Nature of ‘Faith’

In the last two posts, I looked at an alternate explanation of some statements in the Bible.  As the feedback showed, some Christians believe these statements literally, others figuratively.  And they are all happy holding onto their very different beliefs, even though all of them are inspired by the same passage in Genesis.   That is great!  

People ‘hold on’ to their ‘profound beliefs’, regardless of what others think of them or anything else – and I would not want it to be any other way.  This is called ‘faith’.  I have learned about this phenomenon.  I do not comprehend it, but I am ready to accept that some people are capable of it.

Yet, people often ‘hold on’ to ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’ on trivial or non-profound points which are demonstrably unsupportable.  I have tried, but I really don’t understand this aspect of human nature.  Personally, I have a hard time with this 100% one way, or 100% the other way mode of thought…..perhaps because I’m not ‘wired just right’…but I don’t think there is anything I’ve invested a 100%, non-conditional ‘belief’ in.

No, I’m not talking about everyday life things, like knowing I love my kids and so on….emotional investment is NOT what I am talking about.  Nor am I talking about the ‘ought to’ kind of belief, as in “I belive all humans ought to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.”

I mean ‘factual’ stuff:  like physics, chemistry, history…that ‘stuff’…. and global warming, political implications, someone’s culpability in something, superstitions, trust in actual physical institutions …that ‘stuff’, too.  For example, when driving over a bridge, I am reasonably convinced that the probability that the bridge will collapse under me is so low as to be negligible – or I would not have driven onto it.  Yet, I do not believe that it will not collapse….there is a difference!

OK, I ‘know’ gravity is a ‘force’ – yet, if someone presented me with substantiated evidence that it wasn’t a force, but rather an aspect of, say, space, I would be sceptical, yet I’d want to know what they based their claim on.  They’d need solid evidence, but….I could be convinced by it.   Knowledge, conclusions, opinions – these are all subject to change as more information comes in.  I get that!  I understand that process, and have experienced it many times.  What I don’t get is ‘belief’ or ‘faith’.

Perhaps this is a characteristic of us Aspergers’ people:  I recall some friends cutting out a comic strip in which a teacher is handing back a math test.  She reads one of the answers out loud:  “provided both trains are travelling in straight line, with no hills or curves, provided there are no accidents that slow them down along the way, provided we neglect to account for the curvature of the Earth, provided the clocks in both stations are synchronized, and that the whole path is along same height above sea-level and so no time diallation occurs, the trains’ average speed is XXX. ”  She hands the test to a boy, and he wonders:  “How did she know this was my paper?  I forgot to put my name on it!”

For some reason, my friends thought this was hillarious and wanted to show it to me….something about the comic basing a character on me… 

It seems many people have as much problems with ‘my’ processing of information into conditional conclusions as I do with ‘faith’.    This truly shocked me….after all, does not EVERYONE state the obvious limits under which any conclusion is valid?  Why do many people percieve such qualifications as ‘waffling’?  It certainly is not so!  Would not presuming such things be an oversimplification, to the point of error? 

Yet ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ seemed more natural to many people than my ‘conditional conclusions’!

What is it that allows one person to ‘believe’ or ‘have faith’, while another cannot even commit to a math-problem answer without stating all the assumptions and limitations?  Which one is the ‘normal’ one, and which the ‘anomaly’?  Or is this like a spectrum, where there are no discrete breaks, just a continuum….with my ilk falling squarely at one extreme?

These questions have haunted me, ever since I can recall formulating their cognitive pre-cursors in nursery shool.  Even back then, I simply could not understand the motivations and expected goals behind other children’s games – and when I asked, I got blank stares or the old ‘index-finger-making-circular-motion-by-the-temple’ gestures in return.  I can understand both the process and the motivation/expected goals behind a calcualted risk, problem analysis, conditional conclusion, that sort of thing….  But, for the life of me, I cannot understand either the process nor the motivation/expected goals behind ‘belief’ and faith’ – both profound and mundane.

Is this just another aspect of my ‘faulty wiring’, one that makes me so very Aspergers?  Or, are ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ simply a label for ‘I don’t understand and am not worthy/willing to think about’?  Or is there something entirely different at play here?

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3 Responses to “Nature of ‘Faith’”

  1. Nancy Coppock Says:

    Interesting about the Aspergers. My husband has a helper in our church’s media dept. that is Aspergers. He’s a great young man and very interesting. Deep thoughts in young people are very appreciated by this former remedial reading teacher. (Note you can read my story at http://breathofthebeast.blogspot.com/2007/07/liberals-dont-commit-crimes-they-just.html

    Because of that experience, I can smile at your pondering as to “normal” or “normal”. Just substitute “sane” or “sane” in my questioning about liberal ideas in education.

    Questions can also be used to prevent the questioner from accepting Truth. My youngest sister is Praeder-Willi Syndrome and she can question you until you lose your mind. The ultimate question is “Then what are you going to do?” On and on it goes. In fact she could be a lawyer questioning a man on the stand until the man confesses to crimes for which he’s not on trial.

