The Opposite of Faith Is…

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This meme posted by the United Church of Christ, based on a quote by Elie Wiesel (US News & World Report, October 27, 1986) has shown up in a few news feed posts of late. The complete quote:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”

At best he gets one or two out of four right. Love, beauty, and faith are all social constructs. They must be pretty clearly defined before we can know what their opposites are, if opposites of social constructs like these can even be said to exist. Scott Peck defines love in The Road Less Traveled as, “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Given that definition, that love is a choice, an extension outside of self, or work, I can roll with the opposite of love being indifference.

In another book, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Peck also takes on the nature of evil. He cleverly points out that “evil” is “live” spelled backwards, and has this to say about it:

“When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life — particularly human life — such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may “break” a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head.
[…]
Evil then, for the moment, is the force, residing either inside or outside of human beings, that seeks to kill life or liveliness. And goodness is its opposite. Goodness is that which promotes life and liveliness.”

So it seems that at least according to Peck, the opposite of life is neither death nor indifference, but evil – rather an active and proactive force, “that seeks to kill life or liveliness.”

In my Songwriting classes I feel I owe it to my students to try to define objective measures by which to evaluate the quality of their songs, their relative beauty. It seems a fool’s errand, but there is Thomas Aquinas at least, whose components of beauty include symmetry or coherence, structural integrity, and clarity. This works for songwriting. I could argue that the opposite of beauty is confusion, obfuscation, poor quality and incoherence rather than indifference. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though, and for my purposes here I will take a pass on this one.

His inclusion of faith however is curious and sinister. There are multiple definitions of that word faith as well, and the religious often try to point out that even atheists have faith. The problem is that the religious use the wrong definition of the word. The Oxford Dictionaries lists two:

1) Complete trust or confidence in someone or something: this restores one’s faith in politicians

2) Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
2.1 A system of religious belief: the Christian faith
2.2 A strongly held belief or theory: the faith that life will expand until it fills the universe

Now it seems pretty clear to me that the first definition is based on some level of experience, or empiricism if you will, data. There is the “this” in the example sentence, after all. Same with the idea that I have faith that the chair I am sitting in will hold me up or that I may have faith that my friends will not let me down. I have experience that leads me to believe all this, and that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow.

But the Wiesel quote clearly implies the second definition. There is only heresy in religious faith, in the second definition where doctrines are involved. Oxford uses the word “proof,” in contrast to this kind of faith. So no, the opposite of religious faith is not indifference, but reason, evidence, data, empirical support.

Those of us who have abandoned or dismissed religious faith as a substandard, unreliable, untrustworthy, insupportable and unauthoritative view of reality, as a so-called virtue, or even as simply a filter through which to run the total human experience can not be wholly written off as “indifferent.” This is just one more way that even liberal theologies, as pure and virtuous as their intentions might be, cannot help stepping in it and marginalizing whole classes of people many of whom are actively working to bring love, beauty and life to the world. We are anything but indifferent. Doctrine simply must be abandoned or at the very least marginalized to the point of irrelevance if we are to ever have an inclusive, equitable and just world.

5 thoughts on “The Opposite of Faith Is…

  1. I am fascinated by your thought process. The reason I keep reading your Blog. I really do try and understand what you are saying and where you are coming from. I just don’t buy into the “social construct” theory..to me it seems like the easy way out of explaining something, similar to someone saying “God did it”. I also don’t agree with your definition of the opposite of faith being “reason, evidence, empiracle support, data,” in fact I would argue that is was because of those things I do have faith in God. We all have the same evidence..but it is people’s presuppositions that usually define things. We look at the same world…but obviously very differently because of our own experiences, no?

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful deconstruction of this quote. Was kinda missing your blog posts throughout 2015. I’m sure you’ve got plenty to keep you busy, so I appreciate when you invest the time in your always well-reasoned, insightful commentaries. Hope 2016 is great for you (& for all of us.)

      • Hi Ojo,

        I wrote you some time ago. I stumbled upon your page here, based on my YouTube Channel’s name “Godrules” and you happen to have sung a song entitled by the same name, while you were in the band “Undercover”. Probably a little before my time, seeing I am 40 now.

        At any rate, you seem to be up for a challenge, but I am under the impression you think you have it all figured out.

        So I will just write it here, seeing you probably will not check out my videos anyways.

        Most of what you would call “Christian Apologetics” are from the Western side of the Church and have weaknesses with certain atheistic argumentation.

