Posted by: andreaheyse | May 13, 2009

Faith and doubt

Faith and doubt, two tricky and very loaded words. So what do they mean to me and what have I learned about them?

Faith is a funny thing. Its a word that kept coming up in the New Atheist arguments. Metaphysics this, and empirically verifiable data that. The New Atheists would argue that having faith in a divine being was preposterous, but theists would counter the argument by saying that to believe science was as much of a faith leap as is was to believe in anything. Honestly I agree with both sides, taking a leap of faith on anything, God or science, is risky. We put our own credibility on the line by trusting the ideas we claim to have faith in and at any moment, potentially could be proven wrong. Its not an easy game to play but faith, as fluid and crazy as it may seem at times, is sometimes the only tangible thing to hold onto. Doubt is an instrumental part of faith though. Without it, we can’t expect our faith to grow. We learn through doubt and challenge and question. Hold onto the things you have faith in but don’t be afraid to look at those things head on and search for meaning. If faith and doubt are worth anything, its the ability and freedom to pursue what we hold to be true.

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Responses

  1. Andrea,

    What I find most paradoxical is that both atheism and theism acknowledge the integral significance of doubt when espousing a certain worldview but speak with a certitude that allows little room for it. Dawkins concedes that he can only wager on the probability of God but condemns religious faith as intellectually vacuous. Theists speak about how doubt strengthens faith, but I wonder: how many of them are genuinely willing to give up God if their discovery leads them to such conclusions? After all, it is very difficult to stray from our own hermeneutical circle. And if we were raised since birth to believe in the existence of God, how possible is it to eradicate such a foundational understanding of the world? Sure, we shed our belief in Santa Clause as we grew up and challenged the reasonableness of magic. However, that belief doesn’t serve as a basic presupposition that shapes what we value, how we relate to others, how we see the world and what we think of ourselves. Belief in God does. Just a thought.

  2. Heysenator,Very elequently put. If we don’t doubt, our faith is always going to be shallow. But doubt is what provides meaning to our faith; allows us to grow in understanding.I love the quote from Rahner: ‘The Christian of the Future will either be a mystic, or nothing at all.’ The idea of total submission to the unknown, the idea that ineffible is all we can hold on to–this is what is at heart in the faith/doubt relationship. We doubt because our faith requires it. When we are spoonfed something, we are meant to accept it, but only for now. We need to eventually put it down–leave it behind in doubt–in order to come back to it in greater meaning and understanding. You have been a stronger carrier of this theological wisdom this year. From our crazed evening searching for articles in the library, to your insights offered in Asian Spirituality, to your final project for the seminar. I hope you never lose your mystic spirit, and doubt for the love of your faith.

  3. Heyse, I just want to say thanks for sharing your own experiences of doubt in your faith during our early group presentation meetings. I may not have expressed it then, but I felt completely connected to what you were saying. As you probably know now (thanks to an earlier post) I have continued to have my faith challenged and have struggled more in the past year than ever to define my faith and beliefs. I do believe that God exists but feel that he is far from me, at this point. I have been yearning to rediscover that relationship I had with Him when I was younger but have been unable to reach that point.

    I feel that ultimately I will rediscover my faith in God, but I am glad that you talked of how faith and doubt go hand-in-hand. I believe that doubt is completely necessary for faith and this gives me hope that this period of doubt in my life is solely a stepping stone toward a reemergence of a stronger faith in God.

  4. I completely agree with you and the importance that faith and doubt have in a relationship together. I really liked how you addressed the issue of how taking a leap of faith can be risky no matter what it is for whether that be God or science. In thinking about this, I actually feel sorry for the New Atheists as they seem to not doubt. They are so confident in all that they have to say they seem to be denied the learning and growth opportunity that comes from doubting what one believes in. I really enjoyed your last sentence and I believe that it sums up the whole point very well.


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