When Faith Becomes A Hurdle in Our Search For Truth
The journey to search the truth is not a smooth ride. There are hurdles on the way, strong winds, narrow paths and sharp turns. A rather perilous journey.
The problem you are most likely to face when you go about this journey is the sheer number of spokespersons you meet who attempt to define God for you. You are likely to be overwhelmed by these self proclaimed ‘divine’ emissaries, all of whom are ever ready with a new trick up their sleeve to lure you into conversion. The world is full of them. In every street and town, every nook and corner, seers, ‘holy’ men, preachers, sages, priests, and mystics, some claiming to be born again, some reincarnated, others even ‘eternally existing’ ready with their salesmanship, their eyes preying on you with delight.
These claimants to divine knowledge will, if you lend them an ear, send you in directions very different from each other. To one, the Lord came down to earth as a man, while the other finds such a notion sacrilegious. It is a part and parcel of true religion to devote oneself to an idol and image says one of them, while such would be a blasphemy of the highest order according to the other.
As many people you speak to, as many confusing views you are likely to come across consolidating the idea that all religions do not preach one and the same thing and that if you were to choose one path, you are very unlikely to end up on the same road as the others. Therefore, you as the traveler in search of truth will definitely encounter contradictory views about God and His religion from such self styled specialists, each unique and different in his or her own way.
Despite their uniqueness, there will be one common strand among them all. One commonality that pervades their differing and often opposing views – all of them will ultimately resort to faith, should they face rational questioning.
Faith i.e. belief without proof or evidence is what sustains their religiosity, when cornered by your logical inquiry. No evidence, no logic, no proof to convey any credibility, but just faith – blind faith on their sales pitch.
And faith is what you must ultimately have if you wish to join their cult and taste the spiritual fruits that they find so sweet. Reason and rational thinking, proof and evidence, have no room in their house of faith, for these are for worldly matters. For higher and spiritual ends, one needs an ‘inner sight’, and a very different way of looking, so they proclaim.
Adherents hold on to their beliefs, not because they are convinced to the satisfaction of their intelligence about their efficacy, or have some sort of proof or evidence to substantiate their beliefs but because they ultimately have ‘faith’ in them, and so should you. Their invitation to you is an invitation to faith, i.e. to blind acceptance without any evidence to substantiate their claims.
ENMITY TOWARDS REASON
Since time immemorial advocates of faith have spoken against arriving at truths by way of reason and intellect:
“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”—Martin Luther, Table Talks in 1569.
Champions of faith can be seen holding reason in contempt. To them spiritual matters are related to the ‘inner’ soul of the human being, and have nothing to do with our rational capabilities. There is no room for reason and intellect in religious matters.
They can be very adamant in their own world of inconsistencies and contradictions in creed and dogma, for which they have one answer that solves all the problems – that one word answer is faith.
It is faith that makes you believe that God is All Powerful and at the same time also believe that He:
“ … made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day HE RESTED, AND WAS REFRESHED.” (Exodus 31:17).
It is faith in action when you acknowledge Divine Omnipotence and at the same time also accept that the Lord:
“..could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had CHARIOTS OF IRON.” (Judges 1:19).
It is on account of faith that you proclaim that God is the source of all goodness and compassion, but also bewilder yourself (and others) by quoting the Lord:
“..I make peace and CREATE EVIL..” Isaiah 45:7.
It is none other but faith that makes you champion the cause of modesty and look down upon impropriety but at the same time make you accept that God’s prophet:
“…hath walked NAKED and barefoot three years..” (Isaiah 20:3-4).
It is due to difficulties such as the above that make the faithful declare:
“Whoever wants to be a Christian must be intent on silencing the voice of reason” —Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Works, Vol. 23, p. 99.
To many, when they come across such difficulties, religion becomes a very bitter pill to swallow, and it is only when the architects of religion sweeten the pill with faith that it becomes palatable.
It is inconsistencies like these that contribute to a wholesale rejection of religion. Incomplete and faulty ideas about God and religion breed atheism. Religiosity is kept outwardly merely to please near and dear ones and to stick to social norms and accepted behaviors, but inwardly religious beliefs are held in contempt. The moment, those social pressures are no more and you are allowed to think for yourself, you find no reason to openly reject the belief system based on contradictory attributes.
