My diagram above illustrates four of the common uses of the word “faith“. Trust and Hope tend to be emotional uses of the word while Loyalty and My View (“my religion”) tend to be uses which reflect identity. The potential overlapping of these uses should be obvious. The multi-conflicting uses of “faith” often leads to unnecessary confusions when people of conflicting agendas use the word in debate.
The two emotional uses of faith, trust and hope, both have a wide spectrum of feelings/meanings attached to them. The type of trust that people are imagining when they use the word “faith” varies from trust in counter-evidence (this is clearly the type of religious faith that irks atheists) to trust based on high-evidence (this is empirical faith). Atheists often forget that everyone (themselves included) have trust for things or people for which the have low evidence to base that trust. Theists, on the other hand can either brag about their blind faith (trust in light of no-evidence or even counter-evidence) or, like many liberal Christians, claim that all their trust-faith is based on sufficient evidence.
The hope use of “faith” likewise has a spectrum of feelings. One can be hopeful in a worried, fretting and scared way — that is anxious-hope that is fragile. Or, a person can be optimist by either temperament or training and have an optimistic-hope, expecting the best with an emotional resilience.
I have also wrestled with these nuance of “Faith” in this earlier post where I also try to help people avoid arguing over the word “faith“, but instead to see the emotions and identity issues that are connected to various uses of “Faith”. “Faith”, like all words, has many uses which cause all sorts of confusion between users — especially if those users are prescriptivists who are committed to convincing others that only their use is the correct use. Prescriptivists buy into the illusion that words have definitions. Dialogue is easier when people understand that words carry many meanings/uses and for effective communication those words often need to be re-negotiated. Language evolves, fluxes and varies highly between users. There is only “correct” language when those in power enforce it, otherwise, language is naturally fluid.