How can this pilgrim acquire faith?
February 10, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Please help this petty agnostic acquire faith in a higher power.

I am a 27 yr old agnostic who has attempted the practice of several different religions over the years, eventually calcifying into what my friends have called a "big, bad atheist." After realizing a few years back that atheism wasn't the way to go for me, I started saying that I was an agnostic. I'm not sure that that label fits either.

Every time I've tried experimenting with a religion, I've been fascinated by all of the rituals and mythology which went along with it, but I've never been able to really buy into it. I can't seem to believe concepts like resurrection, reincarnation, angels, the goddess, animistic spirits, et cetera.

I dislike this. I don't want to go through my life not experiencing Faith. I've talked to several people about this, looked online, read books, but what it almost always comes down to is: "If you don't have faith, you can't accept an explanation. If you do have faith, no explanation is necessary." That's all well and good, but it doesn't help me. It's the philosophical equivalent of saying: "Tough rocks, kid."

I've recently come to the conclusion that even if reincarnation, resurrection, et cetera are complete bullshit, I think my experience of the world would be better and fuller is they were not.

I've received advice like "do community service" and "visit a church more often" and "pray" but that's not helpful. I'm not looking for morality - that I can do on my own. I'm also not looking for a religion - I don't need a spiritual bureaucracy telling me how to live my life. What I'm interested in is acquiring Faith itself, not its trappings.

If there are any personal experiences out there which can help, or any advice toward the subject, I'd be grateful. I'm interested in an actual method for acquiring Faith. Literally, how do I get it?
posted by mr_book to Religion & Philosophy (71 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Living with a Native American tribe and experiencing their religion was when I acquired a new respect for animistic religions. You can't just read about this stuff at home. When you are out in the woods it becomes real. You see the milky way, which most people don't usually get to see, hear insect symphonies, listen to stories told by masked men in firelight....and you understand. The concepts of these religions are highly contextualized in each environment. If you take them away from where they came from, there are very hard to comprehend. But when you put them back where they belong, you can see how things work.
posted by melissam at 11:32 AM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

I believe that faith does require a sort of blindness. That's not to say that I think religious people are blind followers, but in the face of the facts of science you just have to believe. Faith is less about convincing yourself that you should believe in something, and rather believe in it because you are convinced it is the right belief.

In short, I don't think you can attain faith, you either have it or you don't. It may come around eventually, but you can't go looking for it.
posted by InsanePenguin at 11:38 AM on February 10, 2008

I think by it's very nature faith cannot be acquired, nor taught. If you feel a calling to a particular religion, go investigate - if you feel none, then better to be true to yourself, surely?
posted by Blacksun at 11:41 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: An interesting question. I do hope that people will respect your question enough (which is regarding how to obtain faith) not to turn this into a debate over whether that is the right choice or not. For now, it sounds as if it is an avenue that you wish to explore.

I think that any such discussion needs to start with allowing for the possibility of a higher power. Most people assume that since we can't fully wrap our minds around the idea of someone with no beginning, or no end, that it is an impossibility. It may help to understand why we can't fully grasp that concept. An illustration:

We live in a three dimensional world, but imagine a universe (and beings) that know only two dimensions. There is no "up or down" in their universe. The words and concept of "up or down" don't even exist. Their universe (and world) is flat as a sheet of paper. They can travel in two dimensions, but not the third (up or down). They can't even LOOK up or down, because those directions don't exist.

But we, as three dimensional objects could walk up to their world and draw a circle around a couple of their inhabitants, trapping them. We could pick one up and set him down outside that circle of lead. To his friend he would have just disappeared, and to someone on the outside, he would have just appeared. Magic!

It would be just as easy for a higher power to insert (and extract) a mouse from a basketball in our three dimensional world. A higher power would not be limited by the laws of this universe, whether they be gravity or time.

Understanding why we can't fully grasp such a foreign concept, allows us to appreciate that there are possibilities outside our current understanding. From that standpoint, recognizing the possibility is an act of humility and that is the first thing needed in order to seek for that higher power. You are to be commended for asking the question.
posted by spock at 11:41 AM on February 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

The only thing Faith requires is for you to give up and give in to it.

After realizing a few years back that atheism wasn't the way to go for me, I started saying that I was an agnostic.

I'm curious why you elect not to elaborate on this in your question. It may answer it for you.
posted by rhizome at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2008

I was raised in a pretty fundamentalist version of Christianity (Pentecostalism). I had faith while I was there, then lost it when I came to an age where I could make my own decisions and decided that being Pentecostal was in no way for me. It took me a while to separate faith from organized religion.

In my experience of having faith but also having questions, I realized that faith does take a certain amount of suspension of disbelief - at least it did for me. But I was not willing to suspend my disbelief for the particular religion I was being raised in.

After I moved past the issues I had with religion, I realized that although I didn't want to follow one particular belief system, that I missed faith itself. Out of the bad that came out of being Pentecostal, there was some good too - and for me, it resided in the idea of faith. So I started to read about different belief systems and, while I am pretty sure I don't want to follow a particular religion, there are elements of some for which I am willing to suspend my disbelief. For example, even though every rational part of me thinks that reincarnation cannot possibly be real, something about the idea calls out to me anyway. When I became willing to follow what I felt, I came closer to what I remembered faith to be.

So I guess my suggestion would be to try to learn about different belief systems in order to expose yourself to many different ideas. I don't mean that you should do so in order to find a religion. I think if you end up finding one, it will probably be by accident. But exposure to the different spiritual theories that humans have created over time increased my chances of finding an idea that was able to cut through and speak to me on a visceral level. It took me a while to learn that a higher power doesn't have to be a specific person or figure -- to me, an intangible idea of a higher power seems actually more plausible than the idea of a particular god. So I suppose the things that spoke to me were things that reached me in part because they appealed to me, and in part because they actually did seem more "possible".

Whether it be reading, or meeting people who display a level of faith that appeals to you, or a combination, put yourself out there and be willing to be open to what you find.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 11:49 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

You must already have faith in something. Figure out what that is. Science, maybe?
posted by billtron at 11:50 AM on February 10, 2008

A picture in some cases is worth a thousand words. This picture is worth a million. So is this one.

