If we live in a world where we have to doubt, where we can’t prove our reason for existence, we all choose to believe in something. We can be active or passive about understanding our beliefs, but they’re there. They inform our decisions and priorities because they are the filters by which we sift all of our options and directions and then make choices.
Western culture and language seem to make out religious faith as the only real belief system, that everyone else is going off of facts and the religious types are the mystics, the ones trusting stories and systems of tradition, philosophy and experience. The truth is we’re all guessing when it comes to big concepts like existence and afterlife, because no one actually knows.
This should be a scary concept, but for some reason this has helped me. If I walked away from my Christian faith I wouldn’t be walking from faith to fact, I would be walking from faith to faith.
In the Jewish Prayer book I read their 13 statements of faith every day. I read them even when I don’t believe them completely. I say them in hope that one day those statements will enter my mind and not be bullied around and kicked out by the battling doubts, but then sometimes I feel like I’m just brainwashing myself. Is that possible?
I don’t want to believe there is no hope in this world, but I’m also not the type of person who can pretend I believe when I don’t understand. I can’t fool my heart into thinking something it doesn’t, but I sort of wish I could. I don’t want to accept that we’re all just molecules and atoms and there is no greater purpose, but sometimes God and His Bible make it really hard to believe, He keeps refusing my request to flash a peace sign in the sky just for a moment, to relieve all our doubts and questions.
I asked Rabbi Yehoshua how he was able to come to a place where he could believe God was there and good. With all the contradictory and confusing narratives that we have to explain away in the Bible, how does one come to the place of belief in spite of a lack of clarity. He said something like, "I got older and I gained perspective. I used to see things more starkly, but I have experienced a lot of good and blessing in my life, things I feel I’m not responsible for myself and I can attribute that to God. From there, I can then recognize my own fallibility and trust that God knows. I have to decide for myself if I want to live in a world that is God centered. Then I can align with God’s will and choose to be limited by his law, see my recourses as God given, live with the discomfort of the unknown and move forward. If we can come to a place of accepting God as good in the overarching story of redemption then the rest can lie in the unknown as we accept that we live in world that is extremely broken.”
He has this brilliantly fine balance of choosing a definitive belief, and having the humility to accept that it’s just that – belief.
So for me, I’ll keep moving forward to try and believe. Sometimes though, I think I’m just not being completely honest with myself. I desire to have the peace that comes with the knowledge that the world is centered on a good God and a hope of redemption, so much so that I’m at the risk of being a fool to religion. Am I so desperate for hope that I’ll accept anything that provides it? Am I too weak to handle what I really believe, that it’s all meaningless? Or do I want to believe because I’m a piece of it, because I’m a shred of the Godliness that is creation and my whole self cries for the redemption that is the expectation of my very being? Is there something inherently in me that groans with the grief of falleness, that innately knows somewhere in my soul that this is not the way it was meant to be, that in fact - there must be more.