Monday, November 10, 2008
My Name is Charles North, and I am a Doubter!
Religiously speaking, I doubt a lot. My mind is riddled with uncertainty. Maybe it's just my personality type or my analytical training. I used to think that I was alone in my uncertainty, and that sharing my doubts would label me as weak, unfaithful, or even ignorant. I also thought that sharing my doubts would hurt the faith of those who looked to me for answers and certainty. I've discovered, however, that if you ask people in an honest moment, just about everyone has doubts. And I'm not just talking about passing moments of “I wonder if . . ?” I'm talking about deep and prolonged doubts. Recurring doubts that keep you up at night. Since Christians rarely speak of doubt we feel that expressing it is somehow unfit for proper (religious) company. So we stew on it and think we are alone - strange or odd or different, even to the point of deviance.
I've become convinced that sharing doubts is very therapeutic. Ironically, sharing doubts promotes deeper faith. My eyes were opened to this a few years ago when I was talking to a High School Senior (a very bright kid) about religion and the problem of evil in the world. I shared my doubts with this kid. A few days later I got an email from the kid, and he had this to say, “I have been struggling with church for some time, but talking to you opened my eyes. I have never heard a minister admit to doubting God. But hearing you made me realize that it is okay to doubt and that I fit in at church.”
I want to de-pathologize doubt. I want us to speak more openly about our doubts. I think it is healthy to know you are not alone. Here are specific things I have doubted or still doubt. What about you? Is this healthy?
I've doubted that God exists.
I've doubted that God really cares and works in the world.
I've doubted that prayers make any difference.
I've doubted that there is a heaven after death.
I’ve doubted that there is a literal place called “hell.”
I’ve doubted that the Bible is “inspired.”
I’ve doubted that the church is capable of forgiveness.
I’ve doubted love.
I’ve doubted the “stories” of the Old Testament.
I’ve doubted my own “goodness.”
I’ve doubted the value of “truth.”