Can I reveal a little known fact about Christians? Not all of us who go to church have this matter of faith cut and dry. I suspect that this may also be the case for some who belong to other religions.
So-called people of faith are not required to leave common sense at the door when they come to worship in the temple, synagogue, mosque, meeting house, or church. Nor are they expected to blindly accept doctrines that insult their intelligence or that don’t resonate with where they are in real life.
Those who assume that this is a prerequisite for religious adherence are losing the sense of the spiritual path, which is exploring meaning within a given framework and with reference to a particular background of sacred texts, revelation, history, wisdom, and tradition. None of this comes in a neat package for next day delivery.
Religious adherence is a reality of varying intensity for hundreds of millions of people and the world is a richer place when respect for different points of view is part of the fabric of a nation or community.
To occupy such a position is not, in my opinion, to compromise or deny one’s beliