“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.” Tim Keller
Standing beside my Goliath, all I had at my disposal were the same two weapons: a curious (but limited) intellect, and prayer.
I remember during one of my periods of turmoil being at work, trying to distract myself with my duties, and finally crying out to God in my mind, “Please help me figure this out, I don’t know what to do! I don’t want to be scared all the time, but that’s what it feels like right now, how do I escape?”
The thought came to me that I needed to seek. And not just seek out those who I knew already agreed with me, but seek out the roughest, toughest, bunch of skeptics I could find so that I would know, really know, that I had at least tried to understand what the “other side” was about. I couldn’t try to protect myself with selective listening, because I knew I would only be burying myself deeper in denial and distancing myself from the world, and that is not the kind of faith that was authentic to me.
So I read, and read, and found websites or books that presented one position, then found what I thought was a well-constructed argument against it. And I spent a lot of time thinking. I didn’t always make big changes in my beliefs in a single setting; usually it was some small detail that I later had to circle back to years later to re-explore, adapt or rearrange. Mostly it wasn’t that a new element was added, but a room was made bigger for ideas to better flow through. The biggest alterations were walls that were taken out that I had come to decide didn’t belong in the first place.
Ultimately the architecture of my faith has not only remained, but been improved by facing my Goliath, who I no longer identify as a single entity such as “atheism” or “science,” but by his real name: Fear.
There are so many points I wanted to make with this post that it has been hard for me to narrow myself down to a conclusion. Chastise believers because I think they’ve alienated an entire community by defending a very specific, predetermined perspective? Challenge the atheist community who likes to use this specific position as a straw man to undermine all of theism?
How about neither? At least one of my points is that we need to quit accusing large groups of people based on a label, because what you believe shouldn’t define how you believe. The more I interact with thinkers different than myself, the more I realize that we stop hearing each other as soon as we think we know the why behind someone believing what they do (because admit it, it usually isn’t a sterling motive we’re assigning them).
On the flip side, in the aftermath of debates between figures like Bill Nye and Ken Ham, men who embody two very specific belief systems, I saw this debate used an opportunity to protect what we think we already know instead of keeping an open mind to learning what maybe we don’t. And since I do not consider that a debate, but a stage for a melodrama, that is why I chose not to watch.