Faith and Belief

By Wes L.

Most often when I hear discussions about the second step, folks have gone way beyond the sentiment of the step and are busy attempting to define God, or at the very least trying to reach some conclusions about what constitutes a belief. One of the most restricting of those old ideas that Bill suggests that some of us have tried to hold onto, is the notion that faith and belief are inextricably linked, i.e. that you cannot have faith without a belief to have faith in.

Interestingly enough, in the 12 and 12 where Bill expounds on the step further, his comments are much more relevant to faith than they are to belief. Unfortunately, he too seems to use the two interchangeably. So what is faith?

Through the means of inductive reasoning, which establishes a reasonable expectation that certain things will continue to be simply because they have always been, we have developed faith in all sorts of things and processes. And almost all of that has been done with neither consciousness nor effort on our part. There is no need to believe that the sun will continue to make an appearance every day, we simply have faith that that will be the case. The very ebb and flow of the universe goes on virtually unnoticed. We seldom pause to think about, much less worry ourselves with, the faith we have that the universe will continue to unfold, and that this tiny speck of it that we have come to call the world, will continue to go round and round.

So it would seem that faith is inherently instinctive, and operates intuitively without our consciousness of it, or even the awareness of its existence. What then is the relationship between faith and belief? Lack of faith, or more accurately described, failing to recognize that intuitive faith, is the fertile soil in which the seeds of hope and fear are sown, and quickly grow.

When you get the thinking mind involved, and along with it the egoic consciousness, things can change rapidly. Lack of faith precipitates fear, and the mind creates hope to alleviate the fear. Hope is fueled by imagination, and as the hope grows so does the illusion. Because the illusion is so appealing and the hope so fervent, we begin to actually believe whatever it is that we have dreamed up.

As the dynamics of our lives change, new fears continually manifest themselves, and since by now we have very little faith in the way things are, we become more and more reliant on hope.

Belief is nothing more than fervent hope. So oddly enough the traditional concepts of God have come from the lack of faith, not through it.

It does not require much faith to create or modify your concepts of God. A little imagination and some ego driven desires are all that are needed. On the contrary, it is in the willingness to discard those antiquated perceptions that faith is essential.

About the Author, Wes L.

Wes spent the majority of his working career in the construction industry and always thought of himself as superintendent material, but it was not until after he got sober in April of 1990 that he began to find employers that agreed with him.  We has been active in AA from the beginning, but much more so since he retired in 2010. He has lived in Las Vegas since 1989 where a small group is starting a new freethinking AA meeting in Southern Nevada. At the urging of several friends, Wes began to write seriously about a year ago.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

I ‘came to believe‘ that AA might relieve my alcoholism by studying the Big Book, which allowed me to move past step 2. I did not have Faith until; ‘HAVING HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING AS THE RESULT OF THESE STEPS…” At that point I am beyond belief, I have Faith that if I do these things I will live. If you have a Spiritual awakening, you will know what Faith is. If not, you will continue to seek ‘an easier softer way’.

JEB Barrett
5 years ago

Thanks for the thought provoking, interesting read. Since belief is nothing but an opinion without evidence and faith and belief are both used to translate the Greek word used in religious writings, with Paul of Tarsus saying, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen,” I have learned to avoid using either word. Much better are two words you use, “trust” and “hope.” For me, Step Two functions as the hope and trust step, which over the years have become stronger through application of the entire 12 Step process as a way of life. It… Read more »

Wally Keltner
Wally Keltner
5 years ago

Perhaps we have inadvertently built an axiom that Bill Wilson’s rather dated text is consistent from chapter to chapter and line to line and that we need only poke around in the Big Book and confirm Passage A by another Passage B.  I look upon his writing more pragmatically.  Taken as a whole, it was of substantial value in the late 1930s, but today it is a bit time worn and ready for overhaul or replacement.  It is not inerrant and consistent at the detailed level; word meanings drift; explanations are sometimes not helpful or even wrong.  Still, our Big… Read more »

Jerry F
Jerry F
5 years ago

And then there’s Mark Twain. “Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.”

John S
5 years ago

I like what you wrote about Step 2. For me, that step is all about coming to believe I could be helped after having admitted that I can’t handle it on my own. For many years I would never ask for help for anything and as my life got more difficult because of my drinking, I actually tried to hide my problems from everyone. I effectively placed myself outside of any hope. I guess I didn’t have trust in anyone or I was afraid to be honest with myself and others. After my first AA meeting, I came to believe… Read more »