For as long as I have had faith in God, I have also known doubt. My doubt and I have been in a dance for years, now, growing apart and then coming together, sometimes fighting, sometimes talking, sometimes choosing to understand one another.
As I struggle with navigating the faith I love so dearly, I turn to the internet for guidance, and I find a great deal of cerebral talk with little soul. I hear Sam Harris and Dawkins and Christian apologists talk about the pros and cons of faith, but what’s missing for me in almost all discussions about doubt is humanity.
I watch people rage about the irrationality of faith and how we should all just get over it already, and I watch the godly rage against the godlessness and hopelessness of a faithless world.
It leaves me feeling more desolate – the human experience of doubt seems to be missing from these discussions, and that is what I need the most.
In response to this atmosphere of absolute certainty, here are a few things I need you to know about my struggle with faith and doubt.
1. It Hurts
Doubt hurts. This is what is missing the most from discussions about belief: the excruciating human suffering that accompanies existential crisis.
As I’ve sat with the fire of doubt, I’ve tried to explore it, to examine all the ways it hurts, and why.
It hurts because the Christian faith is my home, my center, the star around which I orbit. It feels like my meta family. It’s my identity. To be pulled away from it feels like an amputation, or worse, a vivisection – there is no anesthetic here.
It hurts because I don’t know what to replace it with. What could possibly take the place of Christ in my life? Losing faith makes me feel like an astronaut in the film Gravity, lost in a void with no direction, no up or down.
It hurts because I am terrified of death. It’s the not knowing that gets me – the natural human horror of the mysterious. It’s an old, well-worn fear, but I can’t shake it.
The fire of doubt is a pain I live with on a near daily basis, now. Sometimes it blazes to a devastating forest fire, other times it is a candle. It hurts either way, and I see no way through the pain but through, at the pace my subconscious chooses.
If you fail to understand that pain, I have no time for you. If you lecture about the necessity or irrationality of faith, but fail to see my suffering, I will not listen.
I’ve heard your words – I’ve heard them a thousand times over: variation upon variation, layer upon layer. I yearn for humanity, not for answers. If you have no time for empathy, I have no time for you.
2. I Need Time
Over the past year of blogging I have encountered a few atheists with messianic complexes eager to swoop down and rescue me from the clutches of religion.
In general, people seem to be made uncomfortable by the slowness of this journey. For it is a slow journey – a Lord of the Rings sort of journey, creeping across a sometimes forbidding, sometimes wondrous landscape. There is no quick resolve; there are no easy answers.
Frustrated atheists email me telling me to give it all up and be an atheist already. I will do no such thing. I will take my time, and I will clear the space to take as long as this needs. Because – need I remind you – this hurts like fuck.
I also just don’t do things quickly. I deliberate, meditate, daydream, read, and study. It can take me months or even years to come to a conclusion, as I did with my moral stance on homosexuality. That’s just the way I am.
Please respect the process, and if you find that impossible, please be quiet and please go elsewhere. I am interested in traveling companions who are long-suffering, who are comfortable with dissonance, and who are okay with unknowns.
3. I Still Respect You
If I’m doubting my faith, it does not mean I disrespect yours. If I’m not an atheist, that does not mean I believe atheists are lawless, corrupt, irrational people.
Life is hard – excruciatingly so – and we all get through it as best we can. We find faith, or we lose it. Our minds are tragically fragile, easily deluded, and utterly, hypocritically convinced of their own rationality.
We live our lives crawling upon this rock, finding what meaning we can. When I contemplate the harshness and brevity of life and the fragility of our frightened minds, I find that kindness is the only decent response.
Kindness, respect, and compassion – regardless of our beliefs or journey through life – this is my attitude towards all of us struggling to find meaning in our confounding world.
The psychological battles of survival, the trials of living with other people, the ability to get out of bed in the morning – these require respect and honor. I honor you, regardless of what belief you hold.
Whether we like it or not, we are all hurtling through space on this rock together.