Monday, December 4, 2006

Real Unifying Faith

The following was submitted to the Viewpoint section of the Daily Bruin and published on October 3, 2006:

Real Unifying Faith
“Religion is a personal thing… it is a choice for each individual to make.” Those of us who’ve spent any time at UCLA have heard that over and over, and you could have read it in the Viewpoint on Sept. 24, 2006 under the title, “Amid religious diversity, belief an individual choice.” This is the highest and most universal moral of on-campus religion. To a majority, faith is like hating carrots or loving broccoli: it has nothing at all to do with true or false, right or wrong. True and false are the realm of science; religious statements are not subject to uncompromising rules of logic as are scientific theories like gravity. But let’s consider the implications of a faith that is purely personal.

If faith is nothing more than a personal choice, you are alone in the world with your faith; by definition, no one else can share it with you. Faith then becomes a solitary cloister that none else can enter; no one else can experience, identify, or agree with you on matters of your personal faith because they can’t share it.

If faith is solely a personal opinion, then it has no real significance to others. It is meaningless to discuss your preference for broccoli with a carrot-lover. If faith is a personal preference, then “discourse” devolves into a meaningless expression of groundless preference. Such are children’s arguments: “Broccoli is better,” “Carrots are better,” “Nuh-uh,” “Ya-huh,”

But what if faith wasn’t like broccoli? What if it was more like gravity? Have you ever seriously considered it? Before zoning out, humor me for five minutes; it might be funny. What if faith was reasonable? Not a physical science, but subject to laws of logic and reason, like science. Consistent with the law of non-contradiction, such a faith would be universal. Faith would then be a common thing, something that could be experienced the same by different people. Such a faith would be a transcendent thing, existing above the individual, guiding the behavior of all humanity.

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Only when faith is common can it unify us. With common faith, we can be a member of a community that includes others with whom we truly share faith, not just colliding, on a weekly basis, with others of similar personal preference. Then we would not be isolated by our faith, confined in our own souls, but we can genuinely be a member of a society that has common belief, able to really empathize and connect with our fellows on a deep and intimate level.

But who can say what is “True Faith” and what is not? We all can, as rational beings. Reason is the common denominator of Man: black or white, Buddhist or Muslim, we are all rational beings, equal because we are all constrained by the same laws of logic and reason. This is the universal language we can converse in. We cannot speak to each other in our own private language of our feelings, but we can speak to all humanity through reason. “I prefer broccoli” is meaningful for only one person; “Broccoli is nutritious” can speak to all of humanity.

Only with a common faith can we truly be freed from the solitude of our own souls. Only with a reasonable faith can we be liberated from personal language, and gain freedom to speak to all of mankind. Someone said it a lot better than me: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Faith is far more beautiful when we can be unified by it in Truth, giving us true community, real goodness, and meaningful discussion.

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