It may not seem like I'm answering your question... but bare with me because I think you've framed your question incorrectly. Faith is more about hope in my opinion than it is about belief. Those pictures are awe inspiring and fill me with faith because they express that anything is possible.

Being agnostic is about holding your cards, hedging your bets. You don't need to make a decision about the unanswerable questions, yet that doesn't mean you can't appreciate what makes them worth asking. Acquire faith through the knowledge that we live in a world where incredible things are possible.

Such a heavy question though... loaded with the assumption that there could be a right answer. Just be happy to be alive.
posted by pwally at 11:50 AM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

The unfortunate fact is that anything that really qualifies as a "Religion" inevitably couples the spiritual guidance you seek with stories of miracles, theories of cosmic organization, afterlife speculations, and "moral" edicts in regards to sexual and social behavior; all of which are patently ridiculous, demonstrably false, or just plain nonsensical.

What you are looking for is the spiritual without the religious. The faith-based dichotomy you describe is crucial and unavoidable. In order to accept any of the teachings which may give you the spiritual comfort you seek, you will need to turn off the critical-thinking part of your brain.

What I would do in your shoes is seek the help of a good, SECULAR, counselor or psychotherapist who might be able to help you work through these feelings of inadequacy or deprivement that are driving this desire to feel faith.

I can tell you I turned my back on faith a long time ago and have never looked back, living a happy and fulfilled life without the interference of feelings of spiritual loss or whatever it is you're going through. So it is possible to live without "Faith." You may be missing something else entirely but feeling a misplaced yearning. A good therapist may help.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 11:50 AM on February 10, 2008

.. and as a PS, it may be that you simply don't find anything that lures you towards faith. That's fine, too. The search is important, even if you don't end up finding what you are looking for.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 11:50 AM on February 10, 2008

Visit a Cathedral.
posted by fire&wings at 11:50 AM on February 10, 2008

I've been in precisely your position. I haven't found god, but I'm much more content after realizing that being agnostic means "I don't know." It doesn't mean, you are all wrong, but okay, maybe, there's a possibility someone out there isn't. You have to be open to the possibility of seeing godhood in things, whatever that means.

Personally, I'm of the notion that no human mind could possibly understand and completely grasp a godhead, anymore than we can truly grasp and understand infinity. So we seekers have to be open to the possibility of godhead, and we have to be open to seeing it anywhere. For example, I'm not Catholic, but I found this comment by Baby_Balrog so moving, it was like a moment of sharing his faith. For just that moment, I could see god through him.

And I really think that's the best we seekers can hope for. I don't think dogma will ever work for us, but pure faith is out there if you're open to seeing it.
posted by headspace at 11:54 AM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you're really serious about this, you might try applying the techniques of religious deprogramming in reverse... in effect, brainwash yourself. This will probably take a lot of time and effort and research.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:59 AM on February 10, 2008

I think it is unavoidable that you'll have to make yourself more irrational. Failing that, try reading Camus.
posted by i5hmael at 12:00 PM on February 10, 2008

Certain psychedelics done in a certain setting will at least introduce you to what you could be seeing in your everyday life. I know for many people that's an unacceptable answer because of the biases each individual brings to the table, but that is practically the POINT of psychedelics, from a historical point of view.

The problem with approaching religions is that you are always placing yourself in the role of the analytical outsider. Even if you technically desire to be "in", your brain is a barrier. Immersive personal experiences, experiences beyond your control such as death and loss, and ecstatic experiences in which your ego is suppressed are all opportunities for you to be free of that role and participate as a being.

In a way, the obstacles you experience as part of your rational mind shouldn't be granted sovereignity just because they are "rational". It's possible for us to know what we think is wrong, no matter how convincing or tempting or "rational" it may be. This is the heart of gnosticism.

I'm really in love with William Blake's "The Book of Urizen", incidentally, with commentary by the Eassons. Blake's faith was so pure that he was seriously offended by the corruption that human notions such as books (including the Bible) and laws forced upon the effortless freedom of divine love, and with a keen sense of irony, created a book about that. It is a creation myth that does away with the need for creation myths, a book that does away with the need for books, and offers a spiritual law that warns of the danger of adhering to laws. The images are unforgettable, and the Eassons' commentary has amazing insights as to the parts of the self and one's reason that are the greatest danger to humans' spiritual nature, which begin to encrust us from the moment we emerge in this world.
posted by hermitosis at 12:01 PM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

you might try visiting a unitarian church. i'm an agnostic, but they're one of the denominations that seems like i could find a spiritual home there. the whole idea that "to question is the answer" and recognizing spirituality without necessarily needing to buy into a strict dogmatic theology resonate for me.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:02 PM on February 10, 2008

It sounds like you want a spiritual experience, something rich and tasty and soul satisfying. Spiritual often isn't religious. Nature, growing things, cultivating plants, butterflies, tending animals, that might put you more in touch with spirituality.
posted by 45moore45 at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

This sort of question is exactly why God created LSD.
posted by contraption at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

If I'm to understand your question correctly, you want to know if God exists, right? You want a sign, a feeling of assurance, and then with faith you will follow God?

Full disclosure: I am a Latter-Day Saint (a Mormon) and I know God lives. I understand I'm making a bold declaration and that many will scoff, but that is the truth. Where faith comes into play for me is in paying tithing when money is really tight, and trusting that my obedience will be rewarded. I also have faith that my church leaders are inspired and called of God and not of man. There are many more examples I will talk with you about - just email me at my metafilter account.

May I suggest this article: Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer and this website: to (hopefully) address your questions of faith . Watch the videos and pay special attention to how you feel.

Again, you can ask me anything via metafilter email.
posted by JaySunSee at 12:15 PM on February 10, 2008

A belief in a god is a will to ignorance. Your pursuit of "faith" for the sake of having "faith" itself leads to nowhere.

Faith in what? You say "god" but to what purpose, you already announce skepticism about an "after life, " angels etc.

Wanting to have "faith" as an end in itself is like wanting to have "love" but not to be "in love."

