I want to challenge you. When we say we believe in God, what do we mean? Most people will think of specific religious ideas they were exposed to as children. In India, people will have strong convictions about the stories they've read in the Vedas. Christians would tell you about all the miracles Christ performed and how he resurrected himself after death. Buddhists would tell you about samsara and how you might stop the cycle of reincarnation to reach nirvana.
Personally, as a child, I was told that God created the heavens and the earth and that Jesus walked on water and was able to appear and disappear at will after his death. I was told that I had to believe these stories or risk eternal damnation, forever stuck in some horrible place called hell. Because I trusted adults, I did my best to believe in this superhuman Jesus even while none of his powers made any sense. It was only as I grew older that I began to question his fantastic feats. About five hundred years before Jesus, the god Apollo appeared to a woman in Greece and impregnated her, resulting in the birth of Pythagoras, whom the ancient Greeks referred to as the son of God. Yes, another saviour. And yes, the same Pythagoras we learned about in maths.
Then there was the birth of the Roman god Mithra, also a virgin birth, and Krishna, born before Christ, both called the son of God. What's more, Krishna had a human father who worked as a carpenter. Krishna also healed people, drove out demons, and resurrected himself to ascend into heaven. Coincidence or not? Or an even more puzzling question, how can they all be the only son of God? These are just some of the sacred stories similar to the story of Jesus. Since the advent of human history, there have been thousands of other religions, many of which share myths that can be found in the Bible and other modern religious scriptures.
Faith is defined as a belief in any of several gods. It is also defined as a strong belief in the doctrine of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof. In other words, faith is to simply believe. When we allow ourselves to simply believe things, anything goes. If you were born in India, you would probably be a Hindu. If you were born in the middle-east, you would probably be a Muslim. In other words, we simply believe in the religious doctrines and gods our parents believe in because we were indoctrinated with it. Besides this cultural indoctrination, there is no reason any of us should believe a single word we were told about the spiritual world.
Personally, my faith extends as far as object permanence. That means if I leave my car in a parking lot I tend to believe it will be there when I get back. Even then I might be proved wrong. But do I have any faith in a magical being somewhere who can control the weather or cause water to turn into blood? Do I need to believe in a man who can perform magic in order to be hopeful about the future? Do I think a philosopher who died more than two thousand years ago will punish Jacob Zuma and return the country's credit rating back to positive? Do I believe if I pray every night I will get a raise at work? If a religious person is assaulted, is it because he did something wrong?
As these questions pile up and the answer seems to present itself. I would not damn a person to suffer for eternity simply because such a person doubts that I exist or doubts that I can perform magic tricks. Therefore an omnibenevolent god, who should be more forgiving than me, shouldn't care whether I believe in him or not. We are not going through difficult times because God is angry with us. Instead, we are going through difficult times because we believe the worst of each other and because we don't trust our neighbours. Faith in gods will not save us from ourselves.
Once I realised this, my purpose became clearer. If I wanted to change my own life, I first needed to have faith in myself. If I wanted to live in a better world, I needed to put my faith in the people around me. In order to change, I needed to first believe that we can change. That is my religion. I believe that everyone has the potential to become great. We should have faith in each other, whether we are Muslims, Christians, or Hindus, black or white. But at the same time, we have to be rational and keep to the facts. We need to be wary of those who exploit our fears, for they are the false prophets, the charlatans and the corrupt. Believe in each other. That is the only faith that will save this country of ours.