Because my latest book is about religious doubt, I tend to have my antenna tuned to when that subject shows up elsewhere, as it just did in a Pennsylvania newspaper.
The Erie Times-News just asked its readers about how they deal with doubt when it comes to faith. They responded here.
The answers ranged all over the lot, with some pretty predictable. I think this was my favorite response:
I think it's natural and common to have doubts at some point, or off and on, over the course of one's life concerning religion. Faith is not fact. There is so much about faith that we cannot prove and that we don't understand but that doesn't mean we no longer believe. I've often used the prayer from Matthew 9:24: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." Faith is always "in spite of" doubt — which is what makes it faith rather than science. The Christian faith is grounded in what God has done. Our love is what we choose to do now.
— Deacon Dennis Kudlak, St. Mark Catholic Center, Erie
Faith, indeed, is not fact, as Deacon Kudlak notes. That doesn't mean it's not based on some facts, such as the life of Jesus or the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. But, as I note in The Value of Doubt, faith is a decision we make about how to live in spite of not having all the answers. It's our commitment to be comfortable with ambiguity, with paradox, with mystery.
And doubt can be the tool we use to get to faith. But it helps a great deal to be part of a community of people who allow its members to express their doubts and to seek guidance from others about the difficult, even embarrassing, questions of faith.
Perhaps the most difficult question about faith has to do with why there is suffering and evil in the world if God is all-knowing and all-loving and all-powerful. Doesn't God care enough to stop suffering? This is called the old question of theodicy, and the reality is that there is no exhaustive explanation to it. Which is why it's sometimes called the open wound of religion.
At any rate, good for the Erie paper for encouraging a discussion about doubt, even if one of the respondents made this claim: "I have not experienced doubt about religion."
My response to that: "Oh, I'm so sorry."
* * *
A HIGH SCHOOL PRAYER ROOM?
A high school in Texas makes a prayer room available to all students, but this NPR report says it's raising some concerns. My guess about that was wrong. I thought it probably got way overcrowded just before tests, but that's not it.