Posts tagged ‘doubt’
This was posted over on Ex-Christian.net. Thought it was worth spreading it here too.
“If you’re a Christian, or on the fence about your beliefs, I would like to recommend that you give a little thought to something important.
The Bible, and Christian clergy, writers, and apologists all make a very big deal of hewing to the faith, of shunning doubt and constantly “working on” one’s faith. They make it sound like actually thinking about and researching the truth values of your Christian beliefs is an insult to god. To question the teachings you’ve received, and actually question the truth of the Jesus story, they claim, is to “turn away from god.”
But is this really the right way to look at it? Why do they insist that you believe whatever you’re told in the Bible and in sermons? Why do they say, “Just take my word for it”?” …………
It’s been two years since I finally admitted to myself that I was not struggling with doubt any more; I no longer believed in God. The creed below is what I can say with some confidence that I believe in today. I got a little silly with the language, and I did so on purpose, to help me remember to hold my new beliefs lightly. Feel free to argue, challenge or question me, or the entire concept of an unbeliever having “beliefs”. As for me, atheism only defines what we don’t believe in, leaving us a wide variety of beliefs we can still hold onto. I invite you to post your own beliefs in the comments.
Proposition 1: I believe that there is an objective reality; that what is, is; that a = a.
- Clarification of the above Proposition: I believe that what is, is neither as good, as bad, or even as easily defined or comprehended as it first seems.
- Corollary of the above Clarification: I believe that labels, like all nouns and symbols, are useful tools- if you remember they are not what actually is.
- Addendum upon previous three statements: I believe that observation, experimentation, reason, and logic are the best tools we’ve yet found to learn what actually is.
Proposition 2: I believe that actions have consequences.
- Corollary on Proposition 2: I believe that what we think, say, do, and choose matters.
- Conclusion drawn from above Corollary and previous Clarification: What we think, say, do and choose matters, but rarely in the manner we expect or intend.
- Corollary on above Conclusion and previous Addendum: We don’t really know what we’re doing, but that’s no reason not to do our best. Please refer to Corollary two statements previous.
Proposition 3: I believe that value is extrinsic.
- Addendum on Proposition 3: I believe that we attribute value through ritual and sanctification (blessing, or intentionally making sacred/holy).
- Corollary on Propostions 1 through 3: I believe that we create what meaning and purpose there is, and can, through changing our choices, change what meaning and purpose we create.
- Addendum on above Corollary: I believe that empathy, introspection and reason are the best tools we’ve found yet for choosing what meaning and purpose to create, and that the ethic of reciprocity (popularly summarized as the Golden Rule) is the best starting point from which to employ our empathy, introspection and reason, with special attention paid to the resources we have to draw on and the needs which we can fill (including, but not limited to, our own).
Overly simplistic, yet still valid Conclusion drawn from everything said thus far in this creed (much to my pleasant surprise): I believe in love.
- Quester with thanks to all the support, fellowship and inspiration I’ve received on this site over the past two years!
It is common sentiment among Christians that “it’s ok to have doubts.” In fact, I have a friend who is a Presbyterian Minister who told me recently that he sees his faith as a form of agnosticism.
However, the question I’ve always pondered is – how much doubt is too much?
- I doubt that Jesus was born of a virgin. Is that ok? Am I still a Christian?
- I doubt that the bible is an accurate representation of events. Is that ok? Am I still a Christian?
- I doubt that we can really know exactly what Jesus did or said? Am I still a Christian?
I could pretend not to doubt, but I’m not sure that this is enough.
Christians tend to answer this by trying to convince me that I’m wrong. However, that completely misses the point. Is it ok to doubt or is it not?
If I doubt that Jesus is god, am I a Christian with doubts, or a non-Christian?…
I applaud many Christians on something that self-proclaimed “freethinkers” often overlook about certain religionists: the quality of their skepticism. I laud the way that a Christian can systematically dismantle their religious rivals, yet at the same time I praise those same rivals in their endeavours to knock down the Christian religion. Christians, as well as other religious adherents, definitely have a healthy dose of skepticism, defined as someone “inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions” (OED).
Many Christians doubt not only evolutionary theory, but also the actual physical evidences for it (certainly a radical skepticism indeed!). Christians, by necessity, doubt not only Hinduism, but also its philosophically astute and more universal descendant, Buddhism. If they can doubt such a sophisticated and ancient religion such as Buddhism, then certainly New Religious Movements, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Latter Day Saints, that call themselves “Christian” are certainly no match for those of “sound theology”. Furthermore, scores of Christians doubt that morality apart from God is not only improbable, but completely impossible. And almost every Christian doubts that the universe can be explained without a divine presence. I celebrate such skepticism!…
Carried the Cross, in his post Reasons I Remained Faithful for so Long, described himself as having felt like a “doubting Thomas” at different points in his life, wondering if some sin was keeping him from being able to accept Christianity as “Truth”.
I think about this myself, as I struggle with my faith and doubts, wondering if God exists and, if God does exist, if the Christian understanding of God has any truth to it. John 20:29 haunts me. “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'”
Then I wonder, who are these people Jesus is referring to? According to the gospels, Jesus had told his disciples that he was going to die, then rise again “on the third day” (Mt 17:22-23, Mk 10: 32-34). The disciples had, reportedly, witnessed many miracles, including Jesus raising people from the dead. If the gospel accounts are true, there is no reason for Jesus’ disciples to doubt his claim…
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…”
Trying to describe the personal journey that I’ve been on for the last four years is like trying to nail jello to the wall. I’ve gone through a thorough detox from vocational and institutional Christianity, plunged headlong into the “dark night of the soul,” and am slowly emerging with my head above unchartered waters. Bilbo’s story could well be my own, “There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Tale,” yet the place to which I’ve returned is different and familiar all the same.
I spent roughly 10 years in pastoral ministry, or I could say that I spent 10 years in pastoral ministry roughly. I broke from full-time ministry to become self-employed in healthcare marketing, a job I still have five years later. For 18 months I tried to be bi-vocational while building this new business, but aside from preaching on Sundays, my job didn’t lend itself to be compatible with pastoral ministry.
My departure from full-time ministry was against the grain of the church-growth mentality. I was capable and expected to move on to bigger churches to continue my “ministry.” Not only did I demote myself to a smaller pastorate, but I also went “secular.” There was a lapse of 9 months before I began the bi-vocational pastorate, leaving many to circulate rumors that my last church drove me from the ministry. Beginning with leaving full-time ministry I began to contemplate ways to reinvent the wheel…