My Faith in Doubt

By  |  11 Comments

As a child, I was taught that people who did not worship Jesus Christ needed pity. After all, they were going to hell. I myself thought of hell as a place for serial killers and rapists. I had trouble figuring out how someone from across the world, who had never heard of this Jesus before, could be damned for Christ’s denial. And I annoyed adults, proposing scenarios for them to reconsider their ideas about God.

I meant no harm. I really had questions then, quite the way I still do now.

This is not about Jesus, but about the conviction that God or gods do or do not exist in whatever theist or atheist standpoint you hold.  And about what happens if you’re not quite sure. Should you fake conviction, grasping at early religious education to prove it, or do you admit you have no idea?

And does it matter if God exists? If he/she/they do, then isn’t it more about what we do with this life and how we live it, regardless of if it’s our last experience or a test until the next life? It’s a good approach, whether there’s a God or not, so everybody wins.

…God is at the mercy of our wishes or ideas

But it seems to me that God is at the mercy of our wishes or ideas. You need people to behave – God smites the wrongdoers. You need God for love and belonging – God surpasses human prejudice and loves us all. You need to control women, we wrote verses for that, and for homosexuals – even more. It seems as though this God person has less say than we do.

I used to be a polite, non-verbal audience in situations where the more acceptable religious positions were quite loud. I don’t feel the need to campaign. I don’t wish for people to think as I do. I do, however, think it offensive to be bullied into another way of thinking, and my tolerance for it has died.

I am open to there being a God, and I am open to there being none. I strive for honesty, even if unpopular, and I honestly don’t know the answer. I think none of us do. We either cope with or strive for understanding through our own learning process and choices.

When I was in the hospital and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness, I was terrified. There were real moments when the possibility of dying had to be addressed. I always thought my mind would radically change in moments like this, and I can vouch to you they didn’t.

My thoughts were not about God, but just about asking myself if I was pleased with my life so far, my lovely daughter and the man I love. And amidst my cascade of panic, I found peace.

I am less concerned with who and what than how to live

The idea that this beautiful Universe and all the overwhelmingly touching and miraculous experiences within it happen only on a complex, scientific level, mixed with random events does not offend me.  The idea that we are motivated and led by a higher power does not either. I am less concerned with who and what than how to live.

The time for me to voice an opinion came to a fore, after years of being bullied and ridiculed for my usually humble and quiet opinions. The most recent altercation took place with Christian people I knew. I commented that the coloured streaks in my hair would need to be clipped back before my next job at a Muslim wedding.

No one asked me to do this, I simply decided it was a respectful gesture that took no effort on my part as the colour in my hair was quite bright – something you might consider hiding, even for office work. Unprepared was I for the barrage of aggressive feedback.

You don’t believe in anything anyway; you have no say’

If I had a dragon tattooed from shoulder to wrist and were filming a Catholic Church I would wear long sleeves. They disagreed. They vehemently added that “those people” would not change for me, and why should I accommodate them. I was angry and then pissed when they said: “Why does it matter to you? You don’t believe in anything anyway; you have no say”.

And this is the point I am coming to. I think it absurd that I only have the right to an opinion, if it is backed by an authority figure that we are taught to fear. I have a say. And I have the sacred right to be respected the same way believers do. If God exists, my own existence grants me access to that respect.

I have my own beliefs. I don’t preach to those I disagree with. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Even racists. If you think that every person who does not worship your God is going to hell, you are a type of cultural racist. And that’s fine.  It’s your own cross to bear, and certainly not mine.

However, when a belief that is oppressive to others turns into acts of verbal or physical abuse, then it moves from ignorance to just plain out of place and wrong.

The Trinidad & Tobago Newsday published a story, two weeks ago, about an attack on Hindu statues by a neighbour who opposed idol worship.  The attacker stated that no fingers could be pointed at those who “followed God’s commands”. I am incredulous that she was not arrested on site for trespassing and wilful damage to property.

For too long human beings – yes regular people – have been allowed to hide behind their belief systems in justifying violent or offensive acts to others.  What if God told them to burn the temple down with people in it? Would no one question this?

I find it interesting that people can be overtly passionate about what they think to be true, and then attack others in an attempt to convert them. Has it never occurred to them that those people would be as passionate about their beliefs, and try to convert those attacking them?

