This is a statement made by one of so many human creatures that roam this earth; and it is the belief of the author of such statement that opinions are ultimately relative to their background, therefore limiting “the impossibility of faith” to a narrow discourse that is and will be shared only by those that have a similar mental constitution, in short, those that share the rare tendency to doubt, question, and challenge all forms of knowledge and experience.
So, without complicating the matter too much, what is, in brief, the impossibility of faith all about?
To convey opinions through the awkwardness of words, one must first of all be able to express the circumstances from which the opinion arose. This provides the reader, first of all, access to the frame of mind needed to understand the opinion. So, before you judge too quickly the impertinence of my opinion (the impossibility of having religious faith), I will present to you my humble case.
I adore religion; it has fascinated me both in my youthful years of religious piety as well as in my later years of recklessness and agnosticism. I’ve lived both sides of such opposite worlds, I’ve had to cross through the tenebrous chasm that separates the comfort of a religious established life from the frightful unknown that constitutes the emptiness of near-atheism. I haven’t become an atheist, I cannot confidently claim that there is no god or that there is no supernatural reality. I simply withhold my judgment and allow a blank white space to fill the answer. I have fallen prey of the impetuous force of the scientific method, which as sound as it may be in this day and age, I admit, I still hold some caution against it. I’ve written before about the limitations of science and won’t dwell on it here. But to finish the point, it has impressed deeply on my mind and I cannot dismiss it easily however skeptical I am about its capacity to resolve the mysteries of human life.
Even after I started to doubt every religion or religious claim, I continued to have a respect for religion, a secret infatuation for the solemnity and profundity that religion usually conveys. After a suicidal and conflictive adolescence, I finally came into friendly terms with religion again, but this time from the perspective of a spectator and not so much as a member. For the last seven years I’ve had the great delight of studying and investigating the religions of the world, uncovering so much wisdom that is to be found in the poetry, symbolism and narrative of religious thought and feeling.
So, what makes me today say that it is impossible to have faith? Faith is complicated to analyze. From a reductionist point of view, I can affirm like many others that religion is nothing more than a social phenomenon to keep the members of a community or society passively functioning without rebelling against the system. (the opium of the people, as Marx once coined it). Other rational views establish faith as the response to fear, the necessity that arises from the fear of the unknown, the fear of disease and death, fear from the impotence man has in a world full of dangerous forces that can easily upset his petty order. Another view is that religion is a genetically wired aspect of the human psyche, that we are bound to create religious system because of the evolution of our brain. Other views establish religion as the longing to return to a previously lived experience of totality (such as when we were fetuses or infants, when the differentiation between ego and the external world had not yet been firmly delineated). These are all views I’ve learned from others, they have not actually been developed by me. Nonetheless, they all point to sensible possibilities… religion as universal as it is may have an identifiable cause in one or all these theories.
What I’ve concluded is that you don’t need to invalidate or refute religion to be able not to believe in it. Religion is simply a matter of insufficiency for many of us. Fortunately or unfortunately, we don’t have the innate passion to submit to the religiosity of the blind believer; we are unable to digest the nectar of spirituality without some trace of justification. That’s why for some of us religion is not received with disgust, simply mistrust. We need not dismiss it by some rational argument; we are simply waiting for some kind of revelation that will allow us to embrace it wholly. The revelation or justification can come in the garment of rationality or in the euphoria of irrationality, yet without it, we are unable to have faith.
The impossibility of faith is not an a priori dismissal of religion as false. It is the incapacity to believe in the precepts of transcendence without the arrival of some signal, a manifestation physical or psychological that can make us say: I see everything clearly now.
Would you call me mad if I can confess of a certainty in the prospect of the future, even when I fully acknowledge that the vicissitudes of Time can easily outsmart the most rigorous mathematical prediction; yes I was sure that in ten years’ time I would be looking back to this very same day – today – as the fantasy of a naïve child’s imagination that mistook the nature of reality for that of a game: haven’t I erred in my conviction that life is best lived through the transformation of its contents into those poetic representations that plunge me into an ecstatic state of mind, in other words, in trying to grasp life by its tail by scrutinizing every tottering thread of Time had I not missed the meaning of reality by inspecting it too minutely, too unsparingly as to leave out of the range of my investigations the global experience of existence?
I saw in that Delphic vision a day when all these conglomerates of experience that surround me today would be no more than the debris of a vanished Past, a trivial irony that would have no more power to excite my cynical laughter. That day will come when I rent a paltry hotel room in Belgrade, killing my time with a lousy inexpensive hooker and when night comes I will stare despairingly at the ceiling wondering if abandoning my youthful delusions was a wise choice, since by then I would have purged myself of any prospect in the road of human creativity and would be living in the pulsation of every naked minute, suffering like every other human being in the claws of the beast of existence. And every so often I would glimpse outside my window to see a crumbling civilization and I shall utter words such as these:
Withered petals gliding down
Breaking from their cone
Into scattered puddles in the street
Let each petal leave my rose
Each desire run away
All sorrow, regret and concern
Vanish below –
What is it to me that we must die
Why should I carry the burden
Of Fate’s indifference to us?