    One of the things I have marveled at is that even in a genetic anomaly, there is still a pattern. If my sister was in a room full of other P.W.’s, the pattern is as recognizable as the better known, Down’s Syndrome. Even in your Aspergers, there is a pattern.

    It is the pattern that speaks to me and on which my faith is based. Everything has a pattern, even human nature – a topic not examined much these days. Maybe human nature is overlooked because the current fad is that humans are growing into a “better” nature or that the “right” law or government program has not been passed with funding growing exponentially year by year. (Right. . .)Humans are capable of doing terrible things in deed if not just in our mind or heart.
    “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton
    “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke

    As an artist, I love pattern. When I paint furniture http://nancy.coppock.com/ I love to paint pattern designs. (Paisley drives me wild) My mind is always searching for pattern, a completed circle, a place for everything. When I ponder God and read scripture I marvel at the pattern. It is the pattern in understanding human nature that defines the battle between good and evil. Just something to ponder.

  2. A Says:

    Take “faith” and add “leap of” on the front.
    Leap of faith. Faith is for jumping over the gaps when you don’t have all the information. There are situations where a human can never have all the information, especially in a fast moving/changing situation, where by the time you have collected the information, the information has changed. That is when you use faith so that you can proceed.

  3. Emma Says:

    The incapability to understand people holding onto their ‘faith’; is really not just an asperges thing, I think that’s more of a problem rational, open-minded people grapple with.

    As to the anecdote about the train – there are lots of parts of that, like the curvature of the earth, that people wouldn’t think about and that are interesting and worth mentioning. Other things like train accidents are implied in the context of the question, since a maths paper would only be dealing with number and other conceptual things; so saying there are no train accidents merely takes up time when people tend to have assumed that already.

    In analogous situations, it makes social interactions run more smoothly, because everyone is working off similar assumptions (we hope!). There is a risk here, but the small risk is outweighed normally by the time gained.

    (Sorry, I appear to be spewing opinions all over your blog. Most rude, really, but only because it’s so provocative :))

    Xanthippa says:
    Not at all – this is precisely the type of discourse I hope for!

    The thing is: we, Aspies, are NOT usually working off similar assumptions (or presumptions).

    That is rather the point: what seems ‘implied’ to most people hardly ever even occurs to us as a potential factor – much less than something that is implied. Conversly, what seems ‘obvious’ to us appears to baffle most others…

    And – it even works between Aspies themselves: what seems ‘obviously implied’ to me does not necessarily even occur as a possible factor to my hubby – also an Aspie – and vice versa.

    I’ll give you an example: our son brought us a mathematical question yesterday. If a person has two children, one of whom is a son, what is the probability that the other child is also a son?

    It was meant as a strict 50-50 chance: the trick was to figure out whether the options are ‘older son-younger son’, ‘older daughter-younger son’ and ‘older son-younger daughter’ OR if the options were simply ‘son’ vs. ‘daughter’, without the order of birth playing a role.

    Of course, this was NOT obvious to me: what WAS obvious to me was that male sperm motility is higher in ‘Y’ chromosome sperm than ‘X’ chromosome sperm, while the life-span of ‘X’ chromosome sperm is much longer than that of ‘Y’ chromosome sperm. This means that if intercourse occurs prior to ovulation, the probability of having a male offspring is much higher than the probability of having a female offspring, while the odds are reversed should the intercourse occur after ovulation. The relationship is a little complex, but proportional to the delta T.

    Couples who have offspring usually follow set sexual behaviour patterns – which, of course, influences the circumstances of conception of their children. This means that couples who have had a child of one sex are actually more likely to repeat the sexual patterns that led up to the conception when it comes to their subsequent offspring.

    This is OBVIOUS.

    So, to solve the mathematical problem my son posed, I had to look up the statistics on all these relationships (and assess their accuracy) before I could even BEGIN the calculations!

    This seemed to annoy my husband and son – who (though perfectly aware of these facts regarding conception and sexual behaviour patterns) seemed annoyed that I would consider them. Heck, my hubby seemed highly uncomfortable discussing the likely sexual behaviour patterns of couples attempting to conceive in front of our 16-year-old son – as if there were something to be uncomfortable to be about in the discussing of human reproduction! It’s the most natural thing of all!

    Then, they tried to re-phrase the problem in terms of ‘flipping coins’ – but ANYONE can tell that is just silly!

    The factors affecting random outcomes are completely unrelated to the original problem! So, of course I could not let them weasel out of solving the really interesting math problem our son presented by abandoning the original parameters…. And changing the problem half-way through is just rude!

    What I am getting at: it is unrealistic to presume that any two people (Aspie or not – one or more of them) are EVER working from congruent (much less identical) presumptions!

    Not listing them is, therefore, necessarily going to lead to serious miscommunication….

    Sorry – I got caught up in the subject….

    Please, do continue to challenge my thoughts! This is FUN!


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