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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


December 1, 1997.

"Faith & Hope"

"There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds."
(Tennyson, In Memoriam.)

When I was a boy I was taught first by the sisters of Charity and then later on by the Jesuits. At their hands, it is likely, I had a better education than most. I remember, however, on more than one occasion (I never knew when to leave well enough alone) asking questions about my Roman Catholic religion; I was told in no uncertain terms that the questions I posed were much beyond my little boy's mind and that I was obliged to accept certain matters on faith, and faith alone. Well, I did not and will not. Because of my intractable ways I managed to get myself strapped and re-straped; but it never helped, I just kept right on asking questions. Faith, as I was later to discover from the readings of Spinoza, "is the asylum of the ignorant."

"Reason, therefore, here, as contradistinguished from Faith, I take to be the discovery of the certainty or probability of such proposition or truths, which the mind arrives at by deductions made from such Ideas, which it has got by the use of its natural faculties: viz., by sensation or reflection. Faith, on the other side, is the assent to any proposition, not thus made out by the deductions of reason, but upon the credit of the proposer ..."(Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.)

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable. Or, psychoanalytically, as a wish neurose. There is thus a flavour of the pathological in it; it goes beyond the normal intellectual process and passes into the murky domain of transcendental metaphysics. A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass; he is actually ill." (Mencken , Selected Prejudices, p. 141.)

A profound truth though seldom recognized. It is often said that mankind needs a faith, if the world is to be improved. In fact, unless the faith is vigilantly and regularly checked by a sense of man's fallibility it is likely to make the world worse. From Torquemada to Robespierre and Hitler, the men who have made mankind suffer the most have been inspired to do so by a strong faith; ... (Lord David Cecil.)

Oh Yes! As for hope, I have but two short quotes:

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis, 1627, no. 36.)

"Take hope from the heart of man, and you have left a beast of prey." (Ouida, Wisdom, Wit & Pathos, 1870.)


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Peter Landry

December, 1997 (2011)