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Faith: An Antidote to a Form of Neurotic Christianity?

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From http://www.flickr.com/photos/19741842@N05/9267131256/: .Your Faith Has Made You Well.
.Your Faith Has Made You Well. by Art4TheGlryOfGod

When I write essays about religion, in particular those critical of the negative effects of revisionist religion, I am often reprimanded by Christians who seem unable to distinguish the healthy from the unhealthy.

For instance, in responses to my recent essay, "Is a Neurotic Form of Christianity Destroying America?", it became apparent to me that some responders weren't making the distinction between authentic Christian teachings and a neurotic modern version.

Nothing new here. This seems to be the history of Christianity, as well as most of the other religions on the planet: Divisions, sects, wars, groups breaking off to form new churches, families broken apart by irreconcilable differences, new prophets with new interpretations.

Yet as powerful as these conflicts are, they evolve from religion and not faith, which are often confused and hardly well-enough understood to be reconciled.

The idea for this essay came to me while watching Lesly Hazleton's TED presentation, The Doubt Essential to Faith. I was struck by how closely her views on faith lined up with those of the late Anthony DeMello, SJ., who wrote in his book, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality

"It's like looking at one of the wonders of the world. That is faith! An openness to the truth, no matter what the consequences, no matter where it leads you. That's faith. Not belief, but faith. Your beliefs give you a lot of security, but faith is insecurity. You don't know. You're ready to follow and you're open, wide open. You're ready to listen. And mind you this doesn't mean being gullible. It doesn't mean swallowing things whole. It means questioning but questioning from an attitude of openness, not from an attitude of stubbornness. It's not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known."

With the loss of the known goes the loss of the illusion of certainty. Because at some level we know certainty is an illusion, we can become close-minded so as to be more secure. Close-minded certainty is not faith. It is belief and belief ends all questions, therefore it ends intellectual and emotional progress.

This is a   topic I've written about many times: how the religious dogmatism, authoritarianism and fundamentalism that spring from close-minded certainty stop progress when they infiltrate government and affect everyone's lives.

Progress means change. Change means instability and unfamiliarity. And they mean fear. Fear is the sane, human response. Religion can be a safe haven when we become fearful. But it cannot stop the progress that brings the fear, no matter how dogmatic it becomes. An old Arab proverb says it best, "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."

So the confusion between faith and religious belief continues to fog up our national vision of a brighter, more egalitarian society. Why? Because when religious beliefs are reflected in government's laws, they can serve to separate and discriminate the supposed good believers, from the bad non-believers.

But when we realize the essence of faith is doubt, the certainty of religious beliefs, which all the separation and discrimination is based on, can quietly fade away.

Have your religious convictions. Hold them with the degree of intensity that you need to bring some level of assurance to your life. But recognize that your faith is in your beliefs. And if you hold them tightly enough, you can create the illusion of certainty.

But if and when doubt creeps in, you'll have an opportunity to experience the doubt essential to faith; a doubt that should teach you that separation and discrimination based on religious beliefs have no moral home.

Robert De Filippis

 

Author, columnist and blogger with a long career in business management, management consulting and executive coaching. I am a certified ontological coach. I've studied clinical therapeutic practices in Gestalt psychology and am a Certified Birkman (more...)
 

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Good essay, though like many of your sensible piec... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 12:37:45 PM
He seems to be discussing the difference between r... by Adam Smith on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 9:11:35 PM
    If one studies the Bible it bec... by Bob Gormley on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 1:19:54 PM
Who knows. I can't deny that prayer did it anymore... by Robert De Filippis on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 2:16:39 PM
Prayer would be a more viable emotional response f... by anna kakol on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 3:27:04 PM
   I would say that one has to be open t... by Bob Gormley on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 4:56:56 PM
Robert, you mention in your article that a kind of... by anna kakol on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 1:21:47 PM
Yes, and further that no religion exists long with... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 2:46:28 PM
"I can't really see any purpose for religion if it... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 10:37:33 PM
Before or if Mr. Becker replies to your request fo... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 12:05:37 PM
Both of our comments were clearly personal opinion... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 12:29:59 PM
"My son, seek the company of those who search for ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 12:48:10 PM
I belong to a Unitarian Universalist congregation ... by Robert De Filippis on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 1:38:56 PM
I too was Unitarian (Montclair NJ) and I affirm fe... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 2:16:21 PM
as discretion or agreement (hee, hee).  I am ... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jul 18, 2013 at 11:48:15 AM
I think we're pretty much in agreement. The congre... by Robert De Filippis on Thursday, Jul 18, 2013 at 2:13:16 PM
Taoism a religion?... by BFalcon on Thursday, Jul 18, 2013 at 9:09:05 PM
as far as Unitarian Universalist church is concern... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 9:04:37 PM
My only reason for breaking down the prayer catego... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 1:10:17 PM
Your writing, intuitions, and your mental faciliti... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 1:52:07 PM
supposedly by Einstein: "Physics should be explain... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 9:07:29 PM
But a father's advice (point of "reading carefully... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 8:40:40 PM
on "a father."  I accept corrections, but you... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 9:46:04 PM
 I heard it that way, did not claim it was hi... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 11:32:53 PM
1) just joshing on the Einstein quotation as I lik... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jul 18, 2013 at 11:41:01 AM
only clarifies a simple truth that one can't learn... by BFalcon on Thursday, Jul 18, 2013 at 9:25:00 PM
Which, it seems as you explained now, was not exac... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 8:18:36 PM
My son was 5 years old and I was told he had mass ... by Robert De Filippis on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 3:49:57 PM
my definition of peace would be that acceptance an... by anna kakol on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 4:05:19 PM
I agree. I learned to pray for peace the hard way.... by Robert De Filippis on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 9:14:54 AM
do not understand what it s the big idea. ANY usag... by Mark Sashine on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 3:50:40 PM
Your best yet!... by Derryl Hermanutz on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 5:56:27 PM
Thank you. Best... by Robert De Filippis on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 7:19:19 PM
"You cannot fear something that you do not know. N... by Daniel Geery on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 6:43:17 PM
I think that's the challenge of a lifetime and can... by Robert De Filippis on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 7:34:05 PM
And I sincerely appreciated with your quote from E... by Daniel Geery on Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 8:54:41 PM
You have that fear too Daniel?  I thought it ... by Burl Hall on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 4:45:55 AM
Being a Christian Fundamentalist myself, I am goin... by Curt Day on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 3:30:56 AM
It is a shame that we lost the epistemological roo... by Burl Hall on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 4:41:37 AM
I give you credit for your approach to religion.&n... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 10:21:47 AM
When I meditated on Jesus teachings, and his state... by Philip Pease on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 11:30:30 AM
Thank you for your addition to this narrative.Best... by Robert De Filippis on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 11:54:10 AM
I am for the most part in agreement with Robert, b... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 2:15:21 PM
or whatever top brains eventually propose as the b... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 2:50:46 PM
As is submitted here, part of what God is is the "... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 4:20:11 PM
I will always call the great spirits.  Nobody... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 4:00:45 PM