The Opposite of Faith

The Opposite of Faith July 7, 2015

Kim Fabricius considers a number of possible and oft-proposed identifications for the opposite of faith, and proposes that the real opposite of faith is fear. He writes:

There is a lot of fear around in the church today. Fundamentalists are afraid of scholarship and science. Traditionalists are afraid of change and newness. Many of us are anxious about secularism or alarmed by militant Islam. And a lot of Christians are seeking safety by demanding our rights, defending our territory, acting like victims, whinging and blaming and shouting the odds. It’s unseemly, it’s unchristian. Fear makes us act in these faithless ways, makes us shrink, turns us in ourselves. But faith – real faith – expands us, turns us outwards to others, doesn’t circle the wagons but lays out the welcome mat to the different and strange and tries to engage even the enemy. Not easy. But whoever said that faith is easy?

Brandon Wallace writes along similar lines:

It wasn’t until my latter college years that I actually gave myself permission to read differing views, and I was amazed at how much I learned by doing so. I finally got to a point where I realized God isn’t scared of my questions, and that the heart of faith is searching and seeking more and more. Once I let go of my fear, I was able to experience the Gospel (and life) in a way I never was able to before. Did my opinion on homosexuality change because I researched it? Yes, it did. Did my entire faith structure crumble because of this? No, it did not. In fact, it grew stronger. You see, stagnation cannot be a part of faith. If you aren’t changing your mind on aspects of theology and figuring out sometimes that you don’t really have all of the answers, then really you aren’t growing in your faith at all.

Stagnation quote Brandon Wallace

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  • David Evans

    As an atheist I at once thought: the opposite of faith is reason (and/or evidence). But Fabricius was there before me. I found his discussion of that very interesting.

    He writes that “..it is patently false that faith is evidence-less, for faith is dependent on witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, dependent on the reliability and truthfulness of the gospels.” I wonder. There are contradictions and apparent falsehoods within the gospels – two genealogies for Joseph, disagreements on who saw the empty tomb, two accounts of the fate of Judas… When Christians contemplate these things, does their faith waver at all?

    • I can only speak for myself but, no, not really. The genealogies were never about being a completely accurate list to begin with, and for that matter, neither are the accounts of Jesus’ life intended to be read as biographical.

    • Great question. For some, it does cause their faith to waver. But I think that just goes to show that their faith was not in God but in the truthfulness of the Bible and/or of their own religious system. Paul Tillich would say that this indicates the idolatrous character of their faith.

      • ccws

        As a friend of mine wrote: “Faith becomes idolatry when placed in church or nation…”

        Or in the dead letter preserved in a book – any book.

        My sis & I were talking the other day, & we both remember our dad saying “the Bible isn’t the Word of God – Jesus is.” The static graphos is not the living Logos and can never replace it.

  • guairdean

    Many of the faithful I know ground their faith in fear. They cling to faith as a way to cheat death (the promise of eternal life), and anything that threatens that faith, and that possibility of eternal life, is seen as an enemy that must be destroyed. It’s also a driving force behind fundamentalism. It seems that many feel that if any of their beliefs might be wrong, then their eternal life might be in jeopardy. However, if they can silence those who speak against their faith, their future is secure. The phrase “I can’t imagine not existing” is common among them and seems to be the driving force behind their faith. Does their faith ever waiver? No, they can’t afford to allow that. Is it a true faith? To them, it’s an undeniable fact. Sadly, it’s only undeniable because the alternative is too frightening to accept.

    • charlesburchfield

      I hear a lot about ‘them’ and ‘their’ faith in your post. with respect, I think it would be so helpful if you would please write about YOUR faith.

      • guairdean

        My faith is simple. It’s based on the good we do here on Earth with no promise of “Heavenly Reward.” I have no fear of death. I’m not in any rush, but when it’s time I’ll accept death as part of the path I walk. Do I believe in a God? Yes. Do I believe God is an angry old man in white robes sitting on a throne with his finger on the Smite button? No. Do I believe God touches our lives each day and guides us through answers to prayer? No. People like to brag about how their prayers helped, but they never take responsibility when prayers fail to help. Do I believe the human mind can contain the concept of God’s true nature? No, such a being is beyond us. Does that diminish me in any way? No. Whether we were created as fully formed beings, or whether an all powerful presence stirred the primordial soup and let the rest happen on its own, is irrelevant. I’ve never cared if a baker cracked the eggs for a cake with one hand or two, or if he stirred the batter with his left hand or his right. The cake is what’s important. Our lives, and what we do with them, are what’s important. After all, at the moment of death, the only thing that remains of our lives are our deeds. My goal is to do the best with what I was given and leave a little good behind when I’m gone. I show my thanks for that gift by doing good with my life, not by how loud I shout Amen and expecially not by how many I can convert to my way. Do I judge others by their faith? No, I look at their lives. If they do good in their life, the faith that inspires that life is just fine. However, if the only point of their faith is to prove themselves right, then I feel that the life is false and wasted.

