Faith is a person's or group's way of finding coherence in and giving meaning to the multiple forces and relations that make up our lives. Faith is a person's way of seeing him-or herself in relation to others against a background of shared meaning and purpose. This background of shared meaning and purpose is at the most general level referred to as a 'worldview". At this world we have very broadly shared meanings and purposes such as "The world is flat" and "It is wrong to kill for no reason at all." We also speak of a "western" worldview or an "Islamic" worldview. In effect there is a cascading unbrella order of the universe from the very broad to the very narrow captured by at some of the following terms, "Wordview", "ideology", "values", "meta-system", "conventional wisdom", "common sense", "paradigm", "principle", 'theory", "institution, "norm", "routine", "model", "rule" and "mindset". What is the more general or more specific is up for debate, but the general notion is that most of what we accept as "real" or "the truth" is reached not by empirical testing but rather by "faith" against those who surround us.
Most of us have a need to find meaning about a conception of the nature of the world we live in. Because there is no certain knowledge, whether we realize it or not, we are living in faith. At least since the beginning of the 20th century the all persuasive naturalistic assumption dictate that a scientific account of anything and everything constitutes the full story. Taken to a fundamentalist position this view is called "Scientism and subscribes to the view that only science is the source of absolute truth. However, Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of a Scientific Revolution suggested quite convincingly that the scientific community periodically re-create the world to make room for a revised model of the world. Hence science, as much as religion is a human construct rather than a discovery of the real world.
I prefer a concept of "faith which is much deeper, richer and more personal than beleif. It might be and has been equated with "what you set your heart on". Fowler, Page 12 It is a quality of the person and not the system.
A related term is "good faith" which Andre Comte-Sponville defines as "the agreement of our acts and words with our inner life, of our inner life with itself. As a virtue, it consists of love or respect for truth." Comte-Sponville prefers good faith to faith. Having faith does not equate to certainity. In fact some one who demands certainity,perhaps, must always be in doubt since he may be mistaken. Further the definition given above, does not demand a "realist" view of truth. According to this conception of truth there is one and only one "real" world and this may be discovered. An alternative conception of truth faith includes the coherence theory - the idea that an idea is true which fits in or is consistent with the totality of truth of which it is a part. Or still a third theory of truth, pragmatic theory, suggests that an idea or proposition is true which works or satisfies or is capable of doing so.
Comte-Sponville, Andre, A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues, New York: Henry Holt and Company
Dunn, Celia M. Murray (2002) Religion that Harms, Religion that Heals,Wilmington, De: Crimson Light Books
Fowler, james W. (1982) Stages of faith, The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, San Francisco: Harper & Row
Hick, John (1999) The Fifth Dimension, An Exploration of the Spiritual RealmOxford One World Piblications
Scotty, Rev. Scotty (1999) Finding Your Religion, When the Faith You Grew Up with Has Lost Its Meaning, New York: HarperSanFrancisco
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell (1963) The End and Meaning of Religion
Tillich, paul (1957) Dynamics of Faith, New York: Harper & Row
Williams, Colin (1966) Faith in a Secular Age, London Collins williams: Harper & Row