Several religions and schools of thought have emerged throughout the history of mankind. Almost always, religions attract followers by the promise of giving meaning to human lives, which serves to help them make their peace with the fact that they are not immortal. In many of these religions, a crucial task of the followers is to have faith, e.g. in the religious stories, religious instructions, religious leaders, etc. In this short essay, I want to discuss my ideas about the interrelated concepts of “critical faith” and “dynamic religion”. I first discuss the function of faith in religions. Then, I discuss why the traditional style of “faith” could be harmful to individuals in specific and society in general. Finally, I discuss my ideas on how to resolve the mentioned challenges, such that one could still be religious but simultaneously avoid the mentioned harms.
Usually, the religions assert that the people who have a stronger faith, have a more chance of redemption. In the traditional sense, the meaning of having strong faith in an idea is to believe in it so strongly that nothing can change that belief. In many cases, the religions have a self-protective mechanism that encourages the followers to have stronger faith. For example, this mechanism could be in the form of heaven and hell: if people have strong faith they go to heaven but people with weak faith might go to hell, which could mean eternal resentment. In extreme cases, such a self-protective mechanism creates intense internal fears inside people’s minds, which can act as a dogmatism firewall that keeps any different thought or perspective out.
The mentioned dogmatism could internally take away the individuals’ free will, which allows the religious leaders, political parties, or other entities to abuse and manipulate the individuals for their own unjust purposes. Ironically, sometimes the direction that these individuals take is even contradictory to the essence of the same religion they are following but they become too blind to see it. Examples of these cases are people who fight for the Islamic State or People who, in the name of religion, are manipulated to vote in favor of a specific political party in democratic countries. When such religions have many dogmatic followers, the outcome is the emergence of powerful and tyrannic people or parties with unrighteous goals, without any effective backlash from society.
The remedy to the explained dogmatism is to have “critical faith”, meaning that we constantly challenge our beliefs with an unbiased perspective, as much as we can. This can be done by not accepting any idea to be true 100% and by learning the materials that are against our beliefs, rather than merely surrounding ourselves with the materials that further reinforce our “faith” through confirmation bias. Ideally, this practice should enable us to think about a subject from different perspectives, rather than just depending on our initial religious perspective. Eventually, the process of critical thinking and having critical faith may lead to modifications to our religion and belief system, thus making our religion dynamic. It might even take a toll on our initial faith to the extent that leads to a change of religion. However, we should not be afraid since such a transformation is a small step in the path of personal development and intellectual growth. A society of individuals with critical faith and critical thinking is not easy to be tricked or manipulated, leading to the constant development of the society, not only in the intellectual aspects but also in the economic, social, and other aspects.