This past weekend my friend Matt and I were asked to teach a seminar titled “Conversations With My Inner Atheist” at a leadership retreat. My belief is this: No matter one’s faith or religious belief, faith and doubt go hand in hand. Doubt is a natural part of being human, of believing, of faith. Though we don’t want to doubt or have doubt at all, it happens – and that’s the human part of who we are. So at said seminar, we acknowledged just that: the real parts of our faith (which for our conversation pertained to a faith in Jesus) include the doubt that naturally creeps in. Why is it that as we grow up, physically and spiritually and emotionally, that things aren’t as black and white as they once were, or as we’d like them to be? I tend to want all-things-life neatly packaged and tied up with a pretty red ribbon so that the gray need not creep in – but it does.
If, according to Webster’s, atheism is a disbelief in god/God, then to have the freedom to acknowledge those thoughts of disbelief is healthy, even if the phrase “inner atheist” is a bit sexy in presentation. Perhaps it’s because I suffer from oldest child syndrome, but because of the natural overachiever within me, my own mind wanted answers and didn’t want to question. I couldn’t be wrong, I needed to be the best, and whether that related to my own walk with Jesus, or to my job, I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – let anyone stand in my way. No! Life MUST be black and white, I MUST have the answers, I MUST be right. I think about my first year teaching high school English: I was 22 years old, and had a bunch of smart-ass seniors (only four years younger than me!) under my supposed tutelage. God forbid I even acknowledge that I didn’t know the answer to one of their questions, because that would have meant that the grey was surfacing. So in that way, stuffing the doubts of not knowing and instead pretending that I did know seemed a much more viable solution.
And for a long time, I did the same thing with my faith: so what if I have questions about God, shouldn’t I at least pretend that I understand, that I’m super-duper-Christian Cara who doesn’t doubt? Who has no qualms?
…but why, then, does evil happen?
Why would a good, gracious and all-loving God send someone to hell?
How does “hating the sin, but loving the sinner” go along with the tenets of Christianity?
Why don’t all paths lead to God – or do they?
The questions could go on …and on for my point here is not to provide answers, but to be okay with the questions. I once read that Billy Graham, upon his death had over 3,000 questions that he couldn’t wait to ask Jesus face to face. And when I think about Graham, the super-Christian, having thousands of questions to ask God, then certainly my own questions are valid as well.
I loved what my friend Donna had to say about the subject: “… the longer we’ve walked with Jesus, the fewer “answers” we have, the more questions, and yet the greater sense of freedom and confidence that God is good and we can trust him.” What a wise woman.
So is this true for you? Can doubt be a part of your faith journey, or am I just off my rocker? If you’re of another faith, does your religion embrace doubt, and if so, how?0