Belief v. Faith

Posted in Quotations, Thoughts with tags , , on November 2, 2017 by James Munro

(as promised in my previous post)

In the western world, notions of Faith and Belief are based on the Judeo-Christian tradition preserved for us in the Bible, especially the writings of St Paul.  St Paul and the other New Testament authors wrote in Greek, the lingua franca of the 1st-century world, and Greek has only one word pistis for our two words “faith” and “belief”. Faith in Greek is pistis. Belief in Greek is pistis.

Let’s start with the English words and come back to the Greek later.

Belief means believing that something is so or believing somebody or believing some source of information: “I believe that the world is round.” “I believe you / I believe what you said to me.” “You can’t always believe what you read in the papers.

Much the same is believe in: “I believe/don’t believe in Father Christmas/unicorns, the Greek gods, mermaids.”

It is what we mean when we say “An atheist is a person who does not believe in God.”

Now, is there any real difference between believing in God and having faith in God?

I contend that there is.

Yet according to John Hick:

The majority of recent philosophical critics of religion have in mind a definition of faith as the believing of propositions upon insufficient evidence.

He goes on:

Many philosophical defenders of religion share the same assumption …

In other words they do not see any difference between “believing in God” and “having faith in God”. For them, having faith in God means believing that God exists.

But wait a moment. “I have faith in my daughter” means I trust her, I know she will do the right thing.

And curiously, “I believe in my daughter” means more or less the same.

How can this be?

The existence of my daughter is not in doubt. When the existence is in doubt, as in the case of Father Christmas, God and mermaids, then believe in means believe that they exist; have faith in never means that.

Having faith in implies knowing. Not knowing of/knowing about (that would be believing in the existence of) but knowing, as in “I know myself,” or “I know my wife”. We cannot have faith in a person we do not know.

So someone who has faith in God is not identical with someone who believes in God. You may believe in God because you were brought up to believe in God (very, very often the case!) or because one of the philosophical proofs of the existence of God has convinced you (rarely now the case, I imagine). But then you are in much the same position as the person who says “I believe there is someone living in that apartment on the 4th floor.” The use of the verb believe implies insufficient evidence. If, on the other hand, you have met the new tenant (or the squatter) living in that apartment, then you know there is someone living there. And if you have spent time becoming acquainted with this tenant/squatter, then you know him/her. The statement “There is no one living in the apartment on the 4th floor” will be, to you, simply absurd.

Likewise, you have met God and have got to know Him. He has become part of your life. And knowing Him, you have come to have faith in Him The idea that He doesn’t exist is, to you, as absurd as the idea that you yourself do not exist.

All that, of course, is equally absurd, indeed much more absurd, to atheists and agnostics, and to those who simply believe in God for one reason or another without really knowing Him. However, their incomprehension and derision does not mean that it is an illusion, that “the man of faith” is kidding himself. Try explaining music to the deaf, or even the tone-deaf, or art to the blind, or the simply colour-blind. Try explaining love to one who has never known love …

In my next post I will return to the Greek word pistis, to St Paul and Emily Brontë, and to the knowing without which there can be no faith.

Elie Wiesel quote

Elie Wiesel was a Romanian-born Jew who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald and went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.





Tw Poems by Emily Brontë

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets, Quotations, Thoughts with tags , on October 28, 2017 by James Munro


Emily Bronte – the writer whom of all writers I would most like to meet and talk to, get to know, even perhaps become her friend:

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life—that in me has rest,
As I—undying Life—have power in thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The stedfast rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou—THOU art Being and Breath,
And what THOU art may never be destroyed.

“Vain are the thousand creeds” she says – creeds – what we believe (from credo, I believe) – so what does she mean by “faith” as she uses that word in the first stanza?

This (from Ram Dass) made me think:

not a belief

A more philosophical discussion of the concept of “faith” coming up in the next post.

But I said TWO Emily Bronte poems, so here’s a second one. As you read it, savour the structure and rhythm; it is exactly the same as that of F W H Myers’ long poem St Paul, which I shall also come to in a future post.


Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
That noble heart for ever, ever more?

Cold in the earth, and fifteen wild Decembers
From those brown hills have melted into spring:
Faithful indeed is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

Sweet Love of youth, forgive if I forget thee,
While the world’s tide is bearing me along:
Sterner desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

No later light has lightened up my heaven;
No second morn has ever shone for me:
All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.

But when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy;

Then did I check the tears of useless passion,
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.

And even yet I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in Memory’s rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?

Two by Anon

Posted in Favourite Poems with tags , , on October 17, 2017 by James Munro

Two short sweet anonymous poems I came across in my wanderings through cyber-space.

Words and hearts should be handled with care
for words when spoken
and hearts when broken
are the hardest things to repair.

And then there’s this:

VIII of Cups

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , , , on October 17, 2017 by James Munro

You have a wife?
Children, maybe? A home? A job?
Yet like a summer lunatic
one night in June
you turn your back on love
and cross the Mountains of the Moon
in search of something lacking in your life.

Do I know what love means, you ask

Posted in My Poems with tags , on March 2, 2017 by James Munro

It means
that a smile of pleasure from you, a word of praise,
makes my day,
makes the sun shine,
the sky blue,

that a frown, an angry word, a hint of coldness,
brings cloud,
brings rain,
brings winter,

that when I am with you I am happy, at ease,
but when you’re not here, part of me is missing,
like a missing limb,
a missing heart,
a missing soul.

VIII of Swords

Posted in Esoterica, My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on February 25, 2017 by James Munro

It doesn’t have to be this way.
Bound, blindfolded
and penned in by the hard,
the phallic and metallic.
You don’t have to kneel.
You don’t have to obey.

The ground, the earth, is soft beneath
your bare feet. Feel it.
Where water flows and flowers grow
you, too, can go and flourish and be free.
Things don’t have to be this way.

Or is that, perhaps, the sea?
Is the tide on the turn, about to sweep in, swirling
about your legs, your waist, your breast,
your face, and you a virgin, a sacrifice
to the Stoor Worm, the great sea serpent?
Wriggle out of those bonds and run!
You don’t have to do what they say!

Or are you “an adulteress”,
condemned to pay for some man’s “sin”?
Wriggle, quick! Wiggle out of
that ugly brown robe, and run –
or swim! – be a mermaid! – but
do something! – and be free!

You don’t have to stay.
It doesn’t have to be this way.

A Song of Innocence (William Blake)

Posted in Favourite images, Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , on February 22, 2017 by James Munro


This is the introductory poem to William Blake’s Songs of Innocence. It is a beautiful poem that I first learnt as a child and which only seems more beautiful after all these years:

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

“Pipe a song about a Lamb!”
So I piped with merry chear.
“Piper, pipe that song again;”
So I piped: he wept to hear.

“Drop they pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy chear:”
So I sung the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.

“Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read.”
So he vanish’d from my sight
and I pluck’d a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stain’d the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.

Apollo’s Woman

Posted in My Poems, Verse Plays with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2017 by James Munro


Apollo’s Woman is a one-act verse-play depicting the home-coming of Agamemnon at the end of the Trojan War with all the looted treasure he has managed to pack into his ship, and his special prize, the captive princess Cassandra of Troy.

His wife Clytemnestra, the sister of Helen, has a nasty surprise in store for him. Only it is no surprise to Cassandra, for she is Apollo’s Woman, the seeress, the famous soothsayer whom no one believes. She knows what is about to happen to Agamemnon, just as she knows what is about to happen to her – and what will eventually happen to Clytemnestra.

A dramatic scene out of the distant past as extraordinary people come face to face with death.

Sorry, but it is not available as an eBook, only as a paperback. You can find it here:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Here is a taster:


Show me, then. Show me how you do it. Your system.
Your method. Then I will decide if you are crazed. 


