Hope, Faith and Wishful Thinking

Wish Upon a Star box front sparklesSo then. I got to thinking about the matter of faith and all of its implications after a stirring debate I engaged in not long ago, and it led to some research into the matter.

The question that arose in my mind was: What is the difference, if any, between faith and wishful thinking. It later occurred to me that hope should enter into the matter also. So what then is the difference? It surprised me not in the least that there were no cogent answers to be found. Oh, for sure there was a lot of religious assertion that faith was in no way on the same level as wishful thinking, but every one of the arguments I encountered was simply opinion. No one had any facts to back up that assertion. I did come across one explanation that wishful thinking was believing that one would win the lottery and that faith was what one had that the chair one had just pulled out would hold one when they sat down, but that seemed flimsy at best.

In reading various arguements, however, I encountered the claim that first hope was needed in order to attain faith. Now that I really can’t disagree with. It’s an innocuous enough claim, but it doesn’t address the matter of whether or not faith is intrinsic to human nature. Because if it isn’t, then it can only be yet another construct of the human mind, which is certainly what hope is. Or at least I’ve seen no evidence that hope isn’t such.

So then, if one needs hope to attain faith, and hope is a construct, then does it not follow that faith is also? And if that’s true, then it’s fair to draw the conclusion that faith and wishful thinking are on an even par, inasmuch as wishful thinking is beyond a doubt a construct of the human mind.

To the best of my knowledge there is no evidence to support the notion that any other mammals besides man do engage in wishful thinking. Animals desire things they see, but that’s not the same thing. They live entirely in the moment, and therefore do not have the ability to project those desires into the future, which is what wishful thinking is, in essence.

So, at this point it occurs to me that the matter of faith, and indeed, its necessary forerunner hope, are also both activities that involve being outside of the moment. They are both things that concern themselves with the future. As we all know, we cannot discern what will actually happen at any given point beyond the present moment. We can only wait and see what happens.

Is it not sensible then to think that hope and faith are simply constructs of the human mind? If they do not have any relevance to the present moment, and only humans, as beings that project into the future engage in hope and faith, then how do they differ in any concrete way from wishful thinking?

I for one can see no difference. The main thing to note here is that wishful thinking is usually thought of as being a waste of time and fanciful at best, whereas hope and faith are considered noble and important. That begs the question of why.

I invite feedback on this matter, especially from anyone who can point to a real difference between them without reference to the supernatural or tautology. The above is in no way intended to denigrate any chosen beliefs, it is merely an intellectual exercise. Back to storytelling tomorrow.

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4 responses to “Hope, Faith and Wishful Thinking

  1. I appreciate intellectual exercises.

    I don’t know how to discuss faith vs wishful thinking without bringing up the supernatural, though–probably because of my own beliefs and prejudices. To me, wishful thinking is putting my hopes in humanity (that they will give up war and violence and love one another, etc). Faith, by extension, is a force outside of humanity–a constant, reliable force. You may consider that kind of faith to be an extension of wishful thinking, however: because I can’t rely on humans, I place my hopes in a constructed other being that is outside my paltry existence.

    This is a tough one. Where could I find evidence? But faith does seem to separate humans from animals. Luther believed, and hence Lutherans, that faith is a gift from God and not something that humans actively do. That begs the question of why some people don’t believe in a creator and why different cultures have different ideas of who the creator is.

    Can you imagine a world without faith and hope? To me, it’s wishful thinking that we would have a world without war if we gave up our faiths. We would simply find something else to fight about. And the world would be bleak–at least, I think it would be. Even people who do not have faith in a religious sense have the capacity for hopefulness and expectations.

    I’ll think about this a little more.

    • godlessmonkey

      See, that’s my point. Faith is a word that’s given nobility without any reasoning to back that up. Just about everyone would say there’s a difference between faith and wishful thinking but no one can provide a concrete reason why. It’s true that faith can’t be defended without referrence to the supernatural. That’s where it falls down.

  2. “It’s true that faith can’t be defended without referrence to the supernatural. That’s where it falls down.”

    Speaking hypothetically, if the supernatural exists, then faith is intrinsically tangled up with it. We may not be able to defend it with logic and with the use of our five senses, but that is because it is outside our frame of reference–or outside of the natural laws that govern us. Perhaps faith and the existence of the supernatural becomes, at that point, an exercise in philosophy. I don’t know.

    • godlessmonkey

      Well you’re clearly not a solipsist. lol. See, this is the essence of what I was dancing around I suppose. Faith is that device used to assert the existance of what cannot be proven. What I find absurd in that is the belief that something outside of your understanding controls our existance. Why would anyone buy into that? Never mind, I know why. A need to feel secure. If we were created why is our creator outside of our grasp? This points more towards the idea the the “creator” is a construct of our own minds.

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