Is Doubt Making a Comeback?

A Newsweek article entitled “Moderates Storm the Religious Battlefield” caught my eye this week. In it, Lisa Miller hails what she perceives is a shift from the aggressive, militant attitudes of both staunch atheists and religious fundamentalists to an overall mellowing of tone in the theism debate. “Both sides,” she says, “seek to elevate the thing they have in common: doubt.” 

She referred to several new books to support her thesis. In The Reason for God, (to be released in February), Rev. Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, writes “I urge skeptics to wrestle with the unexamined ‘blind faith’ on which skepticism is based, and to see how hard it is to justify those beliefs to those who do not share them. I also urge believers to wrestle with their personal and culture’s objections to the faith. At the end of each process, even if you remain the skeptic or believer you have been, you will hold your own position with both greater clarity and even greater humility.” 

The article also quotes from a book by Bart Ehrman, due out in March. In it, Ehrman, a biblical scholar and seminary graduate, concludes that he can no longer believe in the Christian God because of all the suffering in the world. In God’s Problem he writes, “some people think they know the answers or they aren’t bothered by the questions. I’m not one of those people.” 

I’m not one of those people either. Problems with Christianity have bothered me since I was a kid. However, I’ve not experienced the same sort of “mellowing” in my own Christian community. My experiences with raising questions about religious pluralism, heaven and hell, biblical inerrancy, and the creation account have not been pleasant ones to say the least.  I’m often told that these are questions that atheists and agnostics ask of believers in order to “corner” them, not questions any self-respecting Christian would pose herself. 

However, if books like these gain popularity within conservative Christian circles, if doubt becomes regarded as a more acceptable (if not necessary) element of faith, then perhaps we searchers will finally have a voice…or at least a safe place to land. 

The article concludes that “what’s dangerous about the world today is not belief in God--or secularism or unbelief--but ruthless certainty. If 2008 is the year when we can begin, in private and in public to concede that we don’t know all the answers, then let us say amen.” 

Here’s a link to the full article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/81388. It was published in the Dec. 31, 2007/January 7, 2008 edition of Newsweek

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Lessons from India: Namaste

Based on my experience, the country of India hardly resembles the spiritual utopia so often portrayed by Western yoga instructors and trendy spiritualists. I visited for two weeks last August, and rather than returning rested, in touch, and connected with the universe, I came back exhausted, stinky, dehydrated, and shaken by the widespread poverty and sickness I witnessed there.

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Happy New Year!

I’m all about honoring the tradition of New Year’s resolutions - not necessarily keeping them, of course, but making them. The self-examined life is not worth leading, I always say.

This year I’d like to lose twelve pounds and finish my book. Those who know me well may feel that they’ve heard this before. That’s  because I’ve made those two resolutions for the past three  years. The results?  The weight gets lost and then gained again. The book gets written in fits and starts, great strides curiously coinciding with the aforementioned  weight gain. (When people ask why I haven’t yet had a baby, they get this answer: I’m writing a book, which is like being pregnant - weight gain, moodiness, sleeplessness, and the anticipation that something truly amazing is going to pop out at any moment. Obviously, I can only handle one pregnancy at a time.) 

Anyway, besides the two recurring resolutions, I’ve made some additional commitments to myself, commitments that can’t exactly be weighed on a scale or included in a word count. They include the following: 

  1. To choose happiness every day, regardless of how much I accomplish 
  2. To say less and listen more
  3. To expect to hear from God
  4. To (in the words of Mary J.) “work what I’ve got” without wasting time trying to be like someone else
  5. To only speak well of others
  6. To only speak well of myself
  7. To stop expecting perfection
  8. To follow Jesus as best as I can, right where I am
  9. To recognize the needs of my friends and neighbors as just as important as the needs of those around the world
  10. To truly rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep
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