I don’t rave and scream, if that is what you are wondering.
I go out by myself, up on the hill sometimes,
or down by the sea. There is a sunless cove
much favoured by seals for it faces north
and is surrounded by cliffs. There, Apollo
cannot spy on me. I clamber down
at sunset when I am free – no noble Trojans
whose lust to worship the Goddess in me
may not be denied, no important guests from the east –
a Mede or a Babylonian, a prince of Egypt –
or a rich trader from the west – from the furthermost
reaches of the west, it may be – I had one
once who had sailed beyond the pillars of Hercules
and the mountains of Atlas where, he said, the sea
that encircles the world swirls and rolls for ever
in great green breakers. Such travellers I love,
but wherever they come from, whatever colour they are,
whatever language they speak, we at the Temple
must show them hospitality. 


                                                 Of course.
And in that sunless cove much favoured by seals …? 


I spend the night on the beach in a trance.
And at dawn, when the first gull calls and the sea turns grey,
dreams – visions – come. 


                                            Something trivial,
something foolish, it may be – sometimes? 


                                                                       Oh, very often.


And sometimes not the future, not our world at all,
but another world, another time? 


                                                         Oh, yes.
But sometimes it is our world, our future.
And then it is always bad. 


                                               And that is why
they call you crazed? For I see no madness in
your method. You do not wail and prophesy
and tear your hair out.


                                       Oh, but I do. Or I seemed to,
when I cried out to the passing crowds at the door of the Temple
the fate the goddesses had in store for them.


The goddesses? Moira?


                                         Hera. Athena.


But you are her priestess!


                                             So far as Athena’s concerned,
I am Apollo’s woman. That is what all of them
believe – apart from Artemis, the huntress.
Apollo’s sister. She has hunted me
relentlessly. Now I am finished. I can
flee no further. Here, the sun will shine on
my dead body, and Artemis will laugh.
Paris should never have been exposed! He should have
been chopped into gobbets, and each bleeding gobbet
sent to some different island resting place.
Or burnt to ashes.


                                   You cannot fight fate.
They would have found some other pretty boy
to award the Apple of Discord and claim Helen.
Troilus, perhaps. 


                              Or Orestes. 


                                                   Orestes? My son?

Clytemnestra stares at Cassandra for a long moment, suddenly filled with suspicion.


What do you know of my son? … Tell me, you whore!
What have you seen? 


                                      On board the ship, your husband – 


He is not my husband!


                                        – kept me chained to the mast
for fear I might jump overboard. I would have.
And there each night while the sailors slept and
Agamemnon snored – 


                                       He doesn’t snore. 


He does now. He is ten years older, and –
oh, what does it matter? The whole ship silent –
apart from Agamemnon –  
and the lap, flap, slap of the waves against
the hull, I would go into a trance. And last night –
if only we had arrived here yesterday! –
at dawn today, when I was woken by
the look-out’s cry, still far out to sea but with
the hills – your dark hills – these hills – his hills –
spread out along the horizon from north to south,
and everyone started shouting and laughing and patting
each other on the back, I saw your son
avenge his father. 


                                Avenge his father? You mean – ?
Oh, don’t be silly. The boy adores me  –

There is a roar of fury from somewhere nearby. 

I must go! – and he hardly remembers his father.
That net was meant to hold a wild boar
but he will tear it open! 

She hurries out, knife in hand.

Agamamnon’s raging suddenly increases in volume.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.


Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on February 18, 2017 by James Munro


Raise the cup on the barren hills,
Daughters of Bacchus! Drink your fill,
three generations dancing as one
beneath the moon, beneath the sun.

Soon, too soon, tomorrow will come
and descent to the city and homes and men
and a life of barren propriety.

T. E. Hulme

Posted in Favourite images, Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , on February 16, 2017 by James Munro

“The Embankment” is a little poem Hulme wrote about being out and alone on the Thames Embankment at night. I came across the poem years ago and have never forgotten it.

The picture shows the Embankment one wet night in 1929. It is a favourite haunt of the temporarily homeless.

The Thames Embankment in 1929


Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy,
In a flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.
Now see I
That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy.
Oh, God, make small
The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.

