“Faith is, above all, openness - an act of trust in the unknown.” ~Alan Watts
The human condition has a glaring hangup. It has hitherto been brainwashed into believing that it needs to believe. It’s addicted to belief. It’s hung-up on being hung-up. As a result, it has doubled down on the delusion that its beliefs are the truth at the expense of Truth itself. It has forsaken the Truth Quest for the “truth,” and thereby lost sight of the path.
Ironically, the cure for this malady is faith. Which is often confused as belief. But really, faith is the opposite of belief.
Faith is openness to what the truth could be. It’s an infinite question mark that cuts through cosmos to continue the quest. It’s a vulnerable posture regarding reality, a sacred hope. Whereas belief is what one would “wish” the truth to be. It’s a full stop period mark that ends exploration. It’s an invulnerable posture regarding reality, a profane front.
Belief is pretense in hard makeup. Faith smears the makeup, thereby revealing that the Self is masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up.
Alan Watts said it best, “We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would “lief” or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.”
In the battle against bewitchment, all beliefs, no matter how well-intended, are a hinderance to clear thought. The greatest fight in the war between belief and delusion is against our own bewitchment. Fixed beliefs are self-reinforced bewitchment. Faith breaks the spell by ushering in mindful nonattachment to ideas and ideals.
Faith is a deep understanding that we are fallible creatures floundering within an infallible universe. We are finite beings perceiving an infinite cosmos. It’s a profound realization that we are imperfect mortals vainly attempting to conceive of a cosmos that is ultimately beyond our conception. But faith is also a deep hope that we might catch a glimpse of the absolute.
Belief, on the other hand, is what happens when we become attached to our flawed interpretations. It’s a vain attempt at pigeonholing the absolute into a nice little digestible package.
Faith is letting go of our interpretations and renouncing our attachment to a particular result. It’s a deep curiosity regarding the absolute, whether it’s easy to swallow or not.
Belief is limiting; faith is limitless. Belief is mental slavery; faith is mental liberation. Belief is attachment; faith is nonattachment.
Ultimately faith is courage. It takes courage to choose uncomfortable nonattachment over comfortable attachment. It takes courage to question beliefs rather than cling to cultural conditioning. It takes courage to be vulnerable to the trials and tribulation of the Truth Quest rather than get caught up in the placating delusions of a particular “truth.” It takes courage to allow the journey to be the thing rather than get hung up on a destination.
Cast aside the security blanket:
“Security is a false God. Begin to make sacrifices to it and you are lost.” ~Paul Bowles
Belief is also a false God. Don’t sacrifice clear thinking for outdated indoctrination and conditioning. When it comes to spirituality, “firm ground upon which to stand” is overrated. Better to float. Better to fly. Best, to intimately, and vulnerably, swim through it all.
Cultivate the “skyhook” of Faith lest the “deadweight” of Belief hold you down.
As the mighty Krishnamurti explained, “A truly spiritual person is not one who is encrusted with beliefs, dogmas, rituals. He has no beliefs; he is living from moment to moment, never accumulating any experience, and therefore he is the only revolutionary being. Truth is not a continuity in time; it must be discovered anew at every moment. The mind that gathers, holds, that treasures any experience, cannot live from moment to moment discovering the new.”
Remain open to discovery. Don’t let the shiny ring of your “precious” belief distract you from discovering something greater. Stay open and curious. Be like a still pond. Receive but do not keep. Be reflective but do not cling. The only way to grasp truth is to let go of your need to grasp it. Be a mirror instead, and the truth will reveal itself. Just be sure to let it go, and then move onto the next reflection.
As Edward Abbey said, “A good philosopher is one who does not take ideas seriously.” Be a good philosopher. Cut through all red tape. Kneecap all high horses. Dethrone all gods. Inflict yourself with good questions. Stay ahead of the curve. Let faith be your spearhead. Double down on your curiosity. Use it to overwhelm and overcome your certainty.
Nothing is certain. Nothing is secure. Nothing remains the same. A good philosopher simply has the courage to point this out. A good philosopher has faith that there are no absolute answers only astute questions.
Be audacious. Be impudent. Be insouciant. In a world hung up on being secure, be explosive. Trigger the easily triggered. Beleaguer the bystanders. Drop colorful paint bombs into black and white thinking. Count coup on the gods.
Use faith as a tool to wedge out belief. Use it to surrender to curiosity rather than cling to certainty. Use it to “entertain a thought rather than accept it.” Use it to “swim” rather than “stand.” Use it to creatively Flow rather than obsequiously kowtow.
As Buckminster Fuller said, “Belief is when someone else does the thinking.” Don’t allow anyone or anything else to do your thinking for you. Neither priests nor politicians. Neither philosophies nor religions. Neither idealogues nor demagogues. Use faith to see through the veil. Use it to pierce holes through the status quo smokescreen. Use it to smash through idols, ivory towers, and golden cows. Use it to crush out fragility with antifragility.
Truth is a moth-eaten curtain stretched across the cosmos. Forsake belief as the outdated thought mechanism that it is and cultivate faith to see through the holes in the fabric.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (Faith vs. Belief: The War Between Truth and Delusion) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.