Doubt

A friend said to me the other day that they were “99.99% sure [God] exists”. They went on to say that “…i have no peace in that knowledge. not because i don’t think it matters… i just don’t want to have anything to do with him right now.” This is a friend with whom I have spent a good deal of time talking about the existence or lack thereof of god, over the last few months. It heartens me to know that they have come to at least some sense of surety on this, but it emphasises to me just quite how much has changed in my own life over the last few years.

I empathise. You see, I don’t want anything to do with god either. I don’t know how to reconcile all my experiences over the last few years with the understanding of god, of faith, that I developed in my young adulthood. I am left hurt and angry by the failure of my marriage, and the part that faith and organised religion played in that. If the god of my prior understanding exists, then I’m pretty pissed off at him…

But, unlike my friend, I can’t claim any surety on the existence of the Divine. Either way in fact.

When I arrived at l’Abri, back in September, I was simply hurt and angry. In many ways, I still am. But over time that hurt and anger has developed into a profound uncertainty. The question of the existence or non-existence of god is one that is ever-present at l’Abri, in lectures and lunch discussions, and late-night conversations. As my weeks there turned into months, I found myself doubting and questioning things I had never questioned before.

I am not at all sure that god exists. All of my prior faith and certainty has boiled away. The structure of my religion was shaken, and the foundations cracked and brought the whole edifice tumbling down. I find it hard to believe in a loving and present God that you can hear and follow, when hearing and following what I believed to be god led me into such a painful mess. It kinda raises some fundamental questions.

But then, I am not at all convinced that god doesn’t exist. The counter arguments, the explanations to our existence that don’t involve some form of Creator, just don’t seem very satisfying. They seem to leave us purposeless, pointless. A statistical aberration, a cosmic accident. They leave real questions when it comes to questions beauty or thankfulness or morality.

So I find myself stuck in the middle. Lost. The compass I used in the past to help me discern the way forward has shattered. I can claim to be neither a purposed created being following an ordained path, nor an animal following nothing but genetic urges. I have to confess that on that most fundamental of philosophic underpinnings I just don’t know

I am sure many people somehow live their lives without ever considering metaphysics, without ever forming an opinion of the basic question of life: why are we here? For many people I am sure it is simply a matter of ‘I exist; the world exists; I have to live in it’. But I don’t find it so easy to know how to live in the world without some sense of the consequences of actions, and the rationality behind decisions. I still think that what we believe about the nature of existence affects, has to affect, the way we chose to live our lives consciously or unconsciously.

I have tried to start series on this blog several times in the past, and to limited success. So, to long-term readers this may seem like another foolish exercise. But I genuinely want to work through some of the questions and uncertainties I have, and these pages seem to be as good a place as any to do so. Time will tell as to whether I am remotely successful at it.

I was going to use the word Agnosticism to head this post, but the mac dictionary defines an agnostic as: “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena” and that definitely does not describe me at the moment. Instead, I have used the word Doubt, which the almighty Wikipedia describes as “a status between belief and disbelief”. I remain truly uncertain as to the nature of reality and the existence of a supreme being. But I don’t think that, at this stage, I feel that the truth cannot be known. Or at least, not known in part.

I am going to journey in uncertainty a while, and explore the way-markers of my doubt – on both sides of this issue. I hope that you will humour me in this, and maybe journey with me for a while.

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One thought on “Doubt

  1. I read this post on the day that it was published and immediately wanted to jump in and comment but it’s taken me this long to decide what i would respond with. I’m still not sure it reflects my thinking but if I didn’t try and get something down now I believe I never would have and I *really* wanted to.

    You know my position on the existence or non-existence of a god and I’m going to try not to go off on one to you about it in this comment because that’s just a waste of time (although debating religion with you was always fun!) and accomplishes nothing. In many ways I feel we were the complete opposites in theology / ideaology when I met you last and interacted with you in a non-written way. You were heavily into your religious ideas and I was starting the process of cementing my completely non-religious bent. Although we are/were opposites on many things I am a big fan of people thinking things out for themselves and making their own mind up about what they believe, regardless if that drives then to religion or away from it.

    I figure that there are many people that you can turn to and talk with that are very religious in your previous social circles but I figured there may not be many people from the complete opposite of the spectrum so maybe my input might be helpful. And even if it is not, at least you will know someone is reading your thoughts and taking the trouble to think about them and comment.

    One of your paragraphs is interesting to me in that in reflects my views but with slightly changed wording. If I may paraphrase you (with wording changed) my feelings are…

    “But then, I am not at all convinced that god does exist. The counter arguments, the explanations to our existence that do involve some form of Creator, just don’t seem very satisfying. They seem to leave us purposeless, pointless.”

    In my personal experience the more I questioned, learned about the world and learned about my personal viewpoint on all of it the more I came to believe that it didn’t matter whether a god existed or not. And from there it didn’t seem like a big jump to start questioning the whole concept of a god and it’s valildity.

    My questioning led me in one direction. I do not know where your questioning will lead you but if you wish to use your blog to work through it then I will be here reading and commenting.

    I may offend you in this next paragraph and I accept whatever the concequences of that offence are.

    In the time I’ve known you I’ve seen you as a man of science, someone who was interested in the way the world works, whose beliefs about god were part of him but not necessarily what defined his every waking moment. Someone who lived rationally and make his own mind up about what he thought about everything. I’ve seen you move away from that to become more interested in ‘god’. Seen it consume you to the point that you restructure your life around that. Seen in my eyes you move away from the rational, scientific, engineering, individualistic style of thinking into a thinking that reflects (in my eyes and possibly the part of this that you’ll find most offensive) a sort of groupthink. A thinking that I percieved not as your individual thoughts about life and god but more a reflection of what I saw as other peoples ideas and beliefs. In your writings above and and some of your earlier posts I start to see glimpses of the man that I first met on the stairs of a shared house in London who offered to help me move in, debated with in the tiny kitchen and became my friend.

    I do not know whether your experiences and thoughts will lead you away from a belief in god or lead you towards a different *type* of belief in god, both of which will be perfectly fine with me. I ultimately favour what I see as the re-appearance of the intelligent man who made his own mind up about stuff.

    Kat. x

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