What “faith” actually is

I bought many books from the Daedalus sales books catalog a few weeks ago.  Among them:  “Celtic Visions,” by Caitlin Matthews.  I saved this small book for last, and in about two days, I am already through the major part of it.  Basically, Ms. Matthews is bringing ancient pre-Christian beliefs into the modern era.  And through very old stories, she is trying to instruct anyone who is interested in recapturing what the ancient Celts or Gaels were capable of; especially the Druids and the Bards.  In this book then, I saw what pre-Christian Celts defined as “faith.”  Faith is “to see.”  A person of faith becomes a seer or prophet, and therefore a people who guide others without such an ability to what ever their future maybe.  The Old Testament and New discusses “men of faith” as well.  Having much the same kind of power or ability as also found in ancient Ireland, as an example.

I bring up this topic for discussion because I think it is an interesting facet of how people think or believe.  For example, Christians will by and large discuss their “faith.”  If “faith” is the ability to prophecy, to “see” future events and have them finally realized as factual, then no, Christians are not by and large prophets.  Which then lead to the ultimate conclusion that “faith” is not the same thing as “belief.”  Belief is to accept something that you are told without question.  Then there are three elements that must enter into a religion before it has a valid premise:  faith—that comes from the religious instructors.  Belief—that comes from the people who receive the religious instruction.  And finally, moral law that binds both the religious instructors and those who listen to their teachings.  Well, we can’t all be religious instructors.  And precisely, of all religious instructors, most would make no claim to the power of prophecy.  Certainly, not in this modern age.  Which would then argue, that religious instructors learn belief from others who also only teach from belief, but not by faith.  The difference between your every day priest or minister and a prophet.  No, I do not make a mockery out of this business at all.  Men of “no faith” must rely on the words of those who came before them.  And of course as well, subject the words of those who came before them, to their own interpretations.  Which, given the actual history, has not always led to a good end.  For the fact that, say differing interpretations of the same bible as an example, has often led to wars and other forms of social terrors.  Those social terrors have been described at length within a good many pages of various history books.  Not only in Europe, with its “Maleus Maleficarum,” but also through the various Christianized reigns of Great Britain’s kings.  And finally, the religious problems of colonial America.  Differing arguments about what ought to constitute a proper belief and what should constitute the most important instrument to impart such a belief, was to lead to much brutality and bloodshed.  If this were instead about “faith,” and men as well as women were taught to be visionaries, would there have been a far different outcome to all these religious based wars?  It is hard to say.

It seems that “we” had no use for prophets after the Old Testament, further, no use for people with remarkable powers after the Anointed Jesus could walk on water and raise the dead.  That is, if the prophets or miracle workers weren’t initially Christian, or had converted to Christendom, but who continued to follow many of the old ways.  I would suggest that it is a matter of unwelcome competition, that the powers that be in the Christian world had no love for.  But that it was certainly seen as a competition of two religions, the old ways of prophecy, divination, healing, etc. versus the Christian ways based solely on belief; what the bible teaches.  Of course, we ought not have non Christian prophets challenging the integrity of the “word of God.”  That is why it became so easy to proclaim the existence of demons, “the old ways” as being of Satan, and those caught in the act could be tried, convicted, and executed as witches.  However, as Ms. Matthews has since proven, Christianity did not win the final argument. 

Precisely, that these old stories and what ever lessons they may impart, have survived to this day mostly intact.  Also, the fact that there are people, like Ms. Matthews, who are apparently dissatisfied with Christianity enough to want to relearn what those old ways once were.  Probably, because Christians feared “faith,” the power to see, and wanted to teach only what they would accept biblically in the way of belief.  Post Jesus, I’d suggest that Christianity is missing a singular tenet.  And that is precisely why they become a restive and angry lot.  They must anchor onto something material:  government that legislates their specific dogmas.  National holidays that are recognized as theirs alone.  A “war on…” something, if a department store (for instance) isn’t doing the specific holiday according to the complaining Christian’s particular dogma.  The need to tell other people how they should live their lives.  Literally, that Christianity is today a totally secular religion; as opposed to its founding when it was discerned as truly spiritual in nature.  No, it does not contain all three elements:  that of the spiritual, faith, visionary; from which inspired instruction and moral law may be set forth.  No, it rests entirely on belief; the visionaries are safely part of history, and are not around today to trouble us, as we argue over what their words might mean or not in current events.  If Christianity had actually retained its element of “faith” which leads to prophecy and other visionary elements, how much different might it have been.

Therefore, to the ancient Irish Celt; faÍth was the word denoting prophecy, the capabilities of the seer.

For everyone else, just call it “belief.”


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