As someone who has spent a significant amount of time in both a deeply religious and belief based world and one that is verging on what can be called scientism, I have struggled, at times quite deeply, with the seemingly irreconcilable nature of these two modalities of thinking.
Faith and belief, even in the face of my years conducting research and being ingrained in the scientific method is something that has always fascinated me. Beyond that, it has been something that I have always felt just out of my reach, just too far of a leap for me to make. Seeing those who fully believed, who had a deep faith that colored all facets of their lives, made me long for this grounding to live my own life in.
Within this longing, I perhaps saw too great a dichotomy between the world of science and the world of belief – in my particular case, in Catholicism. How could a world that is 4.5 billion years old, in a universe that is almost 14 billion years old, be defined in a book that only addresses 15,000 years at most? While perhaps not articulated at the time, it was this conflict that first brought me out of my belief and into a world that was not even defined by a lack of belief, but by a constant searching.
Throughout the millennia, from Plato to Saint Augustine to Kierkegaard to Nietzsche (and far beyond), there have been thinkers who have been both able and unable to reconcile the world of belief and the world of material knowledge. I am far from unique on this topic – it was my biggest struggle for many years, and still follows me today, and I am grateful for those teachers and thinkers who have come before me and laid the groundwork for my own discovery.
Perhaps the most important lesson that I have come to learn is defined by the saying, which I steal from Bishop Robert Barron, that true faith is found on the far side of reason.
To me, this means that we have a duty to engage in a structured, disciplined and reasonable attempt to understand the world around us. This activity does not require the Bible, the Torah or any other religious text (although many religious beliefs from these texts are present, in an implicit manner, in the reason that we do engage in). It is only after, in good faith, that we have run up against the limits of human reason and understanding that a true, living faith can find its way into our lives.
This is a faith that I find I can comfortably sit within. It is not a faith that I have yet defined with definitions provided by any major religious institution, but it is certainly one that enrichens my life and my understanding of the world around me. This is what faith has done for me – it is not something that I seek in order to abate the terror of death, to justify the primacy of my worldview or even provide me comfort. In many ways, the faith that I have found has made me far more uncomfortable than I was before. No. For me, faith is the ability to see my life in a manner that is more than simply reasonable or logical, something that is based in the material world, something that is defined by no more than the scientific method. Perhaps this is a way for me to cope with the materialistic and painfully capitalistic world that we find ourselves in. Even if this is the case, I believe that it is so much more than that as well – and the reason that I believe that is, well, faith.