The “Faith” Canard

Full disclosure: I am a moderately observant Conservative Jew (Conservative is a denomination of Judaism, not a political leaning). Having said that, the bandying around of the term faith is disingenuous. Religious people are supposed to be honest–at least, that’s what I was taught.

We hear all the time expressions like “people of faith”, “faith-based groups”, and “faith-based approaches” [to sex ed, for example]. Of course, “faith” doesn’t mean faith at all, but religion. After all, the secular humanist Albert Camus had great faith that there would always be those who armed only with “a dreadful hope” would oppose injustice. So it’s not really about faith per se, but religion. Despite all of our zaniness, many Americans are still uncomfortable with the overt intrusion of religion into government and politics, particularly when it’s someone else’s religion. So instead of religion, the conservative Right says “faith” because it sounds innocuous and eccumenical, when it is anything but.
And regarding religion, only certain politically correct Christian sects need apply: no uppity, librul First Amendment-lovin’ Jews wanted, for instance. Essentially, the word faith is a canard: it is being used as a proxy for foisting politically and socially conservative Christian ideology onto those who reject it. The irony is that those who use the word faith the most often are those who have very little faith in the judgement and integrity of their fellow citizens.
What’s most maddening is when ‘progressives’ and Democrats start caterwauling about how the left disregards ‘people of faith.’ You know, people like Rep. John Lewis. Or observant Jew Rep. Henry Waxman. Stupid, irreligious Democrats! Not only are the wailers reinforcing this erroneous stereotype, but they are providing legitimacy to the use of the word, when what should be said is religion. Personally, I see nothing wrong with saying the word religion. I’m not troubled by religion, I’m not afraid of religion, and I recognize that religion has always played a role in American politics, for good and evil. But by using the generic term faith, we lend legitimacy to ideas that are, at best, controversial (if not outright hatemongering). Many religious people think hating gays–and that’s what the gay marriage ‘controversy’ is all about–is immoral. Many religious people think that denying material reality when it contradicts Biblical literalism is foolish. Many religious people think that the Blessed Fetish of the Fetus is antiethical to their religious beliefs.
That’s why the Mad Biologist denigrates the term ‘faith based‘ (to the chagrin of at least one reader). The use of the word faith has little to ‘faith’ and everything to do with a ‘religious’ ideology that I personally find abhorent (note: if this sounds intolerant, I don’t care. Falwell, Dobson, and the damn rest should not be tolerated. They were on the wrong side of history when they used religion to oppose civil rights, and they are on the wrong side of history now too).
So let’s call religion religion, and crazy ass fundamentalism crazy ass fundamentalism. Stop giving these guys ecumenical cover. They don’t deserve it.

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3 Responses to The “Faith” Canard

  1. Steve Gimbel
    SteveG says:

    The word “faith” when used by conservatives has a Christian meaning. Jews have a long talmudic tradition wherein every passage of scripture is open to interesting, divergent, even contradictory interpretations. Rabbi Shlomo ben Mischuginah says that a given passage of Deuteronomy means you should clean the navel of lint before the sabbath whereas Rabbi Yehuda ben Hogan says it means that herring is good, but not so much with the cream sauce. Non-Jews will ask “who is right?” This is not a question for Jews. The idea is that “God’s meaning is too big to fit in one human interpretation.” In Christian theology, though, there is a sense of meaning of the Word of God, and this gives an entirely different meaning to the word “faith.” It is faith in the unrevisable truth of their particular interpretation. This metaphical cocksure attitude is what is meant by conservatives as “faith” which is very different from a Jewish understanding.

  2. g2-d921bfea062c8805a46b81bfea62b0a6
    text says:

    “I am tolerant of everything but intolerance.” Can’t remember who said that, but boy, do I agree.
    I don’t think it’s a problem of “us” being intolerant of “their faith.” I mean, I’m not out with a pitch-fork to womens’ backs forcing them to get abortions. But “they” sure the hell might be standing in front of the clinic with a handgun forcing women away.
    “They” don’t like gay marriage? Then don’t marry a guy. (I notice that a lot of the hate turned toward homosexuals seems to be aimed at the guys.)
    I would agrue that it is their intolerance of other people that is the problem. They are not content to follow God in their own manner, they want eveyone else to see God (and his talking points) just….exactly….like….they….do…because…they…are…right. Period.
    That’s why I had to stop going to church. Couldn’t stand the bigotry.
    Oh, sorry, what was your point? Oh, yes. Let’s not call it “faith,” but rather “religion.” ‘Cause religion is the work of man, and there is no God in their work. (But that’s just my intolerant opinion.)

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