In some ways, being a true believing Christian might hinder fulfilling Christ’s message to the world. Believers of anything rely on their tenets of belief to substantiate the very belief they hold. Approached this way, one has little incentive to challenge one’s own understanding. Rather, the understanding becomes the pillar of proof. There in lies the pitfall.
One’s faith becomes the proof of one’s faith. Buddha cautioned against this circular blindness by advising folks to avoid taking anything he said on faith. He wanted his followers to trust but verify. Trust is accepting that there is a kernel of truth in everything. Verify is accepting that there is a heap of bias and myth in everything. The only way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to verify through one’s own experience as the decades pass by. Chapter 71 cautions us, To know yet to think that one does not know is best. Belief works against this, doesn’t it?
Animals are biologically set up to accept matters on faith. All animals, including human ones, have faith in what their senses tell them about the world they experience. Mosquitoes have faith in their acute sense of CO2 which guides them to their next meal. Similarly, we have faith that our senses don’t lie. Instinct tells us that if something tastes good it must be good for us, and that what we see ‘out there’ is real. How else would we be so easily hoodwinked by magicians, politicians and the producers of junk food — to name just three. Sure, we may have learned that a magician uses slight of hand, a politician panders, and junk food is not good for us, but instinct pulls us in anyway, at least somewhat.
In the wild, such faith in perception normally favors fitness, i.e., an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment. Of course, various predators have evolved ways to use this to trap prey. The anglerfish (photo) and the fisherman both come to mind here. Alas, for us, rational thinking easily warps the generally healthy instinct of faith and we end up simply hoodwinking ourselves. As chapter 65 notes, Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them. Instinct and faith certainly fit the description “Of old”.
So how does a Christian’s faith hinder fulfilling Christ’s message? Chapter 71’s caution about the arrogance of ‘thinking that one knows’ speaks volumes, yet I doubt any believer could see this connection when it comes to their core beliefs. Conversely and ironically, noticing this in others is not only easy; it is irresistible. After all, seeing how wrong ‘their’ blind-spot is makes ‘our’ blind-spot feel even more right. If faith were the answer, the world would be different by now. Faith never enlightens us, and most of the time it only serves to hoodwink us. 😉