From Merriam Webster's : 1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one's promises (2): sincerity of intentions2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

Maybe you should rethink your pursuit.

posted by Max Power at 12:16 PM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

You don't need a particular brand of religion to have faith. I would suggest just picking up a Bible and starting to read it. Start with the New Testament. It is quite uplifting.
posted by caddis at 12:18 PM on February 10, 2008

This Belief-o-matic quiz might help you find some communities of faith that fit your desire for faith and spirituality without the layers of dogma.
posted by metahawk at 12:20 PM on February 10, 2008

Oh, another example of faith: not everything about the Mormon religion makes perfect sense to me (btw, I'm not crazy about the word religion, but let's work with it anyway), but I have faith that all things will be made known to me in the end. That's using a whole lotta faith.

I guess to boil it down, faith is putting everything on the line for something you can't see or touch, but you know deep in your heart is true.
posted by JaySunSee at 12:28 PM on February 10, 2008

Maybe allow faith to be something other than an exterior god? For me, faith is internal, I see it as a collective energy of all of us, we are all god. The whole is greater than the sum of all the parts, and this largerness is what is 'god' to me.

Also, love is god, to me, and I put my faith in that. Look at love, for your friend, partner, child, dog, and check in to how you feel, and see if that is something you can feel faith in.

Also, faith comes to me in beauty, in small moments, the beauty of a tiny flower blooming through the cracks of an old sidewalk. It is small flashes in time that the universe expands for me. I trust those moments, and that is faith, and that is god.

Just putting out a different possibility of starting points in your search.
posted by Vaike at 12:33 PM on February 10, 2008

I think you are closer to authentic faith than you realize.

Just saying you believe in god, to me, is not necessarily religious faith. You just believe something that maybe your parents said, or society said you should or whatever. There's a difference between believing without exploration and authentic religious faith in the terms you're talking about. The religious faith that you are talking about (conviction of existence, rather than say trust or confidence) comes, in my opinion, not from just believing. It comes from clearly recognizing that there is no reason for your belief, and then believing any way. Now, I don't have a personal affinity with this sort of religious practice, but I think you are naturally very close to it, especially since you have an apparent yearning for it.

I suggest you do quite the opposite of trying to get more faith. You should explore your doubts. Explore why you reject faith, or god or whatever. Not through other people's arguments, through your own thinking and feeling. Thoroughly follow those sign posts, those doubts...they are what will bring you to authentic faith. I believe you are quite close.
posted by milarepa at 12:34 PM on February 10, 2008

Do one thing you fear to do a day.
posted by yertledaturtle at 12:34 PM on February 10, 2008

maybe you should stop letting people define you as a "big, bad atheist," a phrase which contains two completely unfounded judgements against you in the space of only three words.

face it: you don't believe in things that don't exist. that is a perfectly reasonable way to be. there are plenty of extant things to believe in - friends, family, yourself - maybe you're not seeing the forest for the trees.
posted by klanawa at 12:38 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify: I am totally unconcerned with whether or not Faith is right or wrong. I am seeking it regardless. Also, I am not trying to ascertain the existence of God or any other divine being, nor do I wish to follow the religious teachings of said being. I am only interested in Faith itself, as a conduit to the supernal or the spiritual, and how I can achieve it.
posted by mr_book at 12:41 PM on February 10, 2008

you might try visiting a unitarian church.

Seconding this.
posted by scottreynen at 12:43 PM on February 10, 2008

Response by poster: Do one thing you fear to do a day.

I'm curious.
posted by mr_book at 12:44 PM on February 10, 2008

Mark Twain once said "...Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

Obviously very clever, but I think real faith is knowing something is so. If you don't have it (and I absolutely don't) I'm don't think you can force it upon yourself other than being open to the possibility that all that we see isn't all that is there. And you may never "get" faith. I don't think I will but maybe life will surprise me someday.
posted by 6550 at 12:44 PM on February 10, 2008

Thirding Unitarian Universalism. Read some of their literature, visit a congregation near you. You can be agnostic or atheist and a UU simultaneously, which is a bit head-twisty, I know. It might not be the end of your search for a faith community you can sink your teeth into, but it's definitely a very good gateway for someone coming from where you are.
posted by mumkin at 12:52 PM on February 10, 2008

I think I agree with milarepa; you may be closer to faith than you know.

For me, my faith is a verb, not a noun. It's not a thing that one day I had and now I get to carry around with me. It's a process, a thirst, a way of living my life and searching for meaning. It's trying to be always living with love and compassion for each moment and all people, and then feeling that love and compassion coming back to me from a bigger, deeper source. I work toward it, I yearn toward it, and every now and then I get a flash of warm loving stillness that I believe comes from God.

When I was raised in a very restrictive, Pentacostal church. While I still believe in a lot of fairly traditional christian things (Jesus, salvation, the whole bit) my approach to understanding and believing those things, to having faith in a loving, forgiving higher power, has become a much more broad and fluid thing.

When I meditate, I try to connect with that still place inside me, that calm spot of no wind. I believe that place is a piece of the Holy Spirit, the piece of me that comes from God and is a piece of God and of the love and forgiveness I should feel for myself and for everyone.

But again, it's a verb. I practice faith, I don't just have it, so I think the questing and questioning you're doing might be a part of your own practice.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would suggest you just try many different ways of experiencing whatever's out there. What I mean is, go to many different kinds of religious functions, and try many different kinds on your own. Go to services that focus a lot on tradition and ceremonies, ones that have lots of singing and active involvement, ones with lots of time for personal reflection, ones that focus on mysticism, try meditating alone, meditating in groups, meditating outside, meditating any time you get one minute, praying, singing, laughing, thinking, analyzing, being with people, being alone. Don't necessarily focus on the dogmas of the religion you're learning these approaches from. Just immerse yourself in the experience. Pay attention to how you feel. Which approaches make you feel faith the most? If you find one, keep doing it. If it's within the context of an organized religion, maybe see if there are others with similar approaches to spirituality. Or see if you can find some place where you can feel a similar experience outside of organized religion.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2008

I have thought, meditated, and prayed over what might constitute religion for me, because I have found it difficult to integrate into a traditional anything, mostly because whatever it is that is the impetus for miracles and spectacular happenings, the source of revelation, and the purported font of beatitude, I have never directly experienced. Religion fascinates me, in the same way lavish society parties sometimes ensorcel poor waifs.

