Typically, a person does not believe that her belief is a belief. If she does come to believe that a belief is a belief, she will recognize it for what it is, a mere belief, and no longer wholeheartedly believe in it. “To believe is to know that one believes, and to know that one believes is no longer to believe… every belief is a belief that falls short, one never wholly believes what one believes.” (Being and Nothingness, p. 69) A person is able to suspend disbelief in a belief because she fails to spell out to herself the fact that a belief is merely a belief. Spelling out the policy of not spelling out undermines the policy. Coming to believe that a belief is merely a belief undermines the belief. If a person comes to believe that a belief is a belief, then she ceases to be convinced by it and loses faith in it, because by its very nature, belief implies doubt.
Wittgenstein realized that the expression ‘I believed’ always means ‘I no longer believe.’ Therefore, ‘I believe’ cannot truly be the present tense of ‘i believed.’ The actual present tense of ‘I believed’ must express the lack of belief. ‘I believe’ doesn’t express lack of belief, although it does express a measure of doubt. If a person said ‘I believe in the existence of God,’ then it is because she is not certain of the existence of God. If God’s existence was certain, it would be as strange to say ‘I believe in the existence of chairs,’ extreme skeptics notwithstanding, the existence of which is certain.
Belief is an attitude that is only relevant when a person is uncertain. She can believe what she doesn’t know for certain. However, she doesn’t also believe what she knows, for certain, even if it’s impossible to disbelieve what she knows for certain. That one cannot disbelieve what one knows does not mean one believes what one knows. One doesn’t believe what one knows, she knows it. ‘I believe’ is redundant when a person is talking of matters about which she is certain.
Not to say that to refrain from any talk of belief is to be certain, but rather, that to talk meaningfully of belief is to reveal uncertainty, even if the use of ‘I believe’ is used to indicate the “unwavering firmness of belief.” (BN, p. 69) Beliefs can be firm, strongly and widely held, frequently expressed, but because they are beliefs they are always uncertain.
For instance, increasing the number of believers in a particular religious doctrine in no way makes the doctrine any more certain. Evangelism, the drive to recruit believers to a doctrine, is a reaction to the uncertainty inherent in religious faith. The evangelist is concerned with the belief of others in order to distract himself from the fact that his own belief is just a belief. If he honestly examined his own belief he would expose it as ‘necessarily uncertain” so he busies himself with the beliefs of others. For him, the beliefs of others is a thing, an objectified belief that is firmly based upon itself, rather than a mere disposition based upon a fragile suspension of disbelief. Consequently, the evangelist is in bad faith towards others because he denies them their freedom by regarding them as believer things incapable of going beyond their “state of convictions.” If someone stopped believing, the evangelist would regard them as corrupted or deluded, for they did not reach a decision on their own free will.
The evangelist champions sincerity regarding beliefs with the aim of reducing others to receptacles of objectified beliefs. Belief is thereby transformed into a public object that the evangelist can then take possession of. Incapable of believing without doubt in his own belief, he gets involved with the apparently certain and objectified beliefs of others by regarding himself as simply another object. The original project of bad faith allows a person to see himself exclusively from the point of view of others. Therefore, religious faith involves a person objectifying her own faith through the objectification of the faith of others. All faith is bad faith in the sense that all faith involves a state of false consciousness in which a person does not believe that her belief is a belief.