Yesterday A, M and I had a conversation about faith and religion. (J’s phone has been screwing up and refusing to connect to her wi-fi when she’s at home, so she wasn’t present for it).
All 4 of us have been severely damaged by religious indoctrination. All 4 of us have had at least one major crisis of faith (most of us several over the course of our lives). A, M and J eventually resolved those crises in favor of keeping some kind of faith and spiritual belief / practice within the Christian religion. I’m the only one that walked away from Christianity, religion, and spirituality.
I’m functionally an atheist, but won’t use that label. I call myself agnostic.
There are multiple reasons for that.
My deconversion involved realizing that I could never have all the answers, and that I was okay with that. If there was a loving god that created and oversees the universe, that god would understand why I left religion behind.
Growing up, doubt was treated as sin by most of the evangelical Christians and Christian media I interacted with. The implication was that if you doubted, it was because you weren’t fully committed to God. If you weren’t fully committed to God, were you really saved? Blessed were those that believed without seeing, after all.
Doubt is a valuable tool. Without doubt, we would never question, never require evidence, never test for the truth. Doubt is simply worry-flavored curiosity.
I’ve embraced doubt.
I’m not fond of the atheist label primarily because of certain associations with a particular type of vocal atheist that can be as militantly zealous as any conservative evangelical Christian. They often exhibit the same behavioral traits and attitudes. They’d be just as likely to look down on me for proclaiming myself an agnostic as would a Christian. No room for doubt.
I’m not antagonistic towards the concept of faith, or towards people that feel faith. A man I otherwise very much despise said one thing that I do agree with – even if you think religion is a crutch, why would you want to kick away someone’s crutch?*
I was raised with theological attitudes that said I shouldn’t seek happiness, that I must accept suffering in service to a greater goal. It has made me sympathetic to other people’s happiness and joy. If someone chooses faith, and that faith brings them happiness and joy, and they are not wielding that faith as a tool of authoritarian or manipulative control, I see no reason to try and put an end to that.
This might seem at odds with the virulent rhetoric I’ve directed at Christianity, particularly conservative evangelical Christianity, but I find no tension in being at peace with other people’s faith, and being at war with toxic, authoritarian, manipulative theological beliefs and practices.
I’ve read the Bible. Jesus went to war against toxic, authoritarian, manipulative theological beliefs and practices, too. He supported belief, and supported doubt.
Regardless of whether or not I believe the story to be true, the story of Jesus and Doubting Thomas is not a cautionary tale to be used to shame people for doubt. Instead it’s a story of love – Jesus didn’t refuse Thomas his proof, instead he delivered the proof and then said ‘blessed are those that believe without seeing’ the way we might say ‘people that can eat anything and not gain weight are lucky.’
For many people, faith is easier than doubt, and Jesus recognized that and showed Thomas compassion.
Most humans seem to like and prefer answers. Steady ground beneath their feet. They prefer to feel secure in their place in the universe, whatever place they’ve decided that is.
For me, being told I had to feel secure paradoxically caused insecurity.
That’s why even if I don’t feel belief in a god, gods, or any sort of spiritual force, I prefer to stay with doubt. Because I can. Because it’s my choice, now, and it’s a choice that brought me peace.
*The statement may not have originated with him, but it was the first place I saw the sentiment.