Friday, October 4, 2013

Faith vs Trust

Sometimes on a discussion with a religious person, the topic of faith will come up. I will contend that faith is actually the very opposite of a virtue. The believer then seems confused or accuses me of a double standard. "You speak so lowly of faith, yet you have faith in science! You have faith in your wife! Where's the consistency?" And they would have a point... if only what they were claiming was true. The truth is I don't have faith in science, nor even faith in my wife. What I have in those cases is
a feeling of trust.

Usually they'll claim that these are interchangeable terms... that I'm just engaging in a song and dance of semantics to wiggle my way out of a corner. But that's not the case. These two terms are actually two very different words.

Faith is the process of belief without evidence. Belief of or in something or someone without any reason or evidence to support this feeling. Faith will often even disregard contrary evidence just to preserve that faith.

Trust is different. Trust is the belief in the reliability of a person or thing. But where faith doesn't need any backing, trust is earned... not given automatically.

I trust science, rather than having faith in it. The scientific process has time and time proved it's worth. It has shown how it advances the world and out understanding of it. It is a self correcting process that has shown time and time again how reliable it is. On the back of it's success and my knowledge of how it works, I trust it. I do not have faith in science. I do not have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow. Instead I truth the repetitive observations that the sun comes up every morning. This cumulative evidence allows me to trust that the same will happen tomorrow morning. What I have is not faith in science, but a profound trust in and respect for it.

I also wouldn't say that I have faith in my wife to stay faithful. Rather, I trust that she will. In the whole of our relationship, every day, every act gives me a picture of her. She has stayed true to me from the start, and has never given me a reason to doubt that this fact would ever change. Add to this, to my daily interactions with her... everything I know about her allows me to build a better picture of who she is as a person. Knowing all that, I trust in her completely. And I will continue to do so, so long as she gives me no reason to doubt her. I truth her because of who she is. I trust her because she's earned my trust. And I feel that me trusting her because of who she is actually speaks higher of her than if I just had faith in her on a wish.

Sometimes a believer will try to use my fondness for cars against me. "You have faith that your car won't break down. How's that any different than my faith in God?" Well, it's very different actually. I don't have faith in my car. I trust that it is mechanically sound. I do my own work on it, and because of that, I know that the maintenance is up to date. Furthermore, it's never given me a problem since the day I purchased it. I have years of data that tells me that it is reliable, so I trust it.

And even when I bought it when it was new, I had trust that it would get me from point A to point B... not faith. Yes, it had a warranty. But a car can still break under warranty. But I was once an engineering major. I know how much work and expertise goes into engineering such things. So I trust that these experts did their job, just as they have with models prior. I trust my car will serve me well
on a long trip because I know it's maintenance, and I know how well it's served me. Faith would be walking up to a car from 1978 with 275,000 miles on it, body panels all dented up, and expecting it to get you flawlessly through a cross-county journey without any prior knowledge of the car. Such an expectation is a silly one.

I hope I have showed that faith and trust are two very different thing. Faith is meaningless and is wrong just as often as it is right. But trust is much more reliable, as it is earned from consistency and past actions. So believers... please stop parading faith as some great virtue. It is not... far from it. Instead, trust yourself and in others for real reasons. I don't think that having faith in a being that has failed every test put to it is something to be admired.

-Brain Hulk

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