Archive for the Quotations Category

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?

What she says becomes ever more topical and relevant …

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



Les Murray – a quotation

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

Les Murray quote

A Magical Language

Posted in Esoterica, Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on October 7, 2015 by James Munro

“The language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age. This remains the language of true poetry.” (Robert Graves, The White Goddess)

Robert Graves

A Quotation from W. H. Auden

Posted in Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on November 12, 2014 by James Munro

Auden quote


Thought-provoking. It implies that there is an alternative universe in which he, I, we, would have written them. But that would necessitate a whole series of alternative universes, in fact a to-all-intents-and-purposes infinite number of alternative universes, all existing in the mind of God …

After that, we need to relax with an Auden poem: next post!

Joyce Kilmer quote:

Posted in Quotations with tags on October 11, 2014 by James Munro

“Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”

Joyce Kilmer

Very True …

Posted in Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags on September 8, 2014 by James Munro

Dylan Thomas quotation