"Faith is pejoratively described as believing a claim that lacks evidence.
I would say (with William James) that faith is the capacity to act where doubt persists. This capacity is also called courage and willingness; faith is just its religious moniker. If we lift faith from its religious context, this capacity is revealed to be essential.
Imagine life without faith. What domain of life is immune to doubt? We hardly ever engage life armed with the sum of relevant facts. If action is precluded by doubt, life becomes gridlock. The capacity to act in the face of uncertainty is, therefore, as necessary to daily living as honesty and love. The propositions that inspire leaps of faith become beliefs when those leaps prove reliably beneficial. Beliefs are ideas that lack the evidentiary basis of facts, nevertheless routinely inform our actions because, by way of faith, they have proven themselves tried and true. In this sense, faith and belief function much like a “working hypothesis.” They bridge the gulf of doubt separating reason and the imperative to act.
The constellation of beliefs that guide an individual’s actions is commonly called their belief system. The mechanism of faith remains essential, but particular beliefs have a shelf life. Healthy beliefs inspire acts that lead us in the way of meaning. Inherited beliefs are useful only if they successfully navigate the present terrain. Beliefs expire when the problems of meaning they were adopted to address change. The beliefs we inherit from our ancestors are, for this reason, often outdated. This is why faith is so essential. It enables us to form new belief systems, draw fresh maps of meaning.
Doubt is chaos. It is a field of diasporic details, often conflicting, never cohesive, which breeds indecision and inaction. This is the obstacle faith overcomes. It leaps from one shore with no assurance of landing on another. When it finds dry land, belief builds a bridge. Belief mythologizes the gap, lending rhyme and reason, which serve as the basis for future passages. This rhyme and reason is an internal logic. It is a subjective truth, not a tapestry of objective facts. Faith and belief are not antithetical to reason. They paint a picture that maps onto reality, only that reality is our life, not the cosmos. Therefore, faith and belief appeal to an inner authority.
Hope dawns when chaos is transformed into order. In this moment the way forward is revealed. The frustration of being stranded is replaced by excitement and anticipation about the adventure ahead. This is the quintessence of the sensational variety of spiritual experience. At their core, these experiences are loaded with meaning. Faith takes the expeditionary leap. Belief then provides the internal rationale to bring the conscious mind along. Suddenly, a missing portion of our map is unlocked. An area of our life that was once a source of confusion now makes sense, which is to say, warrants action.
The internal spark that validates belief is the experience of meaning. This experience brings our beliefs to life. It animates them, moving us to vigorous action. And it is to this authority that our beliefs must appeal. Not religion or science, but meaning." ~ excerpted from "Triumph of Principles" (my upcoming book)