        However, those atheistic apologetics actually fall apart in the fact of Orthodox (Eastern) Apologetics.. Every major atheist argument I have actually destroyed on video.

        When I say destroyed, I don’t mean I gave some sort of reasonable alternative. I mean destroyed. Not like what some Western Apologist would consider destroyed, but actually destroyed.

        To give you a few ideas:

        1. Sex topic – Most Christians have absolutely no clue what they are talking about in regards to this topic, due to skews in the translations from the ancient Greek and Hebrew. To give one example, the main verse most Christians use for their foundation of sexual ethic is actually mistranslated.. Matthew 5:27-28. To show you how you can easily prove this, all I need to do is cite the first English Bible ever written. Namely, William Tyndale’s Bible. One word is seemingly translated differently, which gives you a clue what Jesus was really saying.. The term “woman” is actually “wife”.

        Jesus never said you can not “lust” after a woman. He said you can not desire to take your neighbor’s wife. Even early Christian apologist St Theolophius of Antioch (who spoke Greek, from around the 2nd Century) shows the proper way to view the verse.

        That is just one of many errors on the sex topic among Christians. I have many videos going into depth on all of it..

        2. The claim by atheists that God is a “genocidal maniac”. Well, unfortunately many Christians are completely ignorant to this topic. I would also have to say many atheists are equally as ignorant on this topic as well.

        God never sent a flood to “destroy mankind”. This is a result of lack of study and not being a good Berean.

        In reality, God sent a global flood to destroy the genetic and moral corruption from the Devil. T-Rex, for example, was likely a hybrid created by angelic corruption of the DNA of a certain type of lizard. Genesis 6 gives a clue to this. Naturalists are well known for burying evidence related to this. Look into old Newspaper articles from the 1800’s and early 1900’s of America and you will find many articles about giant burial sites. The Smithsonian would come by and take the bones to never be seen again. Because they had to push their evolutionary theory, they buried any evidence that did not fit.

        All the nations where God told them to utterly destroy them were actually nephilim offspring.

        This really is not rocket science.. Being actually objective and looking into the Pseudepigraphica makes it entirely obvious. Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, Book of Jasher, Genesis Apocryphon and so on.

        3. God does not torment people in Hell forever. Anyone who does research into the ancient Greek will come to the same conclusion. This view “eternal torment” is the weakest of views on the afterlife and is the easiest one to disprove.

        There are three major views:

        A. Eternal Torment (from the Latin School of Theology).
        B. Annihilationism (from the Ephesus(Ephesians) School of Theology).
        C. Universal Restorationism (the other Four Schools of theology, notably The School of Alexandria).

        At any rate, if you study this topic, and are actually diligent and logical, it becomes quite apparent that it is likely C, and could potentially be a combination of C and B also (I lean more towards C).

        There are many obvious things that point to this..

        1. The Historian Josephus was a believer in “eternal torment” and never wrote it the way Jesus was quoted in Matthew 25:46. He would write “timorian aidios” to mean “eternal torment”. He would use the term “aionios” to refer to finite periods of time. This is also how “aionois” is used in secular literature as well.

        2. Jonah was in the belly of the whale/fish for “aionios”. Or 3 days..

        3. “forever and ever” is a logical contradiction.. It literally reads “an age and an age”.

        4. I could go on and on.. There are about 100 verses that declare all will be saved.. Even John 3:17 if properly translated (the term “might” does not even exist in the Greek text. It literally reads “for God sent not his son into the world to condemn it, but that the world through him will be saved”.

        I could also keep going and basically debunk every single atheistic apologetic out there, which I have pretty much done all of them on video.

        Even the 101 contradictions in the Bible, I have already debunked.

        The alleged number discrepancies are only in the Hebrew Masoretic.. They do not exist in the Greek Septuagint or the Dead Sea Scrolls.

        I have about 4 videos covering those all. and even the alleged apocryphal contradictions (which is a load of BS pushed by the Protestant Church).

        At any rate, if you are interested in seeking the truth, check out my channel “Godrules” and look into my video playlist here where I cover most every atheist argument out there:

        Sincerely
        Tony

  3. Enjoying your blogs! This post brought back to mind Alan Watts’ definitions of belief and faith (from his book, The Wisdom of Insecurity). “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 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 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.” Watts’ definition of faith was incredibly expansive and liberating for me.

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