As it is, I've comfortably settled in an ambiguous position that relies very heavily on metaphor and raw feeling. This is my way, and I offer it only as an example; you will have to find your own, is the gist of many of these comments. Hell, my way will likely only satisfy me for a short while, and then I'll have to progress to a new understanding.

In any case, it was my coming to know that there was something to all this religion stuff, that it wasn't simply a mingle-mangle of superstitions and false beliefs, that brought me to the interesting impasse I now find myself in. I'm curious was it the same with you.
posted by adoarns at 12:54 PM on February 10, 2008

People have a basic need for ritual and a relationship to the supernatural. That need is built into us, whether we think any particular religion is valid or not. Read some Joseph Campbell, for crying out loud.
posted by bingo at 12:54 PM on February 10, 2008

Pardon, When I was raised in a very restrictive, Pentacostal church, I believed very restricted things. My brain just decided to skip the second half of that sentence.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:55 PM on February 10, 2008

Faith doesn't exist in a vacuum - you have to have faith in something. Faith that a friendly man in the sky is watching out for you, or faith that your lover won't let you down, or faith that Cthulhu will devour you first, or faith in your own abilities to cope with whatever comes along.

You can't just 'have Faith' by itself - faith is believing something with conviction. What is it you believe? Chances are it's already there - you just have to find it out.

And don't let people calling you a big bad this or a mean old that make your decision for you. There are six billion different ways on this planet of approaching religion, faith, and the ultimate fate of us all. There's more every day. Don't just use the labels other people use and try to slot yourself in.
posted by echo target at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am about your age and I am a very passionate about my Atheism. I enjoy it very much.

But I would also love to find all the answers to that which I don't understand or have an explanation for. I just can't compromise the scientific method while searching for explanations. I think there is a certain bliss and level of comfort that comes from the idea of being able to explain every thing and to "never be alone". I want that too. For me to attain faith in a god or gods it would take a face-to-face conversation with a magical god over dinner. (I guess that's not really faith though.)

So how to attain faith? I guess ignorance is bliss, but I can't see a way to obtain it this ignorance. And I don't mean to disrespect with the word ignorance; I just mean generally the suspension of all that is rational to get the comfort.

Not sure if that is at all helpful, but you are not alone in your desire to believe and/or understand the believers.
posted by Slenny at 1:13 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: People have a basic need for ritual and a relationship to the supernatural. That need is built into us, whether we think any particular religion is valid or not.

You may be surprised by the number of people that will flat-out reject such a notion. I've recently come to know such a need; although, I won't speak for anyone else.

Read some Joseph Campbell, for crying out loud.

Many years ago, friend.

In any case, it was my coming to know that there was something to all this religion stuff, that it wasn't simply a mingle-mangle of superstitions and false beliefs, that brought me to the interesting impasse I now find myself in. I'm curious was it the same with you.

I can't say that I've experienced anything in all the religion stuff; in fact, most organized religions have turned me off to the whole idea of faith. Which is one of the reasons i ended up an atheist for so long. But all the trappings have indeed been fascinating. I would love to experience Nirvana, or sit on the shore and listen to Jesus Christ, or find spirituality in a campfire.

It almost seems as if every time I try to achieve faith by whatever means, there is a "hump" where the rational side of my brain clicks on and says, "yeah, sure. whatever." I'm having difficulty getting past that.
posted by mr_book at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2008

I am only interested in Faith itself, as a conduit to the supernal or the spiritual

There is a tradition in most religions of people wandering off alone in the desert for a few years to find this. Personally I don't think that's a coincidence.

Spiritual beliefs appear to predate writing by tens of thousands of years. They are part of a time when uncertainty was a part of everyday life -- when calling on a higher power was about as good as any other option for surviving the next year.

Everyone still returns to that instinct when things are clearly out of our control -- when the plane is going down we may not be praying to god, but we're certainly hoping that we'll get lucky. Either way we've exhausted our options and placing things in the hands of a higher power is the best we can do.

So if you want to find your faith, I'd suggest starting with the ugly realities in your life that you have no control over. Go visit your ten year old nephew in the oncology ward. Consider the four year olds being passed around between child molesters. Deal with the death of your parents, yourself, and your children.

And faced with these hideous inevitabilities, why *not* say a prayer for luck or fate or god or the universe to intervene where you cannot?
posted by tkolar at 1:18 PM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: This is a big question, and there have been some interesting answers thus far. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say this: I am an academic- a budding scholar of religious studies, continental philosophy, and naturalistic explanations of religion (e.g. 'meme' theory or evolutionary psychology). Right now I am doing graduate work in the history and philosophy of science, studying the intersection of religion and science. The question you just asked is a central concern of mine, intellectually and personally, academically and existentially. I say this not as an ego thing, but to contextualize my answer: this is coming from someone who was agnostic for a long time, and who is, in the face of a lot of information about this subject, asking the same question. There a number of issues at hand, and I'm going to try to flesh them out as coherently as possible. Here are some of the issues that have come up so far:

1. The BigLankyBastard position. If I might take the liberty of restating an earlier comment in terms of a more general epistemological stance, it is this: religion is a natural phenomenon, that can be accounted for by science without remainder, of which 'faith' is a crucial and widespread mechanism. It is a self-sustaining, self-referential feature of religion that keeps religious persons from doubting what should be a largely counter-intuitive system of beliefs. If religion is an intricate mechanism, ritual, belief, dogma and practice its gears, then 'faith' is the crucial cog that prevents the whole thing from falling apart. Faith is not something to strive for, but rather an epistemic fog that can only pervert, distort, or cloud one's perception of reality. Such an idiosyncrasy can only get in the way, as BLB notes, of a happy life. If Sartre, for instance, has shown us how to lead moral lives after the death of God, then we should have little need for Faith any longer.

