Confessions of a Doubter III

(Read part I) (Read part II)

Up until this point I haven’t spelled out exactly what it is that I’m doubtful of. I’m not just talking about religious/spiritual faith; scepticism is my primal response to virtually all experience and information. Until recently, I attributed my doubt to specific intellectual and emotional issues, not just with God and spirituality, but also the self, the brain, the mind, and reality (you know, all that pretentious stuff that humans have wondered about since forever). I’ve found that as I’ve worked through many of these issues, doubt persists.

I suspect that faith (religiously informed or not) is a lens through which we all interpret everything and if that lens becomes coloured by doubt then that in turn affects our receptivity to all information, experience and the forces of persuasion that pull on us all. I’d say that my experience of doubt is not a concentrated thing, but a mode of operating in the world. Rather than scanning for evidence to reinforce what I think and how I live, I’m scanning for holes.

Doubt pervades. Distrusting what you think, if you sit in it long enough, leads to distrusting your distrust which leaves you stuck. “This is what I think is true, but what if I’m wrong? What if it’s just a construct in my brain? What if I’m just a product of my circumstances? Wouldn’t I be happier if I just committed to my own relative truth? What if I’m just using religion to medicate my need to be right? And I don’t want anyone trying to persuade me because I’m trying to clear my head and find truth… But, of course, I’m being persuaded all the time by a hundred different things because that’s how humanity operates. And, of course, something is going to have to convince me about something otherwise I’ll stagnate and what am I if not a believing creature?” etc. etc. etc.

See my point? Stuck.

But also not.

what are we if not believing creatures? We’re driven by belief. If I can experience such intense doubt it at least demonstrates that I’m concerned about truth. And if this concern is inbuilt then it seems impossible that I would remain in a state of generalised disbelief. I’m a doubter, and that imperatively means that I’m a believer.

Finally and frankly, I can’t get away from the gospel. It exposes a need in the world that I can’t find better terms for. It articulates an ambiguous yet acute distortion with brutal honesty. But it also provides something unexpected, elusive and captivating in the hope it extends to me.

Despite my best attempts to be an unbeliever I haven’t managed to navigate around the gospel. It just keeps stretching out before me. I could go into detail about my specific doubts over the years and how I’ve overcome them, but at the end of the day it’s because of God that I’m a Christian. The God I read about in the gospels doesn’t need me to take the initiative, He knows I can’t, I don’t have the reach. I believe in a God who has taken the initiative with me and is still pursuing me.

Someone dear to me recently wrote, “I’m learning to love my questions, and feel loved in them.” I’m aiming for that. To continue existing as a believing creature but to conduct my investigation in awe, hope and connection, rather than fear, trepidation and secrecy.

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