Faith is the fundamental motivation or incentive for any person to do anything. By faith, I do not mean the mystical definition that equates “hoping really hard” with changing the universe. There is a place for hope. But faith is a mental exercise of projecting the mind forward, following a path of known truth/principle.
It is faith that motivates a normal person to get up, get dressed, and go to work. It’s faith that walking works, that getting dressed produces better results than not (most of the time) and that working is a better choice than idleness. Believing something in advance, before there is any evidence that the expected outcome is indeed the outcome, based upon a mental process that has been shaped by an understanding of true principles—this is faith. I don’t have to be a mechanic or an electrician to exercise faith that under normal circumstances when I get in my car and turn the key, it will start. This faith, while simple, (which is why I chose it for this illustration) is why I can make plans for my day that require the use of my automobile without having to worry specifically about my car operating properly. All intelligent beings use this faith as a prerequisite for all choices involved in daily living.
But, using the example of the car, what happens if the car unexpectedly doesn’t start? Was my faith in vain? No. But perhaps my faith was incomplete or even worse invalid. If, after sitting there for a few minutes, trying to start the car unsuccessfully a few more times—I start to panic, beat my head against the steering wheel, slowing spitting out obscenities under my breath, it might be an indication that my faith was ill-founded. Or, to take the analogy a little further (both for fun, and because it illustrates a very powerful point), if I then start a conversation/negotiation—in my own head—the unknown and unnamed “car starting gods,” promising that if the car “will just start somehow” I will “not eat Oreo Cookies after midnight ever again” —all the while secretly hoping that maybe THIS will somehow, magically enable the car to start, then I’ve got a deeper problem. I’m no longer exercising faith, because I’ve become a mystic. On the other hand, if I take the time instead to go through the rational process of thinking through what it normally takes for my car to operate and start successfully (things like checking the gas, evaluating the battery charge, ensuring that the car is properly in the parking gear or in neutral, etc.,—things that I’ve learned previously, are directly involved in the starting of my car) then I am actually persisting in my faith. Meaning, I reasonably believe based upon my previously gained understanding of automobiles, that it is within my own personal power to check the basic required variables involved and effectively start the car. Now, the analogy is a) not perfect and b) not complete (it could go on much further). But, it does illustrate the basic, correct notion, of faith as opposed to whimsical mysticism.
Faith, is projecting the mind forward, based upon a previously gained understanding of principle, that enables me to act (or make a choice) in advance of seeing the outcome of my action. All faith, initially begins with fundamental self-interest. Meaning, all intelligent beings are fundamentally motivated at the beginning of any act or choice requiring faith, by a fundamental desire that the result (of the act or choice) is good for “me.” Whether its something simple like starting the car (an act no intelligent being would be doing unless the intended result would be considered good – by that very person) or something deeply philosophical like the decision to give up a major portion of one’s life to the service of another (as in the case of motherhood or fatherhood)—the primary truth is still the same. All intelligent beings, at their most fundamental level, when acting in faith—are first motivated by a self-evaluation which concludes that the act or choice being considered will result in good for themselves.
Since the last hundred years has brought about a redefining of certain words, as they are commonly used, and the false ideas of altruism are so unsuspectingly and innocently accepted by so many in the modern world, it is essential to point out – that principle #2 is self-evident, once it is understood, and the opposite cannot be conceived. There are seemingly innumerable “pop culture” references to the supposed ideas of altruism in politics, social life and religion that contradict this basic truth. As folksy or as common as some of the cliche references may be, they are mental errors that have to be corrected—in order to bring one’s life into harmony with the profound and life-changing implications of principle #2.
For example, in religious circles it is often stated by someone who is (usually unknowingly) attempting to persuade someone to believe a direct violation of principle #2 that, Jesus said, “For whoseover will save his life shall lose it: and whoseover will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt 16:25)” It is falsly supposed in such cases that the “secret” to be had in this teaching is for the hearer to learn how to live life by “taking no thought” for himself or that happy living is to be found by abandoning “all self interest.” But this is both a huge distortion of teachings of Jesus, and a great deception in its own right.
In the dozen or so New Testament references to this statement attributed to Jesus—it is essential, in each and every case—that in the telling of the story, the context is not dropped. Consider the meaning of the advice being given, in context. In the Matthew account quoted above, Jesus begins by teaching, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoseover will save his life shall lose it: and whoseover will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” It is the altruist who suggests, by dropping this context, that a man should care nothing for his own soul. Jesus however suggests, ever time, that a man must place certain values higher than others – by his own choice and a the top of any intelligent man’s value choice must be the welfare of his own soul. Or, in other words, if a man—who in the context of this teaching, wants to follow Jesus, he must remember that the object of his faith is first, the well-being of his own soul. This is principle #2 – exactly. All faith, in the beginning, is founded upon this fundamental level of self-interest. It is impossible for a man to act in faith—which is to say to make any intelligent choices at all—if he is deceived upon this point. It is ironic that many Christians can be so easily deceived into contradicting principle#2 when the collected teachings of Jesus form a guide for each man individually to pursue his own eternal salvation and exaltation. This involves a lifetime of choices, where one must never loose sight of this one fundamental truth, and where intelligent men and women use principled decisions as essential substitutes for momentary whims and absent minded acceptance of “sound good” philosophy and “feel good” passions.
When Jesus teaches his followers that they must love their neighbors as themselves—the direct implication is the truth contained in principle #2, namely that at the very core of all men, faith begins with self-interest and that to ever effectively serve another human being, a man must recognize that “his neighbor” too is motivated by this same faith which beings with his self-interest. To hold ideas in contradiction to this basic principle is to suffer two inescapable consequences— 1) a deep, poignant and soul-gnawing sense of self-loathing and 2) unquenchable contempt for any man who is not also a self-loather.