2. The Methodological Agnosticism position. This view, voiced in some ways by spock and others, basically takes the following position: atheism, and naturalistic explanations of religion like the one above, commit an epistemological trespass. It is, in its own unique way, an act of faith to cast all religion aside and objectify spirituality into something that can be rationalized, and, ultimately, explained away. We cannot be certain that there isn't something to religion that science cannot perceive. If postmodernity has taught us anything, it is that science and religion (or at least some sciences and religions) both tend to promote authoritative metanarratives about 'the way things are,' and that we should resist any and all totalizing claims about reality. Ours is the generation incredulous of grand metanarratives... right? If we can logically, rationally justify that religion isn't necessarily bunk, we are left a third position:

3. The Experiential Pilgrimage position. As noted by melissam and blacksun, one can engage in/with religious groups and practices, in an attempt to authentically experience/participate in spiritual phenomena. Hence one must do a little 'spiritual shopping,' or go on a 'pilgrimage' or sorts, and see what works. What's key here is experiential, rather than intellectual knowledge. If there is something that science can't see, then we certainly can't read about it, but it's out there, and we must seek it. This is, as you have voiced so well, a very difficult process. I'm going through it myself. Why is it difficult? Many reasons:

Difficulty #1: The problem of relativism. If we are good postmodernists and reject all totalizing narratives about Reality (religious traditions and Science both), we can easily fall into a trap. We face a whole smörgåsbord of religious options. I like the reincarnation thing, but I want to go to heaven and I don't want to meditate. I like mandalas, though, those are frickin' sweet! I want a saffron robe, but I'm down with Christ. He knew what was up. And all of a sudden, we're trying to weave together a system of beliefs using materials that, once pulled from their original fabrics, retain their color but lose their strength. How can one have faith in something that one created?

Difficulty #2: The return to faith. Okay, so let's say we go on a spiritual pilgrimage and find a practice (lets say sweat lodges with Native Americans) that yields what we interpret as 'religious/spiritual experiences.' The belief system is intuitive enough, the experiences seem real enough. Where is faith? Well, one difficulty (this is major problem for myself, by the way), is that there is always a reductive scientific account. BigLankBastard, or a number of academics in Neurotheology, will tell you what part of your brain the sweat lodge experience stimulates, why activations of the parietal lobe are associated with religious experiences, and, if you're lucky, they will then hook you up to a machine and give you the same experience, no sweat required. This is an extreme example, but the problem, simply put, is this: how can we have faith again, once we've had access to the immensely powerful explanatory reach of science, which claims to have rendered spiritual experiences and religious faith 'objective?' Do we need 'blinders,' as Insane Penguin suggested? This doesn't seem attractive.

So, what are we left with? The neo-atheistic position of Dawkins and Dennett is, for me, the least attractive. To take that atheistic leap, to psychologize faith, is to go backwards fifty years in intellectual history, or more. The difficulty, and my apologies for the eponysterical jab, is that Science is a Big, Lanky Bastard who loves to fight and who has a long reach. But the lucky thing is that some really amazing minds have dealt with this problem, in a number of contexts. My two favorites (I'll try to keep this short, sorry):

Soren Kierkegaard: A nineteenth century existential philosopher whose work on faith is beyond compare. Kierkegaard sets up a brilliant, and in my opinion convincing, ontological framework in which faith transcends reason-giving. I won't go into his philosophy, it will take too much time and space, but I will say this: for me, personally, it effectively deals with the second difficulty- with combining scientific rationalism and faith. I firmly believe that a robust personal account of religion, faith, and spiritual experience is well-couched in Kierkegaardian terms.

Jorge Ferrer: A contemporary academic of religion who has dealt substantively with the perils of spiritual experience in the postmodern world. Despite its being a scholarly work, largely concerned with the status of transpersonal theory as an academic discipline, his book is, in so many ways, a reader's guide to dealing with religion today, in light of the problems of relativism, spiritual egotism, and the explanatory difficulties associated with spiritual experience.

This has become the longest Metafilter post I've ever attempted, and I apologize if it isn't what you're looking for. If it wasn't late, I would probably go on and on and on (read: if you have any questions I'm more than happy to talk about this in email). My only firm advise is this: dealing with the issue of faith today requires a great deal of work. But that's okay, you have a life time to do it (and maybe more). There are some amazing resources, and they come in two general types: academic accounts like Kierkegaard and Ferrer (but also Sartre and Dennett!) and the experiential/spiritual insights of so many diverse traditions. Each resource is highly contextual, uniquely specific, and endlessly fruitful. For myself, the process of answering the question you posed is an endless double-process: of engaging with religious and academic texts, and of participating in spiritual and intellectual experiences. I hope this has been of some help. But, as the postmodernists remind us, the map is not the territory, and so this account is but a rough sketch of a much deeper constellation of relationships that you're welcome to explore.
posted by farishta at 1:21 PM on February 10, 2008 [17 favorites]

I'm an agnostic, too, and I also have a god-shaped void inside of me.

Do I call myself agnostic because I truly don't believe god exists, but am afraid to rule out the possibility? Or do I truly believe that god does exist, but fear calling myself a theist because it's the minority opinion among intellectuals? Do I believe that god's existence lies beyond the limits of human understanding? Do I think saying that effectively strips that existence of all meaning and significance? Do I hope there's a god? Do I fear there's a god? Yes, of course...

Growing up, my belief in god was very strong and dear to me. But, in the grand tradition of young believers, I lost my faith when I got to college. There were many reasons, but one in particular was reading Hobbes during my first-year social & political philosophy class. I hated Hobbes, but he did say something that jarred me: our belief in god (and most other things, for that matter) relies mainly on the experiences of others, and what they tell us is true. The Bible was written by someone else - not you. Religions were created by someone else - not you. But why should we believe them, fallible, imperfect humans just like us? Why the hell do they know better than we ourselves do? When we're totally honest with ourselves, what in our own experience backs up what they say? And if our beliefs truly rest on what others tell us, why should we believe religion over science, when science actually has empirical data to prove its claims? What does religion have? Unless one religion gives me a really good argument as to why it's more right than the others - and "because Jesus/Moses/Mohammed/Joseph Smith said so" is not a good argument - then choosing one over the other is totally arbitrary, even foolish.

But you're interested in faith outside of religion. But keep in mind what you're looking for. I assume by god/higher power you mean some vast uniting, creative force that suffuses and interacts with our lives. The problem is - how the hell are we supposed to identify it? Know it's there? If it's really so interconnected with everything, then there's no way of isolating it in order to identify it - "oh, that's god." Religion's value is that it sets up guidelines for how to know the unknowable, and even if they're wrong or random or whatever, they at least attempt to break it down into bite-size pieces. You're looking to create your own guidelines, but you have no idea how to do it, so again, you're looking to other people to tell you what to do. You don't even know what you're looking for. But what makes you think we know any better than you do?

