Making the leap

Why faith matters to everyone

Ayame Ulrich

For me, the Oct. 28 religion issue of The Uniter, served as an important reminder of the central role faith plays in all of our lives, even for those who do not identify as religious.

Whether we recognize it or not, faith (that is, a belief or trust in things unseen) is the single most important factor in determining an individual’s personal worldview. Faith in this case is not to be confused with religious affiliation.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, a person whom I – believe it or not – have never personally seen, I imagine it is quite natural to assume that I talk about and exercise faith on a daily basis. I do, after all, believe that the universe has a supernatural creator, and that this creator has endowed the world, as well as human life, with meaning and value.

However, contrary to what appears to be popular belief, it is not simply “religious” (a term I use reluctantly) types like myself nor even the vague “spiritual” seekers who exercise faith. Rather, we all do – even those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or skeptic.

Take, if you will, the notion of origins. Where did the universe come from in the first place? A “religious” person will likely tell you that, according to faith, it was created by an external, supernatural agent (as much as they may disagree about the nature of this agent).

Many atheists – or perhaps a fairer term would be naturalists – will shrug off such an assertion as unscientific and opt instead for a purely “rational” (a term I use under deep suspicion here) approach to the matter.

Often, naturalists counter such religious beliefs by explaining that the universe is the product of time and chance. Since the existence of an external, supernatural agent cannot be proven rationally, it must be discounted.

Thus, the world is apparently split between two types of people: those who exercise faith to support their worldview, and those who do not.

This dichotomy is false, through and through.

After all, who out of us, from the most ardent religious apologist to the most die-hard naturalist, was there at the beginning of time? Who actually saw what happened? 

Since the answer is clearly no one, any assertions made about such fundamental origins are necessarily products of faith.

I have faith that the natural world was birthed from the supernatural. A naturalist has faith that the universe (that is, the “natural” world) came into being of its own accord.

Which of these beliefs is the more rational one? Let us consider, for a moment, what preceded the moment of creation (or Big Bang, if you prefer). As a Christian, it is my belief that before the universe came into being, God “was.”

A naturalist, however, runs into a distinct difficulty here: Logic (not to mention the most fundamental laws of science) dictates that some sort of pre-existing physical matter must have been present in order to give rise to the Big Bang. Yet, where this matter came from is unclear.

This ambiguity has all too often been dismissed by naturalists as merely fodder for the philosophers, even though it is an absurd mistake to do so.

Physical matter, however rudimentary, requires causation – it cannot arise out of nothing. To suggest otherwise is to commit scientific suicide and throw one’s credibility to the wind. 

Consequently, if one refuses to entertain the possibility of supernatural causation, all that remains is faith; that physical matter, somewhere, somehow, arose uncaused.

Put this way, one has to wonder whether this sort of faith (flagrantly irrational as it is) is not even more dubious than the faith of the religious adherent, who at least admits to believing in what she cannot see, while at the same time retaining intellectual credibility.

Jon Kornelsen is a fourth-year education student at the University of Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 65, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 11, 2010)

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