The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, made media waves when he acknowledged he has doubts. In the interview with Lucy Tegg (video above, start at 12:00 minutes in), he candidly says, “There are moments, sure, where you think ‘Is there a God? Where is God?'”
When asked, “Do you ever doubt?”, he replies, “Yes. I do. In lots of different ways really. It’s a very good question. That means I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say. Yes I do.
There are moments, sure, where you think ‘Is there a God? Where is God?’..I love the Psalms, if you look at Psalm 88, that’s full of doubt… The other day I was praying as I was running and I ended up saying to God: ‘Look, this is all very well but isn’t it about time you did something – if you’re there’ – which is probably not what the archbishop of Canterbury should say.”
I remember the media furor on the publication of some letters of Mother Teresa, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. There was huge surprise amongst some at the realisation that she spent nearly the last fifty years of her life without any sensation of God’s presence. To the point of some calling her life hypocritical.
The opposite of faith is not doubt. It is certainty that is the opposite of faith. Fundamentalism, and its certainty, is the problem, whether that is religious fundamentalism/certainty, or the certainty of the fundamentalist antitheist.
Doubt is not only the foundational tool of the scientific method, it is the growing edge of our faith life. Doubt is integral to the too-neglected apophatic approach to faith.
A spirituality that focuses on feelings, or one that pretends that you can pull yourself up to faith by the bootstraps of your own reason, will struggle to last the distance of a full, open, intelligent life.
If you are an atheist, or an agnostic (in the sense that “we cannot know”), let us be honest with each other (over a beer if needs be) that you doubt your atheism, and you your agnosticism, just as we theists have our doubts… There is nothing intrinsically different between humans who commit to religion and those who do not. There is no God Gene. There is only a difference in where we commit.
Recently a thirteen year old asked me, cautiously, if I ever had doubts? “Doubts about what?” I said. “About God, and everything.” “Of course I do”, I laughed. His face lit up. Now we could have a conversation…
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