That said, there are some things that nurture my spirituality. I hope they help you, too, but try before buying. Twelve-step programs are one. They're predicated on surrendering one's will to a "higher power," and their definition thereof is extremely fluid. But they've helped many people, including people I know, when absolutely nothing else did. Another is Buddhism, which, yes, is a religion, but as far as religions go it's extremely practical and doesn't even require belief in god. Throughout the Buddhist philosophy I've been reading there's a thread of "here's what you should do, but don't take my word for it - go out and try it and see for yourself." Finally, awe-inspiring experiences of all kinds, because they cultivate my sense of wonder and remind me that there are things that my puny brain can't conceive and can never conceive. When you're looking at a clear night sky and realize that star-looking thing up there is actually an entire fucking galaxy, and moreover that's nothing compared to the rest of the universe, and god is supposed to be beyond beyond beyond even that, then you realize that you just can't understand it, it's impossible, and even if you could it might end up sort of like this. And then you go from there.

(All this sort of reminds me of a painting my parents have, which as a very young child I thought was an image of God. Only after I was a teenager did I realize that it's a painting of an erupting volcano, and the white smoke is sort of shaped like a face. Childhood's end!)
posted by granted at 1:24 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am only interested in Faith itself, as a conduit to the supernal or the spiritual, and how I can achieve it.

I think I'm a lot clearer on the question now mr book. Faith is an action word. It's what you do, and what you put on the line - like investing. For example, when you pray you are exercising faith, and when your prayer is subsequently answered, your faith increases.

Just remember: faith preceeds the miracle.
posted by JaySunSee at 1:28 PM on February 10, 2008

What is it that you hope to acquire through faith? Righteousness? Community? Redemption? Acceptance? You need to understand what you think faith will offer before you can find it. If it's acceptance or community, I would try one of the more ecumenical, tolerant religions-- Quakers, Unitarians, Buddhists. If it's redemption (whatever that means to you) you're going to have to bite the bullet and learn to accept the tenets of one of the redemptive faiths.

If it is righteousness, and the ability to live a good life, then you don't need a religion, you just need a philosophical grounding for your own life. I think that "people of faith" believe that their faith helps them, or even compels them to be righteous, by which I mean honest, moral and ethical. I believe, in fact I know, that you can have those things without an external structure; in fact while the religious often seem to think that people of "no faith" are taking the easy way out, I in fact believe the opposite-- it is much harder to be a righteous person without an external structure-- your goodness needs to come from within.

As I often say (brag) here, I was raised by godless communists, who basically taught me to distrust organized religion, and in fact my encounters with organized religion as a child were pretty much universally negative inasmuch as my parents atheism was well-known in our community and at my school. (Lots of ridicule and abuse suffered at the hands of authority figures who should have known better.)

So when I grew up and more or less became a seeker, the organized religions were out for me. I could not accept either the magical thinking, the hypocrisy, the intolerance, the arbitrary strictures or the authoritarian mindset. How I have approached this, then, as I'm someone with a strong spiritual bent, is to accept the idea of a higher power, but that this power emanates from me and that it is my responsibility to live up to it. Because I have no external structure to compell me, this creates an obligation-- I have no god to forgive me my transgressions, therefore I better be really really cautious about transgressing.

The idea, pervasive in our society, that atheists, the "godless" if you will, have no understanding of morality is so personally offensive to me that I literally cannot watch mainstream media at all. I am, despite my lack of *a* faith, a person *of* faith-- someone who believes in and strives for my own inner goodness, who seeks and in fact finds that goodness in others, and who lives what a religious person might call a godly life.

Find it in yourself OP.
posted by nax at 1:43 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

JaySunSee - faith certainly does not always precede the miracle. I met (and spoke with) God at a time in my life when I was most certainly a very vocal agnostic. All that was left was to find an organization that matched the impression I had been given - especially one that reconciled my very new faith with my very old fascination with the scientific method. I found the UCC and have been perfectly happy since. I wrote about my faith conversion on askme once.

I would encourage you to see as much of the world as possible - any exposure to third-world countries and/or places that you read about in children's books. Jungles, deserts, tundra, mountain tops. Keep a very open, very quiet mind.

If I can go out on a painfully metaphysical limb here... There is a very, very quiet voice that has something important to tell you. It will never shout and it would never do anything to frighten you. But you have many, many other voices that have their own "needs," and who will shout and who will attempt to frighten you, so that you will listen to them. If you can get them to be quiet for a few minutes, you can hear the reassuring voice.

Except that it's not really a voice, it's really more a sensation, coupled with a new sense (a heightened sense?) of the natural world that is all around you.

And then it goes away, and you spend quite a bit of time trying to get back to that place, and eventually you find a group of people who are trying to do the same thing and you agree to meet regularly at a certain time and a certain place to encourage one another on the journey, and suddenly you have faith.

I hope this was helpful.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:54 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Most Protestants will tell you that belief in God is the most important part of religious life. If you believe, you're a Christian, even if your church attendance is spotty and your personal morals are lax. If you don't believe, you're not. And because most Americans are Protestant, that idea's seeped into how we view religion in general. When we talk about other religions, we talk about their beliefs. We use words like "nonbeliever" and "atheist" as if they ment "non-religious"; we use the word "faith" as if it meant "religion."

But when you look at religions around the world, there aren't many that put the same emphasis on belief.

There are some who will tell you that the most important part of religious life is self-improvement of some sort. Some kinds of Buddhist practice, Yoga or Christian prayer fall into this category.

Some will tell you the most important thing is personal virtue and good character. Confucianism is the big name here, but almost any religion's got a thing or two to say on the subject.

Some will tell you it's ritual observance. A lot of traditional Jews fall into this category. So do some Catholics and many Pagans.

Some will tell you it's ecstatic union with God. There are mystics all over: look at Sufism, some branches of Yoga, or almost any spirit posession religion. The mystical streak's shown up at least twice in Christianity: check out the Cloud of Unknowing or the Philokalia for an older version, or Charismatic Christianity for a newer one.

