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Beyond Hope and Reimagining Faith

By Tayoung Chung

April 2, 2024

In Response to Against All Odds

Ece Temelkuran makes a provocative argument that in the face of creeping authoritarianism and the decline of liberal democracy, what is needed most is not hope, but rather, faith—faith in human’s capacity for positive change “against all odds.” She contends that hope implies passivity for socio-political circumstances to improve, while faith demands committed action and belief in our ability to create a more just society, even when those prospects are slim.

This conception of faith as an active, unwavering commitment to truth and justice relates with the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and his work in A Confession (1882). His philosophical treatises, particularly in The Kingdom of God is Within You (1893), reject the idea of faith as a blind belief in the church doctrine; instead, he sees true faith as a profound and rational acceptance of life’s realities and a striving to live according to his moral principles. For Tolstoy, faith is a fundamental decision to align one’s life with universal and ethical values, such as the dedication to non-violence or non-resistance. It requires incredible courage and willpower to uphold these beliefs in the face of societal pressure and hopelessness.

Temelkuran seems to be calling for a similar kind of tenacious, reality-based faith—a faith not in democracy as an “irrelevant theatrical ritual” but in its truest, most egalitarian ideals. Like Tolstoy, she argues that in despairing times, faith provides the only reliable basis for persisting in the struggle for a better world. Without it, we could potentially spiral into cynicism and inaction. By advocating for a Tolstoyan political faith against all odds, she provides a powerful philosophical framework for the resilience required to continually strive for moral truth and justice even in the darkest of times.

On a personal level, I have found that cultivating this faith—rooted in an acceptance of life’s harsh realities, but a belief in my capacity to reshape them—has been crucial for maintaining a commitment to just causes. It is a faith that does not depend merely on emotions or favorable circumstances, but it is rather an existential stance in humanity’s moral potential that ends systemic oppression.

Tayoung Chung (SFS’25) is a junior in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.