T. E. Hulme (1883–1917)

T. E. Hulme (1883–1917)

On 28 September 1917, four days after his thirty-fourth birthday, Hulme suffered a direct hit from a large shell which literally blew him to pieces. Apparently absorbed in some thought of his own he had failed to hear it coming and remained standing while those around threw themselves flat on the ground. What was left of him was buried in the Military Cemetery at Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen, in Belgium where — no doubt for want of space — he is described simply as ‘One of the War poets’ (Ferguson, Robert, The Short Sharp Life of T. E. Hulme)

The JUDY Poems

Posted in My Poems with tags , , , on February 15, 2017 by James Munro

More than forty years passed between the writing of the first and last of these poems … and as I tend to collect my poems chronologically, it has never occurred to me to put them together before. But here they are, the Judy poems.


To J.A.

Do you ever remember
Those long hot summer days
That lay on us like a welcome
To the world of adult ways,

That lay on us like a blessing
Lest that world and our own fear
Obstruct initiation into
Mysteries drawn near?

Do you ever remember
Those last two stolen days
When autumn came and ‘grown-up’
We had gone our separate ways?


Autumn comes, and falling
Each leaf for summer pays,
And the naked tree in winter
Survives, but cannot praise,

Survives in aching silence
The birth of the new year:
But if the tree itself is felled
And left to rot, my dear?

(The last two stanzas were added some years later. JM)

To J.A.

The trees do not change
the whispering limes
though they rearrange
all else we knew

The times
we walked along
this avenue
and kicked that stone
and I turned to smile
at you

how for a while
at times we dream
and even time
seems rearranged

I turn alone
back down the aisle
of limes

To J.A.  (Bosnia, August, 1983)

Then we lay together in the grass
murmuring Ifs and One days and I’d likes,
long English meadow grass
and buttercups
(You would not let me test your taste for butter,
Said yellow did not suit you). Now
I lie alone gazing through the pines
at blue sky
and wonder drenched in my own sweat
where the years
where you
went, where I.
Twenty-seven years ago this month
I saw you last, in Maldon.
In Maldon, we kissed goodbye and
you rode off upon your bike.

The people on the camp site here beside the beach
are from all parts of the Eastern Bloc and wear
nothing at all, or occasionally tiny briefs that only serve
to emphasise the perfect bodies,
the body beautiful
but glum.
They gaze incuriously like
children deprived,
repressed, like
puritans, thighs, breasts and chests
all gleaming, eyes

Clouds rumble round the barren hills.

They sunbathe carefully, they wade and wash,
and lick their little ones.
They have not been told that they can swim.

We were not puritans, could not be communists,
nor were we libertines.
We laughed and loved and played
and did our thing
in anarchy and innocence.

I am let back in now sometimes on parole
but all in all
prefer Siberia, my attempts at
have all been Chaplin/Hitler in performance,
Sydney Carton/Van Gogh in prognosis:
the spectators wooden, inured,
the spectacle me
performing live for a canned audience.

I don’t think India will make
a Good Communist State:
in fact I think India
is in Siberia.
I shall go there, and I shall stay.

Do you remember Laurence Applegate?
I wet myself on stage in the last long monologue,
Camouflaged it down my tights with wine (i.e. water).
It’s always been the same.
I want to die alone upon the sea
or high up on the hill
or in a forest, like this. Pass away
sans camouflage, in peace.

The sun is setting now. The pines above
my face are pale green, moving
a little. Time to go.
Time to eat again. Time. And you?
On holiday? About to give
Supper to your children? Show
Your suntan off?
Go to confession? Laugh?
Have another secret drink?
Lie down and cry again
for someone you have loved?
Or in the village churchyard evening
weep? Or lie forgotten?

To J.A.

I have had no news of you
for more than forty years.

If things were different I would come
in search of you before it was too late …

It is too late.


