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When my faith first started to crumble, my husband asked me, "What do you want to believe?" So in a sense I agree with you, and in a sense I agree with the statement you appear to refute. Faith is largely a choice. But that choice isn't necessarily a conscious one. I like your statement that we are predisposed to maintain our beliefs; that while our beliefs can change, we are inclined to reinforce what we already believe, rather than abandon that belief for a new one.

And here, I'm going to cite (of all things) the BofM, wherein we are advised that if we just desire to believe, the seed is planted, and faith will emerge from that desire.

Actually, the seed in the Book of Mormon is the word of God, not faith.

See what happens when you stop reading, Ann. ;-)

"...when was the last time you saw someone actually consult Immanual Kant's works when facing a moral dilemma?"

You mean I'm the only one who actually does this? I knew I was a minority, but...shucks!

Well, what with thinking Joseph made up what he didn't steal, I didn't see any point to keep reading it.

Dave: It doesn't seem to me that Kant and other moral philosophers are necessarily trying to solve the practical question of how should I act. Rather, they are trying to understand the conceptual question of how I should understand the nature of morality. Very few moral philosophers (I can't think of any off hand) argue that moral philosophy is necessary in order to lead a moral life.

When was the last time a person consulted a physicist when they had to throw a baseball?

Last time I asked my dad if he could catch I ball I consulted one, but then of course he is a physicist by trade. I don't think anyone really wants to hear his answer, no matter how illuminating or funny it may have been - (Optimal angles, d=(vi-vf)/t etc.)

I tend to view faith as more of a "this is the best way for things to go right now" type of belief. In this sense *faith* in God, may mean that beleiving in his existence is the best way for me to run things right now. As faith grows it may become more specific, and hence more powerful, but I think you are right Dave. Faith isn't something defined in the absence of evidence, it is someting that is defined by an overwhelmiing amount of evidence. Of course things get confusing when we start to worry about what facts/feelings/experiences/senstations to accept in this calculation. Then using these determinants to figure out what is best way for things to go gets even more muddled. I think this is why for faith to have any power we have to be pretty sure of what we are using in the equations.

If you accept this premise it is really pretty amazing that any miracles happen at all. After all, in the grand scheme of things, how important is it really to find those car keys on sunday morning? There must be something pretty impressive with the way the world works in order for things to respond to our conception of order.

I read a wonderful post on Marginal Revolution about Littlewood's Law of Miracles. Developed by a Cambridge mathematician, it states that the average person will experience about one miracle every month. Click on the URL in my sig for this post for the article.

Click on my name in the post above to read the link.

Nice link, Ann. And a clever way to put a link in a comment!

Faith is not an epistemological method per se. Faith is the difference between knowledge and belief. Faith cannot justify itself. Rather, it provides a rule for action, the consequences of which provide both practical and spiritual confirmation of the merits. Faith without works is dead.

Lectures on Faith are always interesting to me. While there is a sense of "will" to them, there are differences. Of course it came out of the cultural milieu that also gave rise of American transcendentalism and pragmatism. As many have noted, the lectures have more than a passing similarity to William James in "The Will to Believe."

While I'm not sure it is primarily epistemological, it seems correct to say that there are connections. I think the problem is that epistemology is primarily focused on justifications for what we assert. I think faith is more primarily focused on what causes us to act. Assertions are but one kind of act among many. Thus faith seems much broader than epistemology.

Nate, I agree with your point, which is somewhat more nuanced than my reference to Kant was intended to reach. Incorporating your comment, I'd restate mine to read: One need not engage in Kantian analysis (reflection on how one should think about morality) in order to practice genuinely moral behavior or to strengthen the moral componenet of one's character. Although, at some point serious concern with moral action likely spills over into reflection on morality as a concept.

Likewise, one need not engage in epistemological analysis (reflection on the nature and foundation of one's claims to knowledge) in order to develop religious (or other) convictions. Although, again, serious concern with religious conviction generally spills over, sooner or later, into reflection on the nature of knowledge, belief, and faith.

My favorite way to start one of my lectures is to ask people if they believe in prophecy, predictions, or future-telling. Almost all of them say no. Then I proceed to go through the list of daily things each of us do as an act of faith. We go to work assuming work will still be there, we get out of bed assuming the world will still be there, we go to college on the assumption that we will finish and live long enough to enjoy the degree, almost everything we do depends on some kind of faith. That usually freaks them out. And makes the point that we're very dependent on the belief that the future will resemble the past.

If we are just talking about religious faith, I don't see much of a difference, except in the kind of 'evidence' one chooses to collect.

Dave, while it may be true that "one can't simply change one's sincere belief by fiat", it seems to me that faith strongly reflects our *choice* of what we will believe. I like how the Catholic reference cited in the Freespace post calls faith an "assent". I can be aware of my beliefs but not fully assent to them. Since we *can* change our beliefs, I think the element of choice is critical. Granted, the change is not simply "by fiat", but perhaps our faith is all the more valuable for the effort required to develop it.

Similarly, I cannot by fiat change my body composition, but I can change my lifestyle with that aim in mind and eventually achieve what I desire.

One thought that occurred to me is that faith might be a bridge between belief and knowledge. The exercise of faith (obedience or adherence to a particular principle) causes a person to have an experience that either affirms or contradicts the original belief. That experience is a special kind of personal evidence that may lead to a deeper belief or perhaps even a form of knowledge. The person who has that knowledge is not able to prove their belief to another person, because they cannot share the experience. That does not, however, take away from the value or durability of that knowledge they have through the experience.

I tried to be careful, in writing this, to keep the language fairly neutral ... because I know it is possible for a person to believe a falsehood and to exercise faith in a false belief (by acting on that belief). So the resulting experience might not always be a blessing or attendant revelation.

The Reformed tradition views faith as a form of knowledge given by God and not by external evidence. Since Kierkegaard people have tried to define faith in terms of irrationality, but Luther and Calvin saw it as even more rational than any other kind of knowledge. Of course, this means it's possible that not everyone who talks about having faith really does.

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