I’ve always doubted. I’ve doubted the existence of God, and I’ve doubted the non-existence of God. When I was eight, I couldn’t think of who created God, and since we all must have a creator, this gave me a problem. I resorted to the “illusion” argument. My dolls were real people in my mind, so for a while, I just thought I was in God’s mind. I’d hit myself to see if I was real. I’d ask mom if I was real, and try to imagine if she saw me and heard me, or if she, too, was apart of this evil demon deceiving us.
The atheists might argue that I was destined to not believe in God. But atheism continues to have problems to me (namely, its philosophically problematic to say only that which can be verified scientifically is real as even Ayers, the spokesman and writer for logical positivism for over 50 years, admitted before he died). I understand atheists, but its not for me.
And so doubt is apart of me. Its interesting to me that evangelicals look down on doubt. Doubt is a sign of weakness and lack of faith. Its ungodly. Children are prepped to “defend their faith,” so they will not doubt, yet the children are sheltered from every exploring the ideas that would lead to doubt.
I find doubt not only to be normal, but also a necessary part of meeting the divine. Take Buddhism, for example. The first noble truth is dissatisfaction. Its the awareness that all happiness is constantly changing and is momentary, and the awareness that our suffering is producing a dissatisfaction and anxiety. In essence, this is saying that the first step in becoming a buddha is to doubt the purpose in mortality and life. Also, as we learn, we must “know thy self.” This is a journey wherein doubt is the key component. The process where we say “this isn’t me.” My name? That’s not me. My career? That’s not me. And we take all those labels and reject that. Its the process where everything around us is to be doubted because it is finite, because everything around us is temporary, where every symbols around us, because they are finite, are not helpful in knowing the true, immortal infinite consciousness. Doubt is necessary.
And why is doubt different in Christianity? According to the late philosopher and theologian Tillich, it is not. For we live in the same world as the Buddhists, and that is, in a finite world. My body and my brain are finite. There will be a day when even my stored memories will be no more. Even our symbols are finite. In critical theory and philosophy, critics have long debated the role symbols play. Augustine and later Dante would argue that the arts were closer to the divine being, the logos, as Augustine said. Plato saw this world as an illusion, more like a painting of the real world. The imagination played the role in understanding the divine. Its the sense that perhaps a work like Narnia helps us understand what its like to be children of God more than any theological sermon. Even the Bible itself uses symbols to talk about heaven and hell. Fundamamentals assume these are literal realities, but how could God explain the infinite in finite terms? He had to use symbols.
And yet, we all know that symbols themselves are finite, as the 19th century linguistics finally came to admit. And in the process of seeking and grasping for the infinite, in the process of being finite, with a finite brain, and finite symbols, the Christian must first doubt himself, must first wrestle and come to terms with his or her humanness.
Is it all futile? Is there, then, no hope for the infinite? Agnosticism has taken many days of my life, but I somehow always end back in faith. The Buddhist finds the infinite through mediation, the thinking of nothing at all, because all else is plagued in finiteness; the Buddhist hopes that somehow, in some future life, the infinite will be known. The Christian finds the infinite through prayer because its the infinite spirit and the infinite God that meet. For some people, this is enough to erase all doubt. For others, its an awakening hope.
What about you? Do you see a problem with doubt? Do you doubt?