Conservatism and Holding Faith

Be thankful you no longer live in a society that, [upon knowing who you are], bashes your face in.

It’s largely true. I live in a place where people tend toward civility. Or as the speaker quipped, “a society that tends to avoid conflict”. Which are two different interpretations of roughly the same thing.

But that quote was a jarring reminder that not so long ago, and not so far away, there are indeed people who get their faces bashed in for nothing more than how they look, how they sound, how they think, or who they choose to identify with.

How would someone feel so offended by something, that s/he’d want to punch that person? Over the weekend there was very insightful commentary on how conservatives function through a paradigm of fear. 

History has plenty of evidence that fear causes people to turn against one another. Fear of the unknown, fear of the new, fear of the Other. Certainly, history has also shown many examples of people who have reacted to the Other with not fear, but acceptance and open minds. 

In a human’s life trajectory, is it that we grow fearlessly, but with age, we start becoming conservative because we start counting down the days to death? And as life becomes increasingly finite, we cling to the things we know as if they may offer some salve to that void we approach? 

With monotheistic religions such as Christianity, ‘faith’ is becoming a cheap word. 

faith (n.)Look up faith at Dictionary.commid-13c., “duty of fulfilling one’s trust,” from Old French feid, foi “faith, belief, trust, confidence, pledge,” from Latin fides “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,” from root of fidere “to trust,” from PIE root *bheidh- (source also of Greek pistis; see bid). For sense evolution, see belief. Theological sense is from late 14c.; religions called faiths since c.1300. Source

Duty of fulfilling one’s trust.

belief (n.) Look up belief at

Belief used to mean “trust in God,” while faith meant “loyalty to a person based on promise or duty” (a sense preserved in keep one’s faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of Latin fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to “mental acceptance of something as true,” from the religious use in the sense of “things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine” (a sense attested from early 13c.). Source


Loyalty to a person based on promise or duty. I can see how ‘faith’ came to be appropriated by religious language as here it becomes loyalty to a deity, rather than to a person. Without going into discussion on how religious movements themselves evolved from personal to external, religion was always about a higher loyalty, and in fact, reaching for the absolute highest loyalty. But the original meaning of faith captures that relationship between people very well; that we are bound by promise or duty to be faithful to one another. 

Could it be that because we shifted the focus of faith to something abstract beyond ourselves that we have broken down that fundamental relationship between people? That the highest good now is no more behaving in good faith towards another, but to have faith in something beyond ourselves. And to have faith becomes, you guessed it, deeply personal and deeply subjective (read, deeply open to interpretation). Instead of faith being the seal of a contract with someone else, faith becomes an object you acquire and hold on to; from an action to a possession. 

and like my many suspicions about the subject, faith becomes something you have to defend, because logically you must hold on to it, cherish it, preserve it.

Maybe this is why people become more conservative. Maybe.



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