Faith, Intellectualism, and Doubt

On seeking with an open heart

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have struggled with being a person of faith for as long as I can remember. I have always been a doubter. I remember when I was a child learning about the life of Jesus, I was full of questions about learning lessons about God from a book that was so old. I asked my mother one day “What if we learn some day that these are just stories, and that Jesus wasn’t a real person?” There wasn’t any real evidence to prove that he existed, so how could I possibly believe in this person as a deity?

My memory of that exchange is a little foggy, as I was only about seven years old at the time. But her response was something like it’s the stories that are important, and these stories about this person have lessons for us to learn from and to model ourselves after, and faith wasn’t about being sure. In a nutshell, my mom’s answer was that faith is not about knowing. Thus began my life in paradoxology.

I’m just as confused now as I was then at that answer, and I probably will be trying to figure it out for the rest of my life. The result of this confusion in the reality of the world now is that when I go to any kind of worship I feel like an impostor because I still don’t know with any certainty what this entity that I pray to really is. I am still full of doubt and questions, while I perceive those around me full of certainty and conviction of what they know about God.

Equally confusing are my atheist friends who hold their non-belief with such conviction that they judge people of faith as ignorant. They think that one cannot be an intellectual and a person of faith. In this context, too, I have felt like an imposter because I am on a spiritual path.

What do I believe? I just don’t know…and then I remember that faith isn’t about knowing with certainty. Faith is about not knowing, and intellectual curiosity is about being open to learn. Faith and intellectual curiosity are about seeking with an open heart. I hold both with equal weight, one informing the other in constant symbiosis.

Perhaps symbiosis is a helpful way to think about people who are seemingly different from us. Instead of dismissing and shutting people out because we assume we can’t relate to their beliefs, perhaps we can grow by always seeking to understand the other with an open heart.

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