FAITH AS A TOOL FOR OPPRESSION
While faith is a part and parcel of religious traditions, it is not the domain of the strictly religious only. Those who inwardly realize the weakness of faith, may outwardly use it as a secular ploy to maintain status quos and keep subjects under control and in subjugation. In such cases, vested interests declare that it is a grave sin to debate, to reason and inquire on official doctrines. Authorities imposed on you have a ‘divine’ warrant, so they say, and questioning them implies questioning God Himself.
Faith can very well be a tool for oppression when concocted in God’s name by vested interests merely to engineer their power over the masses. It is extremely useful to stifle dissent and lend credence to an otherwise illegitimate occupation.
AN ALTERNATE VIEW
Blind faith – whether you hold fast to it voluntarily, or one which is imposed on you, can it satisfy your intellectual quest for the ultimate truth? After all, if God is the one who made you, gave you your body and your mind, then will He prevent you from using your reasoning abilities? Why must we not use the mind to know about His matters?
When the intellect is paralysed and there is no room left for logical discussion, it is then that faith comes into play and matures itself. It is also when we close our minds and leave all matters to a blind adherence and trust without evidence or proof that the quest for the truth comes to a halt.
While certain faith leaders speak against reason to know spiritual matters, in contrast we also come across an alternate view. A view which presents religion in rational terms and which advocates the full use of your senses to decipher the truth. In this viewpoint you are not discouraged from using your intellect, but are in fact encouraged to ask questions and probe matters deeply.
This view is to be found nowhere but in the Qur’an. According to it, in attempting to know the truth, ‘Aql’ (reasoning) is to be employed:
“Certainly We have revealed to you a Book in which is your own reminder; what! Will you not then use your reason?” (21:10)
“We have made the revelations clear to you, if you will use your reason.” (3:118)
Truth will be known to you if you employ your Aql (Reason), while those who find thinking tedious are described as the denizens of hell:
“They will (further) say: Had we but listened or used our ‘Aql’ (reason), we should not (now) be among the companions of the blazing fire!” (67:10)
Such is the importance of being rational for religious matters, says the Qur’an. So much so that you can end up in hell fire if you paralyse your reasoning faculties. It is clear, therefore, that the Qur’an is no enemy of reason and does not regard it as a hindrance to your spiritual advancement.
PRODUCE YOUR PROOF!
According to the Qur’an, claims need verification prior to acceptance. Its general principle is that whenever people make a claim, demand proof from them. There is absolutely no room for blind faith in the Qur’an. It offers not only proofs, arguments and falsification tests for its own validity:
“O mankind! verily there hath come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: For We have sent unto you a light (that is) manifest.” 4:174
But demands evidence and proof from its opponents as well:
Or, Who originates creation, then repeats it, and who gives you sustenance from heaven and earth? (Can there be another) god besides God? Say, “Bring forth your proof, if ye are telling the truth!” 27:64
It also declares that those who have deviated from serving the one true God and fallen into false worship do not have any proof for their claims, and this indicates the Qur’anic attitude towards blind faith, namely that it is unacceptable:
“Or have they taken for worship (other) gods besides him? Say, “Bring your convincing proof: this is the Message of those with me and the Message of those before me.” But most of them know not the Truth, and so turn away.” 21:24
There is one religion, which in contrast to others does not resort to emotional or blind faith for itself, but calls for an intellectual inquiry to ascertain its truthfulness, presents proofs for its claims and demands proof from those who doubt its message.
A CALL TO ACTION
Have you ever come across a situation when you were prevented from asking questions? When you were told about the ‘blessings’ and ‘merits’ of such blind faith, and were advised against rational inquiry about conventional dogma?
Did you ever wonder why must you be forewarned not to employ reasoning and rationality for spiritual matters? Will you be uncovering some secret that people do not want you to know? Are they afraid that your questioning and reasoning ability will expose some flaw or weakness in their claims?
Did you realize that blind and emotional acceptance of doctrines can very well make you obstinate and narrow minded and that it is against your very nature not to think and reflect.
You are free to think, to reflect, to ponder and contemplate. You need to labour for the truth and use your entire being for the purpose, the body, the heart as well as the mind, for all are gifts from God.
“Say: ‘This is my way: I invite unto Allah upon conscious insight accessible to reason, I as well as those who follow me, and glory be to Allah, for I am not one of those who associate (others with His laws).” (12:108)
What will it be then, a blind faith that is narrow and restrictive, or a rational belief that is liberating and creative?
The choice is yours.