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Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into. – Mahatma Gandhi
Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. – Paul Tillich
All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light… – James Joyce
Living life requires faith. Broadly speaking, faith does not just denote a belief in the supernatural. Without hope and faith that our lives will progress, grow and give us happiness, it would be almost impossible to go on. To go to sleep peacefully at night means we have faith that the morning will come, that we will awaken to its new light. To expend energy and time to acquire knowledge presupposes faith that our new self will be better, smarter and wiser than our old one. To love another person takes an act of faith that love will be returned. To have and raise children calls for faith in a future, not just for one child but for every child. Even to grow old, to stack our days one on top of the other, is a sign of faith in the goodness of the creation.
And yet faith has become a pejorative term, almost a dirty word, in contemporary culture. Because the word faith suggests a belief in something unknown, something no scientific method can confirm or deny, we discount faith and call it superstition. Because false faith has become the tool of the fanatical and the corrupt, we discard all faith. Because faith is seen by the sophisticated as the refuge of the ignorant, we call it simple or anti-intellectual. Because faith has no proof, and those without faith call it self-delusion based on a lack of credible evidence, even the word faith has come to signify stupidity, incredulousness, and naiveté.
But human beings require faith, and its twin brother hope, just like we require air and water. Faith just means that you have a quiet certitude about life, that you see its higher purpose and understand there must be a higher power where that purpose originates. Faith does not mean you have conquered doubt – in fact, the presence of doubt, so natural to intelligent beings, means faith in something more than what you can see has caused you to ask the big questions of life.
For Baha’is, faith isn’t a proper noun, a passive possession, something you keep on a shelf and take down just in time for a weekly worship service. Instead, in the Baha’i teachings faith is an active verb:
For Baha’is, faith means doing good for others, working for the unification of the world, helping the poor and the uneducated, actually making a conscious effort to improve the state of humanity. Selflessness and service to others makes faith real; and the reality of faith inspires our hearts toward the acquisition of divine qualities, character traits and virtues.
For Baha’is, faith does not require you to suspend your reasoning abilities or disengage your mind:
Consider what it is that singles man out from among created beings, and makes of him a creature apart. Is it not his reasoning power, his intelligence? Shall he not make use of these in his study of religion? I say unto you: weigh carefully in the balance of reason and science everything that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test, then accept it, for it is truth! If, however, it does not so conform, then reject it, for it is ignorant…. Put all your beliefs into harmony with science; there can be no opposition, for truth is one. When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles — and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 144.
Reason and faith co-exist in the Baha’i teachings, where science and religion come together as one.
For men, especially the post-modern males who question the existence of a reasonable faith, the Baha’i teachings offer a spiritual approach to life that does not require the suspension of the intellect. Here, finally, you can find a faith that aligns with reason, agrees with science and encourages a life of the mind as well as a life of the soul.