Belief vs Faith

(a) It appears to me that in these discussions, a very vital issue (if we want to talk about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and their ‘problems’ with ‘Hinduism’, etc) is not being recognized. and that is this: religious ‘beliefs’ are not accorded their place, and are talked about as though they are merely a subset of the class of ‘beliefs’.

(b) ‘Being a believer’ (I will confine myself to Christianity for the sake of brevity) does not mean assenting to the proposition that ‘God exists’. For, if this is what it would mean, then the Devil himself is the first believer: after all, he does accept it as true that God exists. (The Devil is not an atheist, mind you.) He knows that God exists: after all, he rebelled against him! As the new testament Bible puts it: “thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2: 26)

(c) Throughout the history of Christianity, all versions have repeatedly emphasized this difference between assenting to a proposition (that ‘God exists’, for example), and believing in God. At random, here is how Martin Luther talks about the difference between the two: “observe, there are two ways of believing. In the first place I may have faith concerning God. This is the case when I hold to be true what is said concerning God. Such faith is on the same level with the assent I give to statements concerning the Turk, the Devil and Hell. A faith of this kind should be called knowledge or information rather than faith. In the second place there is faith in God. Such a faith is mine when I not only hold to be true what is said concerning God, but when I put my trust in Him in such a way as to enter into personal relations with Him, believing firmly that I shall find Him to be and to do as I have been taught… the word in is well chosen and deserving of due attention. We do not say, I believe God the father or concerning God the father, but in God the father, in Jesus Christ, and in the holy spirit.” (as in Luther’s Catechetical Writings, trans., Lenker, J.N. in 2 volumes. Minneapolis: Luther press, 1907, vol.1: 203. italics by Luther.)

(d) In other words, to speak about ‘tolerance’ of those who have ‘different beliefs’ is one thing; to use the same when talking about religions is something else altogether.

(e) Judaism, Christianity and Islam (according to them) believe in ‘God’; and that, even though we believe that ‘God exists’, we believe in the devil. (These are our ‘gods’: Laxmi, Vishnu, Perumal, Guruvayoorappan, Rama, Shiva, etc.)

(f) This is why they want to ‘convert’ us so that we may also believe in God and cease believing in the devil.

(g) Perhaps, we can avoid a great deal of wasted energy (by talking about ‘secularism’ and ‘tolerance’ and such like) if we tried to reformulate our problems in this manner