From The Archive: WWITTMYLYF?

From The Archive: WWITTMYLYF? June 24, 2009

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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