Questioning the very notion of faith itself
Years ago, as a younger Christian, I had serious doubt about Christianity, but I decided to hold onto my faith in Jesus. Most Christians doubt their faith at one time or another, so what I was doing was pretty normal. Many Christians, in fact the vast majority of them, admit there is really no evidence to believe in God. However, they are quick to point out, that is where faith comes in. We believe, because God wishes for us to believe without any evidence. That is the importance of faith, and as a scientist who is conditioned to rational thinking, I clung to living by faith for many years.
About a year ago, I was really struggling to hold onto my Christian faith. I was reading every fundamentalist’s favorite Gospel, the Gospel of John. Several places in that Gospel, Jesus praises people who have faith based on no evidence, and trashes people for not believing without a sign. This all culminates with the classic scene at the end of the Gospel where Thomas refuses to believe unless he sees the risen Christ for himself. Jesus appears to Thomas, and what does Jesus say to his dumbstruck disciple?
“Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”
I remember reading this with the realization that Jesus was not telling this to any of his disciples but to the readers of the Gospel of John. Why would Jesus tell his disciples, who were looking directly at him, that they were blessed if they believed without seeing?
Baloney. This verse is directed at the reader and taught me a valuable lesson. Whoever wrote this knew there was no good reason to believe – even way back then. So it is blessed to believe without seeing – this is the beginning of belief by faith alone. Believing without any evidence whatsoever.
Why would this be? Why would God require us to have faith in his existence? Loving your neighbor and loving God, sure, I get that – but faith? Why does God require us to have faith in his existence without evidence if he in fact does exist? I checked the Old Testament, and could not see faith as an imperative anywhere. It seemed to start with the claims about Jesus.
So I asked myself a question that I could never answer, and which no Christian has ever been able to answer for me. How does faith, in the sense of gullibility, in the existence of God make us better, more loving or more morally virtuous? What is the point of emphasizing faith unless …. .. .. unless……. …
As a Christian, I never questioned the need for faith until then. I think few Christians ever do, despite their many other doubts, because they have been conditioned to rely on that faith. But when I saw the – let me be blunt – the scam that faith really is, the need for belief without evidence, the desire of God for us to be gullible, and all for no reason; I realized if God truly did exist, well, that is when faith had to take a back seat. I began to read furiously to look for solid evidence for the reliability of Scripture.
So I think that is one reason why I left Christianity where I would not have otherwise – my questioning the very notion of faith itself. I can think of a few other reasons, but that is a big one.