The difference between joy and happiness is that joy has no words. It is indescribable.
Happiness can be colored in between the lines while joy leaks out everywhere and onto everything. Happiness can be manufactured but joy is begotten not made.
There are specific activities we can do or things we can ingest that make us happy. Joy is visited upon us and is beyond the reach of our power to create. Happiness is achieved while joy happens.
You get my drift, and have likely experienced the differences between joy and happiness I have named. The difference between faith and belief is similar although we often get them mixed up and lumped together.
Belief is an intellectual assertion, an ascent to a given idea. Belief colors in the mysteries that exist between the lines, while faith is an experience outside the lines and an encounter with that outer mystery.
While belief can be described, catalogued, and placed into a system of beliefs that are interconnected, faith is experiential; words always fall short of our efforts to describe it and each moment of experienced faith is discrete.
The parallel with faith and joy continues. Just as we know how to make one another or ourselves happy but cannot create or give joy, we can commend or teach beliefs but we cannot transfer or give faith.
This has profound implications for religion and spirituality. If the distinction I am making between faith and belief is apt then organized or institutional religion needs to “re-set” itself.
Much of religion has been about believing and convincing as many people as possible to accept the same beliefs as a means of adopting a common lens through which to perceive God (or the “ultimate”) and how to live life. But if faith is an encounter with the holy rather than an idea about the holy, then each faith experience is radically discrete – and like joy – is nontransferable, and indescribable.
Considered in these terms, there is a continued role for organized religion.
For one thing, there is a communal dimension to spirituality just as there is to love. It is something we can talk about and share, and in so doing, help one another be more open to it as we also make the experience more recognizable. Love is common but not easily navigated and where we teach one another how to love, relationships tend to thrive. The same is also true with encountering the holiness.
Instead of faith being a subject we can teach with a content reducible to creeds and doctrines, we ought to think about religion as preparing one another for a vision quest or even an entire lifetime of vision quests. Faith as an experience of the holy still requires other people as we seek to understand what we have apprehended, and as we listen for confirmation of our experiences among others who are also encountering the holy. While faith has no content to teach or transfer, learning how to be open, listen, and embody what we experience is teachable.