Is It Faith

There exist two words which are used a lot in normal conversations – faith and religion. Numerous people think these words are synonymous. Yet that could not be farther from the truth. Let’s take a couple of minutes to explore this misconception

We will begin with the textbook definitions of each of these words:

FAITH

  1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
  2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
  3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
  4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
  5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
  6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
  7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

(Definitions from dictionary.com)

RELIGION

  1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:a world council of religions.
  4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.:to enter religion.
  5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
  6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience:to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

(Definitions from dictionary.com)

As can plainly be seen by looking at the definitions, the words are not synonymous. They do have a relationship to each other but when used they must be understood to be different. This is exactly why I think we have so many issues in dialogue about organized religion. I also find this as the source of those who claim to be spiritual but do not wish to be associated with organized religion.

The keywords found in the definitions above are “belief” and “practice.” My understanding of faith is “this is what one believes.” Religion is “how one practices what is believed.” Taking this understanding a step further leads to the concept that a group of individuals may unite around practices and therefore have religion but those practices do not always indicate each person’s faith. Another way of putting this might be that you can have religion without faith and you can have faith without religion.

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