A Question of Faith

by jane arie baldwin

My eyeballs stopped in their tracks when I read this quote the other day:

‘I often envy religious people who have that devout faith. They know that they’re going to see their … loved ones again when they die. But I don’t believe that. Sometimes, I wish I did.’ — Carol Fiore, an atheist, whose husband died after the plane he was test-piloting crashed.

Must one have to have religion to have faith?

I used to be afraid of this question. Afraid to ask it. Afraid to get in a conversation with someone about it. Afraid because I didn’t know what I believed. I eventually found my answer, for me, once I separated faith and religion.

When religion and faith walked hand in hand in my life – as a school girl in a rural Catholic school and also a child of the south with Southern Baptist family members – I did not feel a connection to faith. I tried. Believe me, I tried. On my knees at night at the side of my bed I prayed for God to show me a sign, to give me faith so that I could believe. And that’s what kids do. Kids want to be shown. Kids need guidance and a hand to hold until they are ready to let go. We see this metaphor most clearly with babies around the age of one when they start to walk. I will never forget the first time my daughter looked back over her shoulder at me with a knowing look and let go of my hand. There has never been a more concrete example for me of the act of faith as watching my little girl take her first steps without my guidance. She knew she had it and was ready to let go because she felt it. She was devoted to her own faith, her faith in herself and her truth. This is a faith beyond religion. It is the faith of the heart.

If I could I would ask Ms. Fiore, “What do you believe?” Beliefs are the pillars upon which the foundation of who we are stands. THAT’S what we must have faith in, our own BELIEFS. That is what will get us through the tough times. Not some script from days gone by that tells us to blindly believe. Scrap the religion aspect or not. Faith is a feeling that we are trusting our own pillars – that what we believe, what each of us knows deep down in our own HEARTS, is the TRUTH.

DO HABITUAL MENTAL CONSTRUCTS KEEP THE PRACTICE OF FAITH AT BAY?

There is no black or white. Entertain the idea for a moment, whether its that you will see your husband again or some other idea that feels silly in the moment. Sit on it a while, carry it around with you and see what happens. Sometimes the feeling of SILLY is really RESISTANCE to what your heart really wants based on constructions of the mind that have been built up over time (past beliefs, hurts, etc…). So feel the SILLY, walk around with it and see if it changes. If it still feels silly in a few hours to think that you might see your husband again then by all means you have every right to think it’s a silly thought and stick with that. If it starts to feel good in your heart, soothing in some way – then let your heart be soothed – doesn’t mean you have to give up being an atheist to take care of that vital physical organ that keeps you alive.

I am not being didactic here. I’m curious. Where do you place your faith? What is your truth? Which are your strongest beliefs in your heart?