One of those who attended the PhiloSophia meeting on this topic was Greg who submitted this preliminary “final word” on the subject under discussion:
The “all” (I think) are religions and philosophies where very many people have complete “faith” that they are “right” in their understanding of the details of their fundamental beliefs. For them, not only do they not see the zero as part of the all, they of course, do not see any other religion, or philosophy as part of the all. But, the religions’ leaders/administrators (particularly) are aware that in the older technologically advanced countries the senior level educated classes are increasingly drifting away, many to the zero. And, I think, many are going to one, or another of a number of the versions of the zero, and this is also significant regarding measuring up to the scientific community’s scrutiny and power. In my view, of course the zero belongs to the all, but it is a long, long way from being “there yet”, so how do the people of “the zero” (the atheist, anarchist, and deist philosophically inclined, too?) and those who are “religious” – get it there? I have a view on this, but I am unable to do it justice, at this point.
My own response to this is that Greg is using the word “faith” with a particular meaning that is different from the one that is accepted within serious academic religious studies. In fact, he is using “faith” where (dogmatic) “belief” would be more correct.
I would direct him (and any others interested in this distinction) to the following resources:
- William Cantwell Smith: Faith and Belief: The Difference Between Them, 1979/98. (A little of the text is available online via the “Look Inside!” feature.)
- CBC radio: After Atheism: New Perspectives on God and Religion, Part 4 (note: podcast not available, click on “listen” to hear the original broadcast)
- James P. Carse: The Religious Case Against Belief, 2009. (A copy of the book is currently on loan to a member of PhiloSophia: when she’s finished with it, you might like to read it yourself.)
My own brief summary or paraphrase of what Smith and Carse are saying in their books would be the following:
Faith is really more of a commitment or an expression of love/devotion. For example, I have faith in truth and justice. Belief originally had this meaning – the “lief” in it is related to “love” – but it has developed a meaning closer to “belief that (a proposition or statement)” rather than belief (faith) *in* some ideal. In other words, “belief” has now come to mean “I am convinced” rather than “I am committed”.
I would invite further comments (below) after some acquaintance (at least) with the CBC radio interview.