I've been reflecting on the interplay between faith and hope, especially when hope entails some degree of uncertainty and lack of intellectual assent but a strong desire for something to be true. As an example to illustrate the point, consider a scenario where an individual, exposed to the preaching of the Gospel, the promises of Christianity, and arguments and evidence for its core tenets, might express, "Though I don't know if Christianity is true, and I'm not highly or overwhelmingly confident, in light of the evidence I certainly believe it has potential to be true (i.e., it makes sense and I can't rule it out), and sincerely wish and hope it is true." One can imagine similar hypothetical scenarios for individuals who may feel more persuaded toward other world religions too.

Is it possible to redefine faith, traditionally rooted in strong beliefs, to encompass the prospect of being grounded in hope? Can individuals anchor their faith in hope rather than belief or intellectual assent, acknowledging uncertainty yet finding enough motivation rooted in hope in order to act "as if" a belief were true, with the aspiration that their hope-based faith may eventually, at some point in the future, evolve into a more solid belief? I'm interested in exploring whether this nuanced perspective has been discussed in philosophical or theological contexts, and how it might reshape our understanding of faith and its relationship to hope, belief, and intellectual assent.

Additional food for thought: The application of Pascal's wager might be considered as an example of this, where an individual, faced with the uncertainty of the existence of a higher power, may choose to embrace a hopeful faith. In acknowledging the inability to decisively prove or disprove the divine, a fence-sitter on the question might opt for a faith-driven approach, investing in the potential benefits of belief (by acting "as if" the belief were true) while recognizing the inherent uncertainty.

Another related and important question is whether we can choose to believe something based only on our desire for it to be true and in spite of our prior uncertainty. See To what extent do we choose our beliefs?

  • don’t know how humanity stands it with a painted paradise at the end of it without a painted paradise at the end of it the dwarf morning-glory twines round the grass blade ( Canto LXXIV , 860/436)
    – user71083
    Jan 20 at 14:48
  • I haven’t read it but one book that caught my eye is called Faith: Trusting in your own experience by the meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. It caught my eye as a possibly interesting angle which would corroborate some of my own experiences. Might be relevant, not sure. Jan 20 at 14:48
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    I think faith is a belief that God is the truth despite any concrete evidence to confirm it as the truth. Your right I think faith for most people is rooted in the hope that it is the truth. Good question.
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Jan 20 at 15:02
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    See Onora O'Neill, Kant on Reason and Religion for an extended discussion of grounding a religious perspective in hope more than belief. IIRC Mill also suggested hope as a stronger ground for faith than belief. Jan 20 at 15:42
  • Religions could be said to be inherently against secular or opportunistic hopes held by people, and religious faith is not based on the usually understood intellectual assent or other justified true beliefs since they're the same usually understood knowledge. Religious faith is to be saved or redeemed and could even be recanted in certain situations, while the belief that you have to eat sometime in the future to subsist cannot be suspended... Jan 20 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: No.

Faith, as it's commonly understood, means belief based on spiritual conviction rather than evidence or argument (or, to put it differently, belief based on confidence in that belief, which is somewhat circular, even if that confidence was bestowed by the thing you believe in).

Another definition of faith is just trust. I've commonly heard theists say that this is the definition of faith that they use, i.e. trusting God (whom they may believe in for other reasons). While it may sometimes be used in this way, it seems to more commonly be used to support a belief. Using it in that way would be using an element of a belief (God's traits) to support that belief itself (whether God exists) is much more directly circular. But that's somewhat beside the point.

Yet another definition of faith is a religion itself, but that's not really relevant here.

Hope can certainly factor into the first two definitions, because if you don't have hope about something, that lends itself to indifference, which is somewhat antithetical to conviction or trust. But the faith is not directly based on hope.

Beyond that, using "faith" for what you're describing would be creating a new definition of faith.

Belief that is itself (partially or fully) based on hope sounds like an appeal to consequences fallacy: I can certainly wish that my closet is a portal to Narnia, but that has no bearing on whether that's actually the case.

We might consider this to be backwards: rather than belief based on hope, we might say that hope is based on belief. One might believe something to be possible, and from there, hope that it is true or would happen. This hope does not (directly) change our belief, we instead merely focus on a particular belief.

Also, it could be rational to take precautions for some event or truth that you believe to be improbable, e.g. buying insurance in case an accident occurs. But probability and confidence and 2 different things, and I'd reject Pascal's Wager because it's using probabilistic reasoning for what I see as confidence (I'd say e.g. the probability of there being a unicorn in my backyard is zero, with some tiny non-zero confidence, rather than saying the probability is non-zero; the tiny non-zero confidence there doesn't factor into precautions I take at all, whereas a non-zero probability might factor into precautions I take). If you did land on a probability, maybe you end up with a different conclusion. Although this, in itself, can't convince you that it's true; it can merely get you to take precautions, as it were: e.g. someone may expose themselves to things that may convince them or they may suppress their doubts.

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    This answer arrived at a similar conclusion, but from a Christian perspective.
    – Mark
    Jan 20 at 16:17
  • i disagree (but won't downvote) this answer and find it somewhat of a straw man of 'hope'
    – user71083
    Jan 20 at 18:13

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