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Where 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.


Millennials on Social Media and Politics

November 15, 2012

Millennials on Social Issues and Diversity

November 12, 2012

Hira Baig (Rice) on Why the Presidential Election Matters to Millennials

November 7, 2012

Millennials on Religion and Interfaith Work

November 7, 2012

Ryan Price (Drake) on E Pluribus Duo

November 6, 2012

Mohammad Usman (DePauw) on Unpredictable Millennials

November 5, 2012

Millennials on Affirmative Action Policy

November 3, 2012

Seth Warner (Vassar) on What Happens as the "God Gap" Widens

November 2, 2012

Josina De Raadt (Dordt) on How Social Media Is Like Wii Bowling

October 31, 2012

Zachary Yentzer (Arizona State) on the Next Greatest Generation

October 29, 2012

Brice Ezell (George Fox) on Post-Racial America? Race, Millennials, and the 2012 Election

October 25, 2012

Tyler Bishop (Vanderbilt) on a Future of Hashtags #whatitmeansforus

October 23, 2012

Brice Ezell (George Fox) on How the People Can Heal a “Divided,” Partisan Nation

October 4, 2012

Hira Baig (Rice) on Religion and American Democracy

October 4, 2012

Tyler Bishop (Vanderbilt) on How It’s All About Relatability: Voter Turnout

October 3, 2012

Josina De Raadt (Dordt) on Mistaking Politics for a Hollywood Blockbuster

October 2, 2012

Mohammad Usman (DePauw) on the Internet Solution

October 1, 2012

>> more


World Values Survey

Samantha Lin (Georgetown) on Faith and Values


March 22, 2012

At its base, faith means for one to be fully committed to an idea or set of ideals. When the phrase “person of faith” is used, it conjures up images of people standing on street corners fighting for your soul, images of slow marches led by peaceful and proud figures, images of solidarity and often images of passionate debate. Whether positive or negative, mass turnout or singular meditation, having faith connotes confronting the eternal, having an opinion and testifying to one’s belief. This is why faith is the only sure foundation for values in personal and public life. If one does not care enough to form an opinion by which to live by, if one does not think about confronting the eternal, one cannot be expected to be able to form solid values in one’s life. In addition, if one is willing to have faith it means they are also willing to stand by their faith in the face of opposition. This quality is essential to having other values as well.
To clarify, faith is not necessarily religion. For example, atheism is a faith in that it believes that there is no God and rejects the eternal. But, by rejecting the eternal it thus means that Atheism confronts the eternal. Confrontation of the eternal is a theme throughout human history. It is only natural for humans to wonder about the life’s end. Yet if one does not do this, if one does not have faith, it implies apathy on one’s part. One who does not try to think about the larger questions in life, to look beyond their own existence, clearly does not have investment in whatever they do. How can they care about their lives if they do not think about their long-term trajectory, that is, the end of their lives?

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.