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faith vs. religion

Faith is not easy to find in this generation of lost souls. What prevents people from having faith? A Christian might answer, “The Fall of Man is where it began.” Corruption, self-centeredness, sloth, lust and an epidemic of amoral behavior has tainted humanity. As I wrote this paper in the study lounge of my Dormitory, I asked an open question to a bunch of freshmen attending Boston College: “What is something you really believe in? It could be anything.” Not one of almost twenty students had an answer. Thus with a waning of faith, ensues a deterioration of religion.

Having a belief does not imply one has faith nor does having faith betoken religion. The relationship between faith and religion is definite but not one of equality. It is possible to have more than one faith, for faith impregnates a believer with individuality. Just as actions can define people, so can their faiths.

To wholeheartedly believe is faith. Faith is characterized by an unconditional trust or confidence in something, whether it is inanimate or animate, abstract or concrete, physical or spiritual. Mark Miller, the author of Experiential Storytelling: Rediscovering Narrative to Communicate God’ Message, explains, “Faith is the eyes of being in love.” When in love, everything looks different, thus being outside of a faith (not in love) induces a lack of understanding. People often claim to believe in something, but, after brief self-analysis they discover that they are ridden with conflicting beliefs (e.g. homosexuality and Catholicism). As each belief is undermined, toppled, or unaffected by the preceding, it becomes apparent that their understanding of themselves is limited. Nevertheless, for every argument there is a counterargument; the key is to find where one stands; that standpoint is a belief. Once a belief is adopted fully, it translates to faith. Humanity uses ‘faith as a shield’ or a defense mechanism to protect the self. In terms of human relationships, trust is a precursor that imbues faith in relationships. For example, if a student continually enters the class late than the professor will have faith that he will be tardy all the time. The professor has no reason to trust the student to be punctual based upon previous attendance record.

In contrast, religion does not prerequisite trust; in fact, it is much more than trust or a belief but a way of life. Religion is the enactment of one’s faith. Religion can be divided into three parts: civil, secular, and organized. Civil religion, a term coined by an American sociologist named Robert Bellah, is “a set of cultural ideas, symbols, and practices oriented to the direct worship of a society by its members.”2 Bellah would agree that deeply ingrained in our society is a discreetly institutionalized lifestyle. This lifestyle was created by the government and continues to be regulated by it. The government is the puppet master and the people are the puppets and through nationalism, political ideology, speeches, and law and order, they manipulate the people and “legitimate national life.”3 Therefore, nationalism manifests itself through the government’s desire to control its people. As Charles Dickens stated, My faith in the people governing is, on the whole, infinitesimal; my faith in The People governed is, on the whole, illimitable”(266:4).1 People must live within the confines of civil religion (they must be governed) because they are powerless to do otherwise. Thanksgiving Day, war, media, police, and the judicial system are just a few of the tools used by civic religion to mold the malleable minds of people.

On the other hand, Secular religion is a faith in the physical world. In America, consumerism is the secular religion of the people; people are enraptured by the power of the dollar and believe it is the answer to all of their problems. Other secular religions are the cultures of fashion, sports, television, and sex.

Organized religion, which refers to religion in its general usage, stands for Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, and all other world religions. All religions have rituals and traditions. The rituals and traditions of Christianity include going to church, baptism, communion, and penance. The practices of Islam are embodied by the five pillars which delineates a strict code of behavior. All major religions have holidays in order to instill communal/united setting amongst similar followers as well as behavioral codes that dictate one’s lifestyle. Although consumerism is not an organized religion it still maintains routine practices such as the perpetual satisfaction of materialistic desires (i.e. an expensive car, a mansion, and jewelry).

Alternatively, the government creates and implements laws in order to establish behavioral norms. The aforementioned practices employed by civic, secular, and organized religions are all ways of standardizing behavior so that people live according to and externalize their separate but unique amalgamation of faiths. Each combination of faiths creates a new religion.

If one does not practice that which one believes in than that person is not religious. If someone does not believe in abortions but works in a hospital aiding in an abortion, does that person really believe that abortions are bad? A belief is something someone believes wholeheartedly in. “Thy faith hath made thee whole (94:27).”1 Religion is the unity of one’s beliefs in all aspects of that person’s life, both physical and mental. Faith is a belief and religion is the execution of faith.


1Knowles, Elizabeth. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

2”Civil Religion.” 12 November, 2003. .

3“Divided We Fall: America’s Two Civil Religions.” 12 November, 2003. .

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