Thursday, February 18, 2010

What I'm not sure about

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. :)

19 comments:

Roland said...

First!

babesbum said...

Hey you'll probably catch some heat over this one but I'm with you 100%. Love, Dad

Roland said...

Michael, people who blindly believe and never question or think about this stuff don't have the solid basis for their faith that you have.

Redlefty said...

Thanks, Roland!

Dad, thanks for the heads up. :) I'm sure not trying to offend anybody and I'm comfortable talking about what I don't know. If my salvation depends on my absolute sureness in proper doctrine, that's far shakier than I think God intended!

Andrew said...

Excellent! and I am with you on every one of these points.

I heard Bart Campolo once talk about similar points and I liked how he interpreted his "faith". He said something like - "If faith is being sure of what we hope for, then I am a man of Faith because I know what I hope for... I hope for an entirely loving God who is going to save us all."

Nowadays, that is my faith... but I could be wrong....

RedWifey said...

Michael, you so crazy! I'm glad I had yo' baby! :)

[song lyrics adapted]

Bruce said...

Great post Michael.

That's all I can say, great post.

Debby said...

I guess that I will never believe, not for an instant, that I have ALL the answers. I actually don't believe that any of us are supposed to believe that we have all the answers. People that believe that they have all the answers are generally pretty stupid people.

Tit for Tat said...

Hmmmmmmm, Im not so sure........well, maybe. Yeah, good post.

John Shore said...

Great post. Bummer that it means you have to spend eternity frying in hell.

Mel said...

Great post! I found your blog during a day of blog hopping and I think it is fantastic.
I've had every thought that you have pointed out at one time or another (even now), and it is so refreshing to know that their are other people that think the same things.
Do you mind if I link to your post?

Redlefty said...

Go for it, Mel!

Hey John, at least if I'm going to hell, my years spent in south Texas have somewhat prepared me for the weather.

Bruce, great to hear from you! Since you ended your own blog I have wondered how you're doing and am glad to see you again.

And to everyone else, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I can feel the writing barriers lifting and it's very cool to see you jump back into the discussion.

Don said...

Michael- You have expressed exactly how I have felt since starting this journey some five years ago. If I am where I was this time last year, I'm stagnant! I am unmoving. And, I'm not sure about much, for sure........

MamaRose said...

Well, I'm (Your Mother) 'one of those' who's NOT QUITE SURE HOW to 'take' this one--BUT, I'm VERY GLAD you're questioning & STILL SEARCHING for God & 'things ETERNAL'!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NONE of us (humans) will EVER 'know it all'--even be ABLE to UNDERSTAND it all--because as God tells us in His Word--HIS MIND IS NOT LIKE OURS & WE CAN'T IMAGINE HOW HE THINKS!!!!!!!!!!!--paraphrased, of course, there.....

It's a 'GOOD THING' for us to STUDY GOD'S WORD & try to LEARN/KNOW as much as we can--and, as we study/read it, we MAY 'change our minds' about WHAT we exactly BELIEVE--which is called 'GROWING', I think--so, that's OK & GOOD!!!!!!!!!

As far as MY, personal FAITH goes:
I BELIEVE IN GOD & HEAVEN & HELL & I BELIEVE that JESUS came to Earth & LIVED a PERFECT LIFE, and GAVE HIS LIFE TO SAVE ALL THOSE WHO WOULD BELIEVE IN HIM/TAKE HIS GIFT!

MY FAITH is based on what I've read in God's Word & also what I've seen & learned & experienced here on Earth during my 57 years.

The other thing I'm thinking of, right now, is that statement about--IF I HAPPEN to be 'wrong' & there's NO GOD OR HEAVEN OR HELL, I've STILL LIVED A VERY "GOOD" LIFE HERE--BUT, IF THERE IS A GOD & A HEAVEN & HELL--the Atheist & some others are going to be VERY SHOCKED & 'wrong' & LOST, ETERNALLY--HOW VERY SAD!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, really WHICH IS SMARTER????!!!!

AND, for SOME folks, there's NOTHING I/you/WE could say/tell them to HELP/'make' THEM BELIEVE/HAVE FAITH IN GOD, HEAVEN & HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!! VERY SAD!!!!!
Because, THEY HAVE made up THEIR minds & don't plan on changing them--which, inately means THEY BELIEVE, without a shadow of a DOUBT, that they're 'RIGHT', RIGHT?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was 'raised'/taught NOT to DOUBT, but, now, I BELIEVE it is & CAN BE a VERY GOOD 'THING'--REALLY GOOD POST, Son!!!!!!!!! LOVE YOU BUNCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Your Mom

MamaRose said...

Just saw TODAY that my Bible Verse FOR yesterday was Psalm 27: 4 - 5 & in the MIDDLE of it, it says:

"AND TO INQUIRE IN HIS TEMPLE"--talking about what David DESIRED of GOD--so, HE HAD QUESTIONS WAY BACK THEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LOVE YOU, Mom

Old Pete said...

Michael
Glad to see you blogging again.
I'm now 74 and I've recently finished documenting some of the story of my journey. I finally decided in June last year that I could no longer attend church (although I still take my wife).

After being forced to reconsider just about everything I had ever believed (for the second time) I've had some 15 years (when I have not been employed) to think about it.

I have come to the conclusion that there is an enormous difference between the Christian RELIGION and the Christian FAITH.

It was in 1998 that I suddenly became aware of the FREEDOM AND LIBERATION FROM THE SLAVERY OF LEGALISM.

There is a link to my web site on my blog

Don said...

Michael- Thanks for commenting on my blog post. In reference to Job, here's a link about it:

http://www.youtube.com/user/livingthequestions#p/u/4/9Sr7eLwarkE

Apparently you and I aren't the only ones who see a disconnect in this area. Borg is one of my favorite authors. When you get to the site, chose the: "Existence of Evil" video on the right. You might find several of these most interesting.

Elissa said...

Yes, yes, yes! I've thought all these things. I'm new to your blog, so I may be asking a been-there-done-that question. Have you read any of Bart Ehrman's books, like Jesus Interrupted? I'm struggling with the question: is-Jesus-human-or-divine-or-both?...yeah, and I know that one's controversial! LOL.
Thanks for asking the questions!

Redlefty said...

Elissa, I've read excerpts but have not yet dived in to Bart's work.

And I've certainly had the same doubts/thoughts about Jesus. Honestly, I don't know how I used to read the resurrection stories in the gospels, with their inconsistencies, and not doubt.

But in the end it's not a big issue for me because my walk is modeled more on following Jesus' example, not worshipping a metaphysical idea!

Thanks so much for stopping by!