I was talking to some religious friends this morning, and mentioned some things that seem worth recording:
Everyone has a faith of some kind. Faiths are that by which we believe.
But religious faiths are oriented toward what transcends objectivity, and, therefore, toward what transcends all belief.
Religious faith has beliefs toward a kind of being that defies objectivity, where irreligious “belief-systems” end where cognition ends.
Fundamentalists are people with irreligious faiths who try to believe in the truth of religious doctrines. They are “believers” because believing is something that takes constant effort. They try to force themselves to believe something their faith cannot actually believe, and it makes them irritable and aggressive toward anything that arouses their doubts and sets them back. Atheists are people with irreligious faiths, and are therefore unable to believe religious doctrines and have no problem admitting that fact.
This is why fundamentalists and atheists prefer to debate each other. They have commensurable ideas, and differ mainly on the question of whether these ideas are true or false. Religious faiths make no sense to fundamentalists or atheists, and people with religious faiths often avoid debating truth or falsehood of doctrines with people who conceive them in irreligious terms and miss the point. Such debates focus on irrelevancies.
For a religious faith, doctrine is an expressions of something that defies language. The doctrine expresses and supports the faith — so doctrine is undeniably important — but faith is not reducible to the doctrinal content — not even close.
For “believers” faith is primarily a matter of accepting the truth status of the doctrinal content, despite the fact that it has little support. When people talk about faith that way it indicates that they haven’t yet experienced a change in faith.