Posted in Favourite Poets, Reblogs with tags on April 9, 2016 by James Munro




(This is a reblog – please click on the image)

A Different Dress by Hazel Palmer

Posted in Esoterica, Favourite Poems with tags , , on April 9, 2016 by James Munro

I shall be wearing
a different dress.
I’m used to this one –
very comfortable it was,
though not so any more –
and sometimes the removing
and the putting on
seem, from here
and now,
a tearing, a splitting,
or something like an amputation.

But there can be no question
that we shall recognise each other.
We’ll just be wearing
different clothes,
that’s all.

IX of Pentacles

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on January 10, 2016 by James Munro


The chatterers used to say your cup
was all but empty, you would never amount to anything.
You didn’t see it that way.

Now they would say of your garden:
Where are the big shops,
the clubs, the theatres? Get a life!

But you have fulfilled your dreams,
no longer feel the need for chatter and novelty.
Your life is half full. The half that counts.


Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on December 1, 2015 by James Munro

XI - Justice

Looks good. But what is it?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?
A life for a life? Jesus said ‘No’ to that,
‘that’s part of our brutal past,’
and he spoke the truth,
but was he perhaps

a Fool in some ways,
a Fool with his head in the clouds,
talking about what should be
rather than what is?

Sounds good, too. Half the cake
for little Johnny, half for Jane.
One slap for one slap,
two slaps for two. But that way
they will never learn
that life is full of pain
and justice a fairy tale.

A fairy tale,
like Larry the Lamb and Peter Pig
in little Johnny’s book.
Peter Porker and the Larry the Lamb
Chop more like.

Justice? … In
another life perhaps.

In another universe.

To see ourselves as others see us …

Posted in Favourite images on November 22, 2015 by James Munro

For Luck

What she says becomes ever more topical and relevant …

Posted in Quotations, Thoughts with tags on November 18, 2015 by James Munro




Posted in My Poems on November 17, 2015 by James Munro


Today I’m me. At least, I think I am.
I’m him, anyway, not her.
I never feel quite as comfortable,
quite as – at home – as her. Lee
tells me that the same is true of her.

Once when I was her and she was me –
Jo – and we made love we switched mid-orgasm
(we’re only kids, but he’s – I’m – pretty good):
that must say, must show, something. Mum, though,
is happier with me as Lee –
she doesn’t know, of course, but sometimes
she senses something, almost guesses; you can tell.

Lee doesn’t make a very good girl.
I mean Jo doesn’t – he doesn’t. A bit too
like Xena – beautiful, but strong – and bossy –
whereas I – who am sure I was born the boy –
make a lovely girl. Sweet. They never say
sweet when Lee – Jo – is in her body.

She says it isn’t true, we used to swap
even in the womb. I don’t remember.
But nor does she. And I don’t care.
What worries me is what will happen later
when we grow up, get married,
each have our own home?

When Jo is Lee she has an on-off boyfriend,
George (I found him kissing me, once.
If I ever find him fucking me … )
and when I’m Jo I have a girlfriend, Sally –  
so does Lee, when she is me,
and from what he says, she likes him better,
has more fun, with him than me.

What would happen if I killed him?
I’m pretty sure I’d wake up – no, be – dead.
Because I am him. He is me. Really.

We switched once just before a football match.
We lost of course, his team. He blamed me.
She was watching from the stands. I would rather
play football in the rain and mud than share
a soggy hotdog and a dribbled-in coke with George.

You see, I’ve started meditating. Visualising.
I find I can control the switches now
to some extent. She can’t. Should I tell her?
Tell him? “Help you with the cooking?
Yes, of course, Mum. What’s that?
Sometimes I’m so nice, sometimes not so?
No one’s perfect, Mum. Not even Lee.
Trust me. I know.”


Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on October 17, 2015 by James Munro

Grim, the prospect.
No love, no loyalty, left,
no present without strings attached.

But somewhere in the pack
“a verray, parfit, gentil knight”
rides out, a Fool on horseback,
a Fool trained in the arts of war
and chivalry. If anyone
can build Jerusalem in England’s
once green and pleasant land, it is him.
Or her.

Les Murray – a quotation

Posted in Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on October 9, 2015 by James Munro

Les Murray quote