Patricia Hofer

Is there a difference between faith and knowing?

In “The Atheist and the Archbishop,” Anthony Bloom [Metropolitan Anthony] said, “… I believe because I know that God exists.” Marghanita Laski, a well-known atheist of the time, responded, “But if you know, you don’t need faith … If you know that God exists, why should faith be considered a virtue” The answer to Laski’s tough question has, I think, something to do with how we define “knowing.”
When humankind became aware that they were different from other living things, that they had an unseen conscious identity that only they knew about, they localized it deep in the body. And so, as well-known Rabbi Michael Samuel wrote, the kidneys or gut became “a symbol of the innermost being and self-consciousness” That explains why we say today that we know things “in our gut,” things that aren’t apparent at all intellectually or circumstantially.
And it is in our “innermost being,” not intellectually, that we know that God exists. Attempting to examine this knowing, putting it under a microscope of rationality, is like attempting to know music by viewing it “in drawing, in line, in mathematical formula.” As Bloom explained: “When you’ve got them all, it does not give you a clue as to whether this is a beautiful piece of music or whether it is just discordant.” It is our “innermost being” that determines the difference between music and noise, between harmony and cacophony.
And in a similar way, buried deep within the consciousness of who we are, God resonates. He stirs our depths with awe and mystery. Because we can’t explain this even to our own intellect, we do doubt at times. And isn’t this true for all religious people? Doubting the intellectual side of our believing, we must, at times, rely on our faith. That’s what makes faith a virtue. It sustains us and blesses us, giving us certainty in our “gut,” when everything around us and everyone around is in doubt. (Living Large, chapter 47)

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