A Time to Keep Silence

I am reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time to Keep Silence, a book about his visits to monasteries in France and given to me as a Christmas present. I was struck by what Karen Armstrong says in her introduction.

In the West, we have developed a culture that is rational, scientific and pragmatic. We feel obliged to satisfy ourselves that a proposition is true before we base our lives on it and to establish a principle to our satisfaction before we apply it. In the pre-modern period, in all the major faiths, the main emphasis was not on belief but on behaviour. First you changed your lifestyle and only then could you experience God or Nirvana as a living reality.

This exactly sums up my belief that the decline in belief is fuelled by an obsession with it in the modern world. To be viable something has to be believed and proved. Because faith cannot be proved it is not viable. In fact religious thought or observance has value in itself without or before any conscious belief in the object of its worship. Indeed faith can often only follow from long hard work; it does not come as a flashing light from the sky.