This week I visited some blogs with great conversations on the topic of doubt. It's amazingly polarized among the commenters on those sites. Some people think that skepticism is a good thing, while others feel that a good Christian walk leaves no room for vagueness (sometimes quoting Paul that "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see").*
And as my dad and I recently discussed, this polarization isn't limited to religion -- there has been quite a lot of drama lately on the topic of global warming. Many people just know it's a sham, regardless of the data. Others know global warming is real and deadly, even if the newest data shows otherwise. The doubters who haven't picked a side are surely out there, but they're so quiet it's easy to assume they don't exist at all.
But we do exist! My name is Michael, and I'm a doubter.
So, not to shock you all into a coma, but here are some things I'm not sure about:
#1 -- I'm not sure God even exists at all
He supposedly did all kinds of miracles and supernatural coolness thousands of years ago, but unfortunately that era passed before videotape technology. And we don't have a single recorded event in modern history where someone irrefutably performed a miracle in God's name.
Supposedly He can heal people even today, but Christian death rates from cancer and heart disease are identical to non-Christians... so if He can save those who pray to him, why isn't He doing it? We all seem to know someone who made an amazing recovery from a serious illness after a time of prayer, but those are anecdotes. The data shows that non-praying people make amazing recoveries just as often.
Since I cannot definitely prove God exists, I must admit there is a shred of uncertainty in my faith. I'm just not sure.
#2 -- If God exists, I'm not sure I'm worshipping the right one
Look at human history and notice how many different gods have been named, praised and defended. There are thousands (millions when you include Hinduism). Is it possible that Christianity has it right? Yes, but the odds aren't overwhelming in our favor.
Even within Christianity, there are so many different perceptions of God. Benevolent father, vengeful deity, distant superpower... some Christians think God is just a big pile of love and others think God intentionally leveled Haiti with an earthquake to punish them for sin. That's a wide, wide range.
Is it possible that I won the lottery and was born into the denomination that got it right about God's true being? Yes, but the odds are overwhelmingly against it.
So I'm not sure that my God is actually the God.
#3 -- I'm not sure what happens after we die
At least in the first two points, even though there's a lack of proof we can still make a case for God based on experiential and circumstantial evidences. On the topic of heaven/hell, though, it's all conjecture. Every religion has a different idea on what happens, and many of them have adherents with an NDE (near-death experience) who shared what the afterlife is like. Amazingly, their NDE usually matches their preconceived idea of heaven or hell.
So I can freely admit I really can't prove if there is an afterlife. And if there is one, what it's like, or if you and I are going there. I'm just not sure
Where to go from here?
As I said at the start of this post, some people just know they are right about things. I don't have a problem with that, even if they change their mind later and know the exact opposite of their earlier stance (trace the life of Saul/Paul in the New Testament). These people are often the productive backbone of many trends and movements, both good and bad. They get things done because they don't get delayed by doubt!
I, on the other hand, always have that voice in the back of my mind that tells me I could be wrong. This is good in a way because it can bring humility and openness to new ideas. But the downside is that I'm sometimes slow to take action, and I can infuriate people who want to pin me down and find out what I know. It's like pinning jello to a wall.
And even though I'm not sure about much, I still have faith.
I believe God does exist.
I believe that Christianity, and my denomination, have hit on some good and accurate portrayals of who God is.
I believe that this life is only one step in an eternal adventure, and that most of us will be blown away with how good this whole universe thing is shaping up.
But I'm not sure.
*Hebrews 11:1, and yes, I realize that Paul isn't confirmed as the author of that letter. But c'mon, have you read it? It's Paul. :)