virus: Faith and trust

Reed Konsler (
Sat, 30 Jan 1999 15:19:36 -0500

>Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 11:05:59 -0700
>From: David McFadzean <>
>Subject: virus: Faith and trust
>At 09:31 AM 1/29/99 -0500, Reed Konsler wrote:
>>Each word has it's own subtle meaning so I'd hesitate to use
>>the word "equate", especially given the's too
>>algorithmic. But, yes, I see faith and trust as closely related.
>I think it would be enlightening to explore the subtle differences
>in meaning. For instance, is faith a kind of trust?

It depends entirely on the context. One way of understanding faith is as a kind of trust. We say "trust me" and "have faith in me" and usually mean pretty much the same thing. When people say: "my life was a wreck...and then I let Christ into my heart and through faith I found the strength to go on." they are expressing a kind of trust. If you listen to those kind of testimonials what strikes me is the really terrible, distraught straights these people end up in.

It seems particularly cruel to laugh them. Many times their faith is found at the brink of suicide...and that really isn't very funny. It's not something that I think makes a good target for analysis. Picking on people who are struggling like that is just plain bullying.

I think anyone with a decent heart would try to understand how such a persons new found faith MIGHT be true. Crisis-converts tend to have, initially, only a very vauge idea of what their desperate trust has been placed in...which is why evangelists tend to target them. But, this also presents an opportunity for rational people to help mold crisis-faith into something more effective for the believer.

Unfortunately, the response athiests and self-stylized "rational" people take is usually antagonistic. This is the worst possible tactic given that a crisis-convert is looking for support and help in stabilizing their life. It drives the believer away from logic and deeper into the arms of the evangelist. If they are lucky, they've found an established religion...if they are unlucky (a crisis-convert is the least discriminating about where their support is going to come from) they are driven into something far worse for them.

Anyway, a rational, supportive person can help a believer to make their faith something which will work for them. The more rational, supportive people a believer is in contact with, the more likely the new found faith will be a metaphor which they can use flexibly to better relate to other people. This would be the best sense of faith, in which "God is Love" and people come togther in harmony "through the body of Christ".

On the other hand, if self-appointed "logic police" tell them that they cannot meaningfully communicate with anyone, the likelyhood is that they will be driven towards more rigid and inflexible definitons. With a limited circle of interaction, there is more danger of chaotic meme shifts toward really dysfunctional states...a characteristc of small isolationist cults. That's dangerous to the believer, and ultimately to society...becuase, at the worst, these people can end up being murderous, suicidal, and highly creative (they are, by definition, thinking "outside the box").

We have a natural tendency to try to isolate people harboring "bad ideas". In the distant past, ostracism was synonymous with death: natural selection weeded out most isolationist cults and the antisocially insane. But this is not the case anymore. Liberty, privacy, and easy access to the stuff of life have removed the former limits...and isolating the crisis-converts and the fringe cults is no longer an effective strategy. We cannot just abandon people and assume that, eventually, they'll die out becuase they hold such "bad" ideas...memetics ought to make that obvious.

In general, the crisis-convert is the least intimidating of believers. They usually have little money, influence, or fame and can seldom mount a convincing, detailed argument for or against anything. It's probably accurate to say that, in this case, "faith" is a trust without any good evidence. I hesitate to say it is a "misplaced" trust given the common perceived alternative of personal destruction. It is the kind of faith, however, which can develop into irrational dogmatism which threatens us all. For this reason, it is imperative that those of us who have some experience with logical thinking offer a supportive context...or, at the very least, avoid aggressive analytical assaults.

That would seem to be most in keeping with reason, don't you think?


  Reed Konsler