete the Holy Trinity the Holy Spirit is seen as being in the believers themselves, and within all human beings. The announcement of the death of Selassie in 1975 did not disturb the faith of the Rastas, who assumed that God cannot die, and that therefore the news was false. Rastas also have a faith in physical immortality, both for Haile Selassie and for themselves.

Neurobiological findings

Neurobiological research [2] coupled with modern medical imaging, especially tomography, suggests that serotonin is generated in some areas of the brain of people having religious experiences, and may have specific effects. These include the ability of believers to better cope with stressful situations. Viewed from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, this would suggest that in an uncontrolled environment, religious faith would objectively increase fitness for individuals.


  1. ^  Jacqueline Borg et al. Karolinska University, Stockholm, Sweden, The Serotonin System and Spiritual Experiences - American Journal of Psychiatry 160:1965-1969, November 2003.

See also

Further reading

  • Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W. W. Norton (2004), hardcover, 336 pages, ISBN 0393035158

External links

Classic reflections on the nature of faith

  • Martin Buber I and Thou
  • Paul Tillich The Dynamics of Faith

The Reformation view of faith

  • John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion
  • R.C. Sproul, Faith Alonecs:Víra

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