All manner of beings owe their existence to a kind of innate faith. Sunflowers know to turn their faces towards the sun. If a cheetah ever doubted its impulse to chase after prey then it would starve. Faith, on that level, means trusting one’s nature and not questioning it to the point where survival could be threatened. For plants and animals this is a simple matter because instinct allows no room for internal conflict. But we human beings are both gifted and burdened with a reasoning mind. We have much greater leeway when it comes to making choices, and thus we have more opportunities to act against our better instincts. The faith that we need to sustain us, to assure us that our lives and choices have meaning, has to come from someplace other than blind instinct.
When people talk about faith, they’re usually referring to a belief that runs something like this: “Everything is in God’s hands, and He’ll make it all right in the end.” But every breath we take is really an act of faith. When we breathe we are demonstrating our belief in existence, in the physical world – we’re showing that we accept its terms. Faith keeps hearts pumping and oxygen circulating to the cells. It is a holy “Yes!” to the rightness of existence that is being uttered every moment of our lives.
But our minds are, of necessity, free; and we aren’t obliged to repeat that affirmation with our words or our conscious choices. Although every cell in our bodies may enact perfect faith in the plan of the universe, we can still harbor any kind of belief that we please. We can say that human nature is a meaningless accident, that there never was a Creator and that nothing awaits us after death but the void. We are free to deny ourselves everything that could offer hope, salvation, and peace.
Yet there is something inside each one of us that resists these kinds of pronouncements; and it is a voice that persists like the sun that rises and sets day after day, like every exhalation that follows each indrawn breath. This is the small voice of affirmation that carries the essence of faith, the faith that we each came into this world bearing.
It may be that what we refer to as faith is not a concept or philosophy at all but rather a genuine feeling and memory: the remembrance of God’s love, which we knew before we came into this world and which we will know again when we leave it. Faith sustains us because it is the echo of something we’ve already known and tasted. For that same reason, we don’t need to support it with rationales that come from our intellect – nor do we need to quail when others confront us with their arguments against it.