If I could force myself to believe in God, whole-heartedly, I might. If there is no God then it won’t hurt to believe in one – I may sleep more soundly and have more of what we call faith, when things go awry. Belief, unfortunately, does not work that way. You either do, or you don’t to varying degrees.

Someone I love and respect keeps trying to convert me. For the first time, I delicately offered my point of view. Her defiant discomfort was unsettling. She had zero wish to hear about my “wrong” ideas. I find it interesting how double standards work, how some of us can shout from the mountains, and some of us dare not to.

She then said to me that it was similar with laws and governments. Would I question them? Absolutely I would – if I thought that what they stood for went against my own conscience and common sense.

She keeps trying to save me. Sadly, in a way I wish I could save her too.

Belief and faith are actually quite valuable in human society, once backed with reason, free thought and compassion. It should be noted that there are devout people, who are as intelligent and humble as they are liberal.

If there is a God or gods, my simple hope is that they’re fair, compassionate and as practical and level headed as I think I am. And I hope they are not like many humans, preoccupied mainly with being right. Simply put, this is the strength of my faith in doubt.

 

Image credit: brokentelegraph.com

Jaime Lee Loy

Jaime Lee Loy is a local contemporary artist and published writer of fiction. This single mom founded Trinidad Home Studio Ltd in 2011, offering her services in photography and video. With a genuine interest and past experience in working with NGOs, this single mother steers her creativity towards human-focused projects, and aims to be successful or die trying.

11 Comments

  1. Kwame Weekes

    April 16, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Great piece.

  2. Sherwin

    April 16, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Great ……. Was expecting to see the straight forward realistic points but I like the marginal stance you took …..

  3. Shiva Alexander G

    April 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Very nice article. Thanks for the share.

  4. Nick

    April 17, 2012 at 4:56 am

    Jaime, I get your points clearly and I respect that you have the common sense to leave it be. If someone else’s beliefs are true and they live a good, just and exemplary life there will be no need to “convert” others or to disrespect their free will to believe otherwise. I acknowledge your differentiation “God” and “gods”, so perhaps somewhere in there, maybe your upbringing, you acknowledge a supreme being and I think that’s what also guides your ability to be fair in giving someone else their opinion to choose as well.

    Thanks for this very insightful read.

    Be blessed

  5. Richard Taylor

    April 17, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Woah, this woman is a boss – this is 1 best read, very honest – the simplicity in admitting doubt and being open to understand others – much love and respect for a fellow freethinker.

  6. Jaime Lee Loy

    Jaime Lee Loy

    April 17, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Thanks for the supportive posts everyone! To answer Nick, interestingly enough my direct upbringing should have either made me a terrified religious fanatic or an atheist. Luckily I had other family who were also religious but good people. What saved me was the myriad of experiences I have had, and the wide range of people I have met, grown close to and come to understand. From Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Rastafari followers, Buddhists, New Age thinkers, you name it. And they are all very similar as people, interestingly also by their own personal reasons for having a belief or lack as well.

    I believe there is more to the life we live that is immediately presented to us, but not necessarily a supreme/superior or perfect power that is consciously thinking and planning events – this is just my thinking. What I wish all of us could possess – is for our own personal convictions to be positive and progressive. So not who we believe in as a discussion, but what we believe in and stand for. And added to that, the acceptance that we may even be wrong about the who and the details but that it doesn’t matter if we keep it real and keep it good, which is why I am okay with being wrong too I guess. Thanks for sharing your thoughts as well and everyone else on this post!

  7. Tomekha

    April 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    I share similar sentiments regarding the existence or lack there of of a God… I however am trying to conform (it’s kinda comforting to “KNOW” that there is a “GREATER POWER” out there looking out for you.

    Loved the piece-great writing.

  8. Ashanna

    April 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Hi Jamie. I agree with so much of what you said in this article. Why do some people feel the need to force their beliefs on other people? …….or be destructive to others that don`t share their view? I don`t get it. Thanks for this article. And also thanks for the Superwoman article, I enjoyed that one as well. :)

  9. Jaime Lee Loy

    Jaime Lee Loy

    April 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks everyone!

  10. Ed

    June 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    There’s a quote often misattributed to Marcus Aurelius. It reads:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    That’s pretty, no? I’ve adopted it as my own personal credo.

  11. Pingback: Doubt As Growth | NewTestamentDemocrat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *