Monday, September 2, 2013
In the course of a wide ranging conversation with a friend the other day, the issue of belief came up. In spite of this friend's love of discussing God, theology, and their commitment to their Christian religion, they confessed to a rather weak belief. It was easy for them to see the point of view of agnostics. They believed that God was, but wondered at the necessity of this belief.
This struck a chord with me. Belief, specifically belief in God, has always come easily for me on one level, and with difficulty on another. A base level belief in God is impossible for me to dispense with, just because it's there. When I look within myself, I find belief. Having found this, I find all the other reasons that one might believe in the existence of God quite convincing. They line up well with what I already believe about the world. This, of course, leads to the difficulty with my belief, that is, that it's based on inclination more than reason, and therefore I find it difficult to trust. I am vulnerable to persuasions of unbelief, specifically of the dismissal of the God of Abrahamic religions, with his personhood and self-revelation. I flinch away especially from critiques of the existence of God which are based on an appeal to emotion or intuition; after all, that's more or less where my belief begins. I read an account once of a person who lost their belief in God when they went on medication for their bipolar disorder. It became apparent that the moments that they previously counted as contact with God turned out to be the results of emotional manic episodes. How do I know that this could not happen to me, that the right medication wouldn't balance out my emotional life and suddenly my deepest beliefs would just evaporate?
All that to say that if anyone else out there both strives to live a life pleasing to God, while simultaneously doubting his existence, you have some company. It's amazing to me how much doubt and faith co-exist in my life, similar to the simultaneous irritation and love that sometimes co-exist in my marriage. I go about life as a brand-new Catholic, learning more about this tradition, relearning the basics that my parents and my church taught me as a child, and at the exact same time pondering whether any of this has any basis in reality, or, really, is the basis of reality. I wonder at what point you could call both my friend and I optimistic agnostics - people who aren't certain that our reasons can carry us to our belief, but who choose, nevertheless, to live as though God does exist, and the vision of the world that we find so beautiful truly is the basis of reality. Believers without certainty, who nevertheless continue to believe.