From The Archive: WWITTMYLYF?

The title of this post isn’t an abbreviation for something rude. It is an abbreviation for a question that I was asked some time ago and which I think it is important to ask, at least as a mental and spiritual exercise, since it can tell us a lot about what we really believe, what is most important to us, and on what basis we believe as we do. What would it take to make you lose your faith?

For me, this question is a different one from “What would it take to make you stop being a Christian?” and many other alternative but important questions one could ask. I am as open as I can be to revising my beliefs in light of new evidence. Those are mere dogmas, metaphors we use to point to the divine, and I am already assuming that they are at best inadequate.

The full version of the question includes a time machine. You can travel back in time, babel fish in your ear so you can understand what is going on, temporal Google on your computer to locate people, places, etc. in time and space. What could you imagine yourself seeing that would radically change your mind about important religious beliefs? What if anything would change your faith altogether?

For me, nothing I might see in the first century would be likely to change my mind radically – unless Jesus turned out to really have walked around talking like he does in John’s Gospel, in which case I might become a fundamentalist. The only exception would be if I found the earliest Christians or Jesus himself doing things that were morally reprehensible. But even that would only affect my committment to the Christian tradition. As far as my faith in God more generally, it would be shaken if I could go to the end of time and see that nothing from our universe survived – I don’t mean me as an individual, I mean nothing whatsoever survived, not even on some other level or plane of existence. That, I think, would challenge my faith at its core, because it would suggest that nothing of what we do matters in the long run, and that even God does not survive.

Since, however, I am skeptical about whether time travel is possible (although it is certainly possible to get to the future by travelling at close to the speed of light), I will not let this scenario trouble me too much for the time being. It is, however, I think, a useful activity to ask this sort of question and see how one would answer it, being as honest about the matter as you can. I welcome anyone reading this to try it and to post their own answers as comments.

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  • I'd go back to investigate two things for which there are only private witnesses:1. Moses' encounters with God during the Exodus journey.2. Jesus' tomb from Good Friday till Easter morning.If I discovered that Moses was a con man, or that Jesus' tomb was pillaged, those would be deal breakers for me.

  • KCharles

    In my own private journey back in time, I would lose my faith if I saw that Jesus allowed his Disciples to pass around a collection plate to support his ministry.

  • Personally, I don't respect those who hold a "secret" or "special" knowledge, whether that be some "religious revelation", or "political position". And WOE be to those who live under the tyranny of the two combined!!!

  • Before you can ask the question "What would it take to make you stop being a Christian?", you must define what it makes to be a Christian.

  • Mr. Wilker,Ever since the Christians split from Judiasm, and the Protestants split from Catholocism, that is the million dollar question, as each sect defines that differently. What "should" a Christian be is a different question. But, I don't especially find that a "Christian" so defined is any different from any other ethical person. Any human being can be compliant with the "social contract" in upholding just relations. This is why a balance of power and social contract is an important value for any person to embrace.

  • As a resident atheist, I can imagine the WWITTCYTHF? (What would it take to cause you to have faith?)I am working on that. Ironically, Jim seems to require a very high level of certainty to dislodge the level of uncertainty he is willing to endure in his faith journey. Can I be had for a mere "beyond reasonable doubt"? I think I am holding out for "Clear and convincing evidence."

  • KCharles

    I have always been uncomfortable when asked if I was a “Christian.”I think of the term as referring to someone who is willing to give his or her life for someone else. Sometimes when asked, I open my wallet and display the back of my drivers license. Attached to it is a sticker: “Organ Donor.” Would Jesus have donated a kidney to Lazarus, to prevent him for dying, the first time? Christian.

  • A "Christian" label is nothing other than conforming to the "norms" of the community that one chooses (passively or conciously) to belong to. Hopefully, one comes to choose conciously what and where one's commitments will be. Otherwise, there is a mindless conforming that is nothing more than a "pack" mentality.So, the question is, "do I want to be identified with these people", as these people stand for, uphold, support and demonstrate in their lives what is of utmost importance to me…what I value and think is ultimate. It is hard to commit to that which is not defined in one's mind, as far as I am concerned.