Some will tell you it's the extension or refinement of your own power. Often this stuff gets reclassified as "magic" or "folk magic." Crowley's probably the most famous proponent of it, and there are bits and pieces scattered all over Neopaganism as a result.

In most of the traditions I've mentioned, you'll hear that belief is good — but as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. They'll tell you belief will strengthen your practice, shore up your virtue, or keep your mind on the ritual. But if you can practice, do good or make ceremony even when you're consumed with skepticism and disbelief, then more power to you.

Long story short, you're missing out on a lot by assuming that belief is the beginning and end of religion. Broaden your horizons a bit, and give yourself permission to practice — to pray, do ritual, experience the unknown and so on — without worrying so much about what you think.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2008 [6 favorites]

Create a false God in your mind, and imagine he is listening to your thoughts. In the back of your mind you know he is fake. Now imagine the real God is the one who is on the side of your mind that knows the other god is fake. Voila! You have faith. ;)
posted by proj08 at 2:25 PM on February 10, 2008

I know someone who has been going through the same thing for the past few years. He recommends these books.
For Those Who Can't Believe
Stages of Faith
Prayers From a NonBeliever
God's Debris
posted by get off of my cloud at 2:32 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

If it's rituals, celebration, and wonder that you're looking for, I'd argue that there's no need to turn to religion. The natural world contains many things that amaze me daily, and there are plenty of other groups where you can find belonging and ritual.
"The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite."

-- Richard Dawkins
posted by chrisamiller at 2:54 PM on February 10, 2008

I struggle with the same questions myself and in my searching I randomly came across the book "Faith Without Religion" by Fred Brown in a university library - it's a pretty easy read and wasn't explicitly for or against religion, but simply offered up some personal anecdotes about his father and the search for a fulfilling life.
posted by perpetualstroll at 2:56 PM on February 10, 2008

Read about people who underwent sudden conversions, like C. S. Lewis.

Surround yourself with religious people, suspend disbelief, and practice. Just drop any counterargument thoughts that come up. Give it time.

Not all faiths are fundamentalist. They don't all take the bible literally. Noah's flood? Genesis? Loaves and Fishes? Resurrection? Some view these as metaphorical. Perhaps this is the sort of religion you could take.

Wonder and marvel at the complexity and oddness of the universe and of life, and of your own life and its path: no suspension of belief needed because there hasn't been an answer forced on it. Take in the great art works and music and ceremonies of the worlds religions and see them as a celebration of life and wonder and awe of the universe.
posted by DarkForest at 3:27 PM on February 10, 2008

Go to a place where you can be overwhelmed. The middle of the desert at night, lying flat on your back, is a good place to start. Even the rational part of you has to accept that the universe is very, very big, and there is more in it than any one person can comprehend. The proper response to fully appreciating this is: a sense of bottomless wonder.

You can feel that sense of bottomless wonder, hold it, bring it with you in everyday life, and not betray your rational part. Is that faith enough?

Three thoughts for things to read, which might be interesting if you haven't read them:
William James has an essay called "The Will to Believe" that might be of interest (skim down that wiki entry to the blurb about that essay and the subsequent stuff on his philosophy of religion).

You might enjoy reading some of C.S. Lewis's or G.K. Chesterton's writings on why they are religious.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:29 PM on February 10, 2008

Well, you could try reading modern theologians. I haven't read much, and what I have read is entirely in the Christian tradition (and I am an atheist myself), but you'll find that serious scholars of Christianity do not take the position that every word of the Bible is literal truth.

A traditional (and very commonly held) view of things is that religion is simply a set of propositions (eg resurrection, existence of a supernatural creator, etc) in which you either believe or do not believe, end of story. Modern theologians don't really take this position.

Rather, some theologians believe that religion is based on experience, not blind faith in some rather dubious-sounding assertions. The book I read that explained these things most clearly was Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, by Marcus Borg. It presents a much more sophisticated view of God, Jesus, and Christianity in general, than you are likely to find just by asking the average Christian. Although I don't believe in God of any sort, this book was really interesting, and allowed to me articulate exactly what it was about Christianity (and religion in general) that I didn't agree with.
posted by number9dream at 3:33 PM on February 10, 2008

Well, how about a religion that isnt completely faith-based like buddhism? Heck, questioning the teachings are encouraged. Of course, its still a religion, not some Eastern humanism, so it does ask for a little. Granted, if you practice the dharma and meditate and still dont feel anything then its probably not for you. This is a pretty good resource here.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:36 PM on February 10, 2008

Also its worth mentioning that your experiences stem from the monotheist traditions where faith is everything. This isnt necessarily true everywhere, especially the east.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:38 PM on February 10, 2008

For some, the journey is longer than others.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:30 PM on February 10, 2008

Since you favorited spock's answer, you may as well know that he neglected to attribute his analogy to Edwin A. Abbott.

Re built-in desire for ritual etc.:You may be surprised by the number of people that will flat-out reject such a notion.

No, having not lived under a rock myself, I'm well aware of how many people are wrong about this issue, like so many others. Whether or not they reject the idea intellectually or not is meaningless. Atheists usually enjoy the same ancient rituals and stories that everyone does, when they're not positioned as affiliated with religion.

Re reading Campbell: Many years ago, friend.

Well, you may want to check him out again, chum, because your question reads like someone who has never heard of him...he certainly doesn't say "If you don't have faith, you can't accept an explanation. If you do have faith, no explanation is necessary."
posted by bingo at 5:10 PM on February 10, 2008

Use one of these regularly. Technology is your friend. God's friend too!
posted by sammyo at 6:09 PM on February 10, 2008

You might find this question about the desire for the comfort of religion interesting.
posted by ssg at 6:45 PM on February 10, 2008

Here's a past thread about faith and Catholicism you may find useful. I highly recommend it.
posted by washburn at 8:09 PM on February 10, 2008

I'm not looking for morality - that I can do on my own. I'm also not looking for a religion - I don't need a spiritual bureaucracy telling me how to live my life. What I'm interested in is acquiring Faith itself, not its trappings.

