An Incredulous Creed
Editor’s Note: Chris Highland, Clergy Project member and frequent essayist for the Rational Doubt blog just wrote this creed, encouraged by Mark Rutledge, a previous “creed” writer and me. His creed is different in tone and substance from the other two we’ve recently seen – and why not? Why should we all recite the same creed, like they do in church? Sure, we are all humans living in the same world, but we are individuals, too, with different motives, desires and points of view. Here’s how Chris sees the world.
By Chris Highland
Remember the song with this sappy line?
“I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.”
That’s horse manure.
Except flowers do need rain (and manure). It seems the drama (and droppings) of belief can have seeds of truth, but it takes some cultivated thought to find any green, and therein lies the soiled rub.
It would be good to hear people say more often,
“I don’t give credence to that.”
It shows a rational process is operative. Also,
“Don’t you find that incredible?”
would be a good question to hear more often. So, using reason and the art of questioning would both shape our “I believes” and perhaps eliminate them.
As I see it (but don’t believe it), we have more issues with “credulity” than with creeds. Credulous: too great a readiness to believe something. “I heard it on NPR” can sound like “Rachel Maddow says” or “Sean Hannity thinks” (sic). As we can see, when we’re honest (another major problem with creedal statements), credulity is not only a propensity on the “right” side of things. Ortho-doxy (correct opinion) feeds into RC—Religious Correctness—much more an issue than the so-called PC.
Creeds mean credulity-in-stone and the long tradition of etching “I believes” in our mental cement always—always—leads to “We believe” and then things get messy— except when religious ritual cleans it up, for credulous consumption. We all know that if you ask 10 Christians to explain God or God’s “plan of salvation” you’ll get 11 responses—the flowers wilt but the manure grows.
I simply don’t think in belief-words any longer. My incredulity as an infidel keeps me cautious and alert to my own mental compost as well.
For my weekly Religion Page column in a local USA Today affiliate (you heard that right—a Freethinker writing for a newspaper’s Religion Page, a few columns removed from my neighbor, Billy Graham, and his syndicated sermon), I sometimes interview local clergy to see what they think about nonbelievers. Recently I asked a “nurture” leader in a progressive congregation how she views seculars like me and her answer surprised me. After confiding that one of her kids is an atheist, she said, “We don’t know what people believe” in our church. That’s one of the most refreshingly honest statements I’ve ever heard from a “faith community.”
Therefore, since I don’t use the word “believe” much, I suppose I would say “I Think.”
I think that thinking is more important than believing.
I think we need to question all creeds and practice radical honesty.
I think it doesn’t matter much what I think, unless I can reasonably discuss it with others and hear what they think—to learn to think better.
I think people, faith or no faith, can find ways of working together to solve issues of common concern—I’ve seen it; I’ve done it; it’s possible. “All things are possible to those who [Think – and Act].”
I think we need to look to the thinkers, the scientists and naturalists as the (new and improved) “spiritual teachers” and “saints.” In other words, seek them out for useful knowledge and practical wisdom.
I think the more we learn to appreciate the beauty of this world the more “other worlds” and the creeds of “super-nature” will fade.
I think more secular-minded thinkers need to tell their stories by all means and media at hand.
I think our current Embarrassment-in-Chief is a big – (I think I’ll leave it at that).
I think therefore I am.
Chris Highland teaches courses on Freethought at the UNCA Reuter Center in Asheville, NC and writes a weekly “Highland Views” column for the Asheville, SC Citizen-Times. Check out a list of his published articles here. His wife, Carol, is a Presbyterian minister—what Chris used to be. Check out his website here.
>>Photo credits: François Marchalderivative work: Dana boomer (talk) – Nokota_Horses.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9456234
By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3427848