        • charlesburchfield

          with respect I still see a lot of black and white thinking in your posts about what others believe, think and do. I’m just wondering what accounts for this ‘one size fits all’ regarding, for instance, prayer and taking responsibility when prayers aren’t answered
          (in the way one wishes they would be answered?) Is it possible you may be projecting on others something about your life you haven’t been able to take responsibility for?

          • guairdean

            With respect, please ask the question behind your troll. I gave you straight answers. If you’re trying to boil things down to a simplistic level so that you can apply a label, please apply it now and we’ll both move on. If you’re looking for logical inconsistencies in my views, you should find them easily enough, I don’t pretend to have it all figured out to the nth degree. As for my black and white views, they were forged over a score of years watching panic stricken fundamentalists decrying anything and everything that threatens their narrow world view. It was also forged in times when I had to parrot that narrow view or face the consequences. Fabricius was correct in his assessment, far too many Christians live in fear and shout at the darkness.

          • charlesburchfield

            i think you are very brave & have survived a terrible experience. I’ve had some social exposure w some fundamentalists (not just the religious type). I would say the ones i’ve known live under a bell jar & often kill the creativity in their children as well as all possibility of true intimacy that exists in friendship & community. It sounds like you haven’t healed from your spiritual abuse & it’s making you bitter and narrow minded.

          • guairdean

            Quite the contrary. It’s opened my eyes to the world of faith, and rather than limit myself to a single view, I’ve explored many aspects of faith. I’ve read the works of Buddha, the Baha’i, Judaism, Catholicism, even the Church of Satan (not as evil as they are portrayed), the works of Joseph Campbell, and many others on this forum and others, along with many other faiths and their teachings. I don’t consider myself bitter, just cautious. Zealots come in many disguises, and are easily spotted, and avoided, if you know the signs. Their “mark” if you will. I’ve been ordained in some, and raised through the ranks in others. These are my “marks”, and are available for others to see if they look.

  • charlesburchfield

    I think the opposite of faith is belief in ones own control fantasies. an example? ‘ my country right or wrong’.

  • John MacDonald

    “Faith” can be defined as superstitious, wishful thinking. The opposite of faith is rigorous honesty.

    • charlesburchfield

      I think that there are reasons and wisdom ppl have faith in superstitions and what one might call wishful thinking and that might be an interesting topic for discussion.
      faith in one’s own honesty might be an illusion. for instance I’ve seen that narcissists sincerely believe in their own superiority and obsessively mistake that for being honest about themselves in spite of the fact that their actions can have tragic consequences for themselves and others.

      • John MacDonald

        Sounds like your narcissists are acting out of self-delusion, not rigorous honesty.

        • charlesburchfield

          yes doesn’t it though though! nevertheless in their own experience of narcissistic delusion faith in one’s self as a superior being worthy of being followed, obeyed and respected is their honesty relative to them. ‘rigorous honesty’ is an interesting term. I encountered it in AA. rigorous honesty is the necessary condition of conscience an alcoholic (or, I think, any addicted person) needs to cultivate and learn in order to recover from the disease of alcoholism.

          • John MacDonald

            Then hopefully you can see what you need to do in order to recover from the disease of “faith.”

          • charlesburchfield

            yes I did and am! religious addiction is only one of my many addictions. I have found the 12 step program can be applied to any addiction. one attempting the long road of recovery
            usually falls short taking that third step; turning your life and will over to the care of God as you see God, especially true, if one has been exposed to and abused spiritually by family or a church of religious addicts.
            one has to go through a process of ‘cleaning your side of the street’. in this process an inventory must be made regarding one’s
            festering prejudices and rancid assumptions that still cause one to have resentment that keeps one revolving in the same patterns and obsessions. as they say in AA nothing changes if nothing changes!

  • ccws

    The opposite of faith – or at least a gross FAILURE of faith – is Fundamentalism.

    • charlesburchfield

      I thinks ‘faith’ needs to be qualified here. also the kind of faith I’ve experienced in my sojourn with fundamentalists has been so deadly because it came from such friendly people who were ‘sincere’. they had excellent customer service skills. they were selling and representing a brand. they showed the way I could buy into a tribe. A vulnerable young adults often doesn’t yet have the experience of knowing
      the difference between fundamentalist’s sincerity & what’s true faith in a loving God that loves one unconditionally.

  • Barbara Heller

    I think the opposite of faith might be close-minded certainty.