I have been thinking about religious faith and the tenacity with which adherents hold on to the narratives of faith to which they subscribe. I cannot talk about all faiths here but I can comment on the Christian brand of religious expression, having spent many years believing and even promoting said faith.
Christians have a narrative that they have received from the Bible. At the outset it is important to note that a narrative doesn’t exist in a vacuum, narratives must be interpreted. The vast variety of different christian groups, denominations, churches is proof enough that it is one’s interpretation and understanding of the narrative to which one holds, different groups, different interpretive methods and different theological systems driving that interpretation.
If you ever encountered someone trying to convince you, or convert you, to their deeply held religious faith, you find that the believer works really hard to sell you on the absolute veracity of their interpretation of the judeo-christian narrative. For them, and for me once upon a time, the comprehensive and cohesive narrative is the structure of the world, of people, of everything. It is the fabric and matrix by which all ideas and perspectives are vetted.
But what if the point of faith isn’t really the narrative? What is it that convinces one to believe a version of a narrative? Is it the logic, the historical accuracy, or something else? I have been thinking about my former christian faith and what it was that tied my loyalty and fervor to that system of belief. While I spent many years studying the narratives and texts of the bible, usually attempting to support that faith I already had, my faith was in something else than the narrative. It was the existential verifications, those subjective moments in prayer, in study where I felt that I encountered something real and because that happened somehow in correlation to the faith I had in god it was verification of the Truth of the version of the narrative I had come to believe. I would then return to the narrative and seek to understand the experience which I had had.
But if I am honest, and that is what I am attempting here, the genesis of faith was not the narrative but the subjective experience; the subjective experience is the reason that the narrative was accepted. The interpretation of the text then reinforces the subjective experience thus completing the circle. So objectively, it doesn’t matter whether the narrative is true, just that it is believed, which is not so much from the narrative itself but from the feelings, believed experiences (existential verifications) which one has.