I dunno, but to me this sounds like someone who wants to cruise at 60 miles per hour down the highway but doesn't want a car. You're setting conditions on your quest that make the fulfillment impossible or at best meaningless. What is faith if it doesn't change your life? To me, faith that does not lead to action is hypocrisy. You describe yourself as a pilgrim: a pilgrimage is a religious act. The pilgrim is one who sets out for a religious experience by accepting a set of ritual obligations and proscriptions, hoping that the fulfillment of these will entitle him to that experience.

Nebulawindphone's comment was very good. Give yourself permission to practice.
posted by BinGregory at 8:25 PM on February 10, 2008

Learn about the Simulation Argument and take up the worship of whoever built the computer that's running the universe? Unfortunately, it also means that god might be some alien kid playing a post-Singularity version of The Sims.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:44 PM on February 10, 2008

Do one thing you fear to do a day.

I'm curious.

We often do things that we do not know what the outcome will be with the belief that something good will come of it. So the best way to exercise the "faith muscle "is to do something you are afraid of doing but believe would make your life better.

In my opinion faith is the opposite of fear but it is not strengthened by wishful thinking but by action.
posted by yertledaturtle at 10:13 PM on February 10, 2008

Great question; thanks for asking. Many great answers; thanks, all.

I like to recall the distinction I heard once that religion is based on the experiences of other people, while spirituality is based on experiences you’ve had yourself. Many responses here imply this without quite saying it, so I’ve thought it possibly useful to repeat it, since this distinction certainly characterizies my own search, and my apparently instinctive distaste for religion. I’m complete disinterested in being told how things are; I want to experience it. I simply cannot easily accept second-hand news on ultimate questions about my own existence, nor can I accept that any other human being is a completely reliable messenger from the highest power or a completely all-knowing perceiver of ultimate reality.

I’m certainly not uninterested in the instructive and inspirational value of other people’s experiences, nor am I at all convinced of my own superiority in any way. I’ve simply found over and over again that until I actually experience something I can’t really have any idea of how it will affect me. In other words, I can’t seem to escape my own uniqueness, which has as often been a frustrating realization as it has been a liberating one, if not more often.

What this HAS left me with is a growing faith in myself, my capacities and my circumstances as the ideal joint architects of my own search. If there is a higher power, or powers, and this power has an interest in me, I cannot believe that this power, or powers, would not have left clues to recognizing and engaging with itself within me and my surroundings. If there is not, and I am completely self-creating or have been created and abandoned by a power or mechanism that has absolutely no interest in me, then I’m still going to look to myself and where I find myself for clues about how I can most satisfyingly exist and expand. Similarly, if the nature and extent of reality is beyond what I or any other human can sensually perceive or rationally conceive, then I cannot believe that I do not have the potential, either thru effort or evolution, to eventually perceive and conceive more than I do now. If nature and reality can be completely understood and experienced by any human, then I must still be content with whatever I can, through effort or evolution, experience myself.

No doubt there are simple dismissive and reductionist terms for the positions I’ve just tried to describe. I would reduce this myself to the conviction that I am well-designed and owe my designers a good run; in fact, I cannot resist giving myself a good run. In any event, this condition suffices for me as an EXPERIENCE of faith, and I offer it to you also as both an example and a process:

Trust yourself and all your interests and yearnings as your best guides to your own growth through experience.

Good luck!
posted by dpcoffin at 10:38 AM on February 11, 2008

I cannot believe that this power, or powers, would not have left clues to recognizing and engaging with itself within me and my surroundings.

That's a statement of faith if I've ever heard one. You refuse to believe that existance cant be:

1. An impersonal thing with no monotheistic creator involved, but something that trascends materialism.
2. A creation by an indifferent or even malevolant creator.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:44 AM on February 11, 2008

I’ll give you a minute to reread my complete post, dda, if you actually care.
posted by dpcoffin at 10:55 AM on February 11, 2008

A Way to Love God
by Robert Penn Warren

Here is the shadow of truth, for only the shadow is true.
And the line where the incoming swell from the sunset Pacific
First leans and staggers to break will tell all you need to know
About submarine geography, and your father's death rattle
Provides all biographical data required for the Who's Who of the dead.

I cannot recall what I started to tell you, but at least
I can say how night-long I have lain under the stars and
Heard mountains moan in their sleep. By daylight,
They remember nothing, and go about their lawful occasions
Of not going anywhere except in slow disintegration. At night
They remember, however, that there is something they cannot remember.
So moan. Theirs is the perfected pain of conscience that
Of forgetting the crime, and I hope you have not suffered it. I have.

I do not recall what had burdened my tongue, but urge you
To think on the slug's white belly, how sick-slick and soft,
On the hairiness of stars, silver, silver, while the silence
Blows like wind by, and on the sea's virgin bosom unveiled
To give suck to the wavering serpent of the moon; and,
In the distance, in plaza, piazza, place, platz, and square,
Boot heels, like history being born, on cobbles bang.

Everything seems an echo of something else.

And when, by the hair, the headsman held up the head
Of Mary of Scots, the lips kept on moving,
But without sound. The lips,
They were trying to say something very important.

But I had forgotten to mention an upland
Of wind-tortured stone white in darkness, and tall, but when
No wind, mist gathers, and once on the Sarré at midnight,
I watched the sheep huddling. Their eyes
Stared into nothingness. In that mist-diffused light their eyes
Were stupid and round like the eyes of fat fish in muddy water,
Or of a scholar who has lost faith in his calling.

Their jaws did not move. Shreds
Of dry grass, gray in the gray mist-light, hung
From the side of a jaw, unmoving.

You would think that nothing would ever again happen.

That may be a way to love God.
posted by melissam at 11:24 AM on February 11, 2008

Response from a [sort of rogue Catholic Existentialist, if it matters] friend:

tell that person on metafilter that they have faith every time they move through space. every moment of existence is an act of faith, and that if they can search out and feel that mundane faith in the continuance of the everyday, capital "F" faith is just a few steps away

More of an encouragement, perhaps, than instruction.
posted by hippugeek at 11:56 AM on February 11, 2008

A simple thought to keep in mind: There is no faith without doubt.
posted by prophetsearcher at 3:30 PM on February 11, 2008

I recommend Spinoza's Ethics. The first and fifth books are particularly relevant to your musings.

"By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite--that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.": Deus sive Natura
posted by voltairemodern at 12:35 PM on February 12, 2008

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