RELATED ISSUEWhere do young people come down on questions of faith, values, and public life? How do they relate their values to public policy issues including education, economic inequality, and the environment? These questions, critically important for the 2012 election, are at the center of a campus conversation being organized by the Berkley Center and Georgetown University. This blog features an ongoing conversation about these issues between students selected as Millennial Values Fellows through a national competition. You can read and comment on their blogs here.
To learn more about the project, visit the Campus Conversation on Values page.
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AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: VALUES
Samantha Lin (Georgetown) on Faith and Values
March 22, 2012
When one has faith they not only confront the eternal but also are willing to take a stand for what is important to them. This is a foundational element for the creation of values in one’s life. Being willing to defend a central part of one’s life, faith, suggests that one is also going to stand by their other values. Whether or not a person has similar values to another does not matter as long as they are willing to be true to their own person and to defend their values.
Matthew Breuer (Yale) comments March 22, 2012
I obviously presented a different take on faith and its role in our politics today, but there's one part of your piece that I really wanted to explore further. Why is it that it requires faith for us to stand up for what is right? It would seem to me that's a task that reason and logic can identify. I don't really feel like people who have been fighting the battle for marriage equality across the country have been dependent upon faith - I think they've stood up and fought because they believe it is the right thing. I don't think it requires faith to have conviction - rather, it would appear that faith is most useful as a crutch when you cannot depend on one of these other things (reason, logic, passion) to support your aims.
Fahmi Quadir (Harvey Mudd College) comments March 26, 2012
I do not believe that one's civic passions are exclusively derived from faith, or even your broad interpretation of faith. One does not necessarily need to think about the eternal. Thinking about day-to-day events--the mundane--is essential to our insight on current problems and finding solutions to those problems. If we focus singularly on our own lives, our future where we die, and then the great unknown, our focus strays from what we can actively do for our communities. I think you make an unfair characterization of those who do not think in terms of the long-term. An aid worker, perhaps someone working in a small, war-torn village in Northern Afghanistan will not likely be thinking in terms of what he or she can do for the future of Afghanistan, but rather what that individual can do to bring relief right then and there. It may be beneficial for some to think about the long-term or "eternal" to better develop effective, sustainable solutions. However, for some others, like that aid worker, it is far more necessary to think second-by-second, person-by-person. The aid worker doesn't necessarily need to ever think about the eternal; to enact the greatest magnitude of change, she only needs to think outside of herself, perhaps about the person next to her or about a small community on the other side of the world. The value of concern for others isn't a derivative of philosophizing on the end of days, it's a value that is innate to our own humanity.
Samantha Lin (Georgetown) comments March 26, 2012
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post! While I think you have a great point, perhaps I was a little unclear about what I meant to say. I believe that faith is indicative of the passion that people have for life. Faith necessarily means that one cares enough to have faced critical questions essential to humans, questions on morality and mortality. I think faith shows an investment in life, which is crucial for a strong commitment to all other values. Clearly I’m not arguing that people should never compromise but rather that apathy is a terrible thing, especially in policy debates with far-reaching consequences and only a small percentage of opinionated citizens. In summary, faith is an opinion on the most universal and critical questions that affect all of us. To me, it is thus an indicator of a commitment to one’s other values.
Brice Ezell (George Fox) comments on Samantha Lin March 26, 2012
This is a great post; I think you and I see eye to eye here.
What I think Samantha's getting at is similar to what I wrote about. (If I completely butcher your point, Samantha, feel free to let me know!) I don't think anyone exists that doesn't have faith. I think that term has been fundamentally misconstrued to apply only to religion, whereas in reality all belief systems have a degree of faith to them.
You bring up logic. Were a person to base her choices solely on logic, the question is begged: how does she know that logic is the ultimate way of knowing values? She can't use logic to prove logic's excellence, for that would be circular. In effect, she is taking the primacy of logic on faith. I don't think that makes her irrational or anything of the sort; logic's value is of utmost importance. Faith more than anything means "trusting on good authority."
Moreover, I don't think it's possible to divorce one's worldview from her values. I think that all of the ways we see the world are integrated in our personality, which means that for those who hold a theistic view of the world, their values will necessarily correlate. The same goes for those who use only logic, which can be used to determine moral principles, as it has for a long time in the philosophical tradition. And despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, I don't think that those who rely on logic alone must be at odds with theistic believers. I think there are a lot of values we share, namely the equality and dignity of all persons (though, I must sadly admit, many in the current Christian church aren't quite living that out) and our obligations to others.
Thank you both for your input on this issue. This conversation is of utmost importance, and unfortunately in the barrage of political talking points it seems like large issues are always brushed over.
Kevin Sullivan (Georgetown) commenting March 26, 2012
Samantha is correctly saying that faith is essential for the foundation of our values, not that is essential to stand up for what is "right." Faith - as in confrontation of the questions of the eternal - serves as the foundation of our consistent and significant values, whereas "reason and logic" inform our individual decisions. The broad and generalizing claim that those fighting for marriage equality have not been dependent on faith does not have any relation to Samantha's argument that faith is critical to informing our life values. It seems like you are confusing "faith" and "religion" despite the fact that Samantha gives her own clear definition of both.
Stephen Ark (Macalester College) comments March 27, 2012
While I agree with everything that follows from Samantha’s definition of faith, I want to throw a couple of questions at it. First, if we define faith as one's metaphysical beliefs, does anything distinguish it from belief in general, other than the subject and passion?
Likewise, if we define faith as "trusting on good authority," and logic as the empiricist’s philosophical foundation, as Brice did, does anything separate the two? Isn't logic trusting on good (or even the best available) authority as well? I think Brice was getting at this, but I still think trusting logic and one’s senses is different than “taking something on faith.”
Maybe faith has more to do with the way in which we acquire our beliefs than our beliefs themselves. This approach would help explain ongoing debates about faith versus science and Matthew's concern about treating faith as conviction, which I also share.
Emily Atkinson (Smith) comments on Samantha Lin April 12, 2012
Faith is generally presented as requiring belief without empirical evidence; if I'm getting this right, your definition of faith includes intellectual or existential curiosity that leads to passion, conviction, and action. This can come from a faith but I'm not sure it's the same thing as faith. When I say I have faith in myself, I'm not using it the same way as if I say I have faith in God, because I don't mean that I'm omnipotent and able to control absolutely the outcome of a situation. I do mean though that I have confidence in my ability to succeed, likely based on past evidence of my success in similar situations…but neither necessarily motivates. In the first case the motivation that led to my success predates faith; in the second case it could negate the necessity for action or inspire it.