My Own Religious Frailty, and Common Ground with Atheists and Agnostics

Photo credit: 2005 Maura Johnston/flickr.

If someone asked me to describe my faith, like giving a State of the Union for the soul, I’d say “don’t call it a State of the Union for the soul because that sounds like you’re elevating the government to a god-like position,” and when the person realized that I was making a dumb joke on purpose, I’d finally answer. Sorry, I’m a little wary to get into this post when it’s all about my own religious doubts. But I’m going to share them because I have a feeling that many of these doubts are universal.


Religious Doubt is Imminent, But It Can Be Navigated

Photo credit: flickr/racineur. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

It begins at a young age. We are trained to hide our doubts. As we grow, this is reinforced by the adoption of labels- Christian, agnostic, atheist, for example. Comfort can be found on both sides of the religious fence. We’re told to keep things simple for ourselves. We’re told to not peek through the hole in the fence at our neighbor’s party, lest we catch a glimpse of his opposing views and be overcome like the incredible melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But doubts persist. Whether as the result of cruelty that crashes into life changing everything in unwelcome ways, questions and desires unanswered, the wear and tear of painful relationships, or consequences from personal mistakes, we doubt ourselves, we doubt God, or spend years trying to figure out who is to blame; questions that float on the rising tide of resentment. While religious doubt varies by the individual, it is a transformative and often grueling process that cannot be solved with a formula, but all is not lost. There is a way through it; a path that can even be nourishing.


When the Holidays Don’t Make Everything Bright

The holidays, it seems, are here in full swing.  Our bodies are working double time to digest the week’s worth of food we ate in one sitting on Thanksgiving, and a few of you have already pushed your way through near fatal crowds attempting to get your hands on the most amazing Black Friday sale. Soon, the trees will be up, the music will play, and the baking will begin.  The holidays are the happiest, most joyful time of the year, right?  At least that is what I hear.

What happens when the holidays leave you feeling hopeless and sad?  What happens when everyone around you could not be more jolly and you are just hoping that January will come already?  What happens when that fake “no really, I love the holidays” smile fades?  I can tell you what happens; the season becomes a very lonely, isolated time of year.


Get well NOW!

I was talking with a friend on the bus ride home about a challenge facing my wife and I (outside of our marraige). He listened, smiled, and only had this to say: “just remember that there are a lot of people out there who are struggling as well.” I thought it was a weird response. But I actually appreciate it now, because he attempted to solve… nothing.

His statement also graceously reminded me of my small place on this large and complicated globe (something easily forgotten when we learn of a threat to our calm and controlled lives). A little context goes a long way. His comment was subtle and authentic, and as I think about it more- very rare.