Doubt is common, even Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has expressed doubt. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29255318
Doubt is also uncomfortable, but members of all religions have periods when they lose their God. It’s often after the death of a loved one that we wonder why our prayers were not answered and begin to question the whole basis of our faith.
If you are having doubts, fear not, you have plenty of company: Mother Teresa lived the last fifty years of her life mourning the loss of her faith, saying, “I felt no presence of God whatsoever.” http://blogs.dailynews.com/friendlyfire/2007/08/30/mother-teresas-crisis-of-faith/
How did you become a doubter?
Firstly, you adopted a belief. Exactly what is a belief?
It’s a piece of information that you have chosen to accept as true. Some people believe that man did not land on the moon in 1969. That is their choice.
People choosing to believe in something does not make it true. I used to believe that coffee was improved by two spoonfuls of sugar, now one crystal of sugar ruins it for me.
A belief is often just a choice and it can change. Some very famous people have publicly changed their beliefs – e.g. Mohammed Ali and Tony Blair.
Next, somehow, your belief grew into a faith.
Exactly what is a faith?
It is an unquestioned belief; a conviction that is not required to be substantiated by any evidence. That’s why the word ‘faith’ is often preceded by the word ‘blind’.
Most of us have the same faith as our parents. Is this a coincidence or are we just following an influential example? When I say I’m having a shave, my 2 year old daughter* says, “I need to have a shave!” Few of us realise the power we have over the young; humans are apes and we learn by aping.
On Channel 4 in 2009, Rowan Williams (then C of E Archbishop of Canterbury), Vincent Nichols (then RC Archbishop of Westminster), Tariq Ramadan (Muslim theologian), Jonathan Sacks (then Chief Rabbi) and Sadhu Paramtattvadas (a leading Hindu) were all asked the question:
‘How do you know there is a god?’
None of them produced anything resembling evidence and Sadhu said memorably,
“It’s faith. It really is as simple and as powerful as that.”
I say, “Powerful?”
Is the absence of evidence a powerful position or a weak one? What do you think?
Anyone who would like to examine their beliefs is welcome to join Ask an Atheist on the Atheist Alliance International Youtube channel Saturday at 11:00 UK, 22:00 Sydney and all time zones in between. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqyZa-PAPMzTU21xufNpf_g
Historian Chris Atlee and I will do our best to answer your questions. This week we are focussing on The Commandments.
If you would like to submit a question in advance just email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
* this was written in 2011. That daughter is now bigger than her mum!
Image by Sebastian