Faith. What a loaded word. Because of its importance to human
survival it has gotten associated with religions and Gods, but there
is far more to it than that and it has very Earthly importance.
Faith is what we call survival instinct in other animals. It is the basic survival instinct of humans.
Faith is an interesting topic because of the different meanings available to it. It is defined as belief in something without proof. To most people it means a belief in God without proof. Yet its meaning in terms of biology is and must be completely different. Faith is a genetically based. It is the foundation of a number of instinctive behaviors including the most basic of human survival instincts. It is also what drives humans to seek out and use learned survival strategies, including religions.
More than anything, Faith seems to be an emotion.
Faith is like love. It is a natural human behavior. Different things bring it out. It can develop for different reasons. It can grow slowly or all at once. It has many meanings. It can bring happiness and fulfillment. We can desire it without understanding the desire. It can be learned and can grow over time. Both love and faith are essential elements of human survival and have a genetic basis that make them natural to learn. It is how we are designed.
Data from twin studies suggest that faith is inheritable. That is even mentioned in the Bible. Some people have faith. Some do not. That begs just how common it is.
Faith is a fundamental part of human drive. One can have
faith in country, self, a god, a religion, a leader or many other
things. Faith is to assign an importance to something. Until a
person places an importance on something, it is really not part
of their world. It is a matter of awareness or consciousness.
Other words might be used, such as belief or respect, but faith is
the behavior being described and it is a powerful behavior.
Part of faith is belief without understanding. That is important to humans because there is so much we do not understand, especially about our drives and our survival. Too much understanding can interfere with feeling and it is feeling that makes us live.
Religions often claim to be the source of faith, but they know better. Truly, faith is the source and religion is the product. In that case, religion is an expression of people's faith that there is more than we know or can directly experience. On of the greatest roles of religion though is to teach and foster faith.
Humans require a balanced world concept for psychological reasons. We require explanations. They do not have to be accurate, only useful to the needs of the balance of psychology. Does it matter if you know that an earthquake is a tectonic event or Poseidon's sneeze? Knowing an explanation is what matters. The human brain is a pattern recognition device. Anything that we experience must be fit into the pattern somehow. Human intelligence is primarily designed for understanding of other humans. This is why we anthropomorphise or give human attributes to things and events that are not human. It seems normal and comfortable to give human attributes to the sea, the slopes, an institution, a car, computer or pet. It is our method of understanding. Often, it is projection.
So what is the source of faith? Humans require certain forms of understanding around which to base their operating view of the world. We use a concept of our self image when considering how to deal with others. Our existence makes us presuppose a creator associated with our creation. A balanced psychology produces a respect for ones life and a corresponding reverence for its source. Faith is a part of a balanced psychology and is necessary to full health. Basically, faith represents ones feelings about existence. The way we express this is to give these as human attributes of god. So gods are given the personification of what we believe, value and desire. They are a personification of faith.
One appreciates the strength and understanding available to a person who can use some human concept to acknowledge their creation and existence. It helps orient their world and develop a clear knowledge of their beliefs and values.
Realize that an atheist can have powerful faith. It may even be
their faith that forces them to reject religion, as not adequate
to their faith.
Faith can be seen in a persons nature. Do they believe in values? Do they believe in right and wrong. Do they believe they should build? Do they believe that it should be done right?
Look at a person's life. Did they strive? Did they value? If they did, it shows their faith.
A description of faith is all fine and dandy, but there is more to the description, or perhaps consequences. To describe faith, especially as an emotion is to tell a person how to sensitize themselves to it so that they can sense it in people they encounter. It is not to hard to sense anger or gentleness in a person. If you are aware of what faith is in a person, it is not hard to sense.
So how does faith relate to survival? It is of fundamental importance. It is the difference between feeling something and being able to express it. It is part of the difference between what makes most primates fragile and humans almost impossible to kill. It also drives the filter of our values. It is what makes one chose if something is moral or if it is incorrect.
One thing I learned long ago about looking at the topics of the influence of
genes on behaviors is that while reductionism is nice and a valid tool of analysis,
there is a lot of cases where genetically directed behavior is very complex. Trying
to reduce the complexity of what the genes must do to direct behavior, seems natureal,
but it is an illusion. The genes can produce very complicated behaviors especially in
the right external environment.
So I will indulge in a bit of reductionism with no illusions.
According to this definition of Faith, it must explain a number of issues in terms of genes, memes and function. These are:
1. It has a strong genetically inheritable component.
2. It has a strong memetic component.
3. It promotes the use of learned survival strategies called moralities.
4. It involves belief without proof.
4. It uses reason and logic, with a bias towards survival.
This is talking about a special type of survival instinct and a number of interestng extensions. The question is how much of this is linked to older survival instincts and how much is new. My belief is that Faith has been a primary focus of evolution since the start of the cities.
We know about logic and reason. Human minds can use mathematically based analysis methods. Science likes this view because it is very predictable, testable and and relates to both simple mathematics and the real world. It is one of the most useful of human psychological abilities, but there is a problem with logic and reason as far as survival is converned. It offers no reason to live. Quite the contrary, it repeatedly asks the question of why one would want to labor and struggle to survive. It inherently offers no reason to live. It's just a mathematical function.
One innovative function of Faith is to make a behavioral link between a humans locical and reasoning abilities and a survival instinct. The survival instinct validly biases the logic to a purpose, survival. I think this is a relitively new feature in humans. Of course this is where the reductionism collapses. You are not going to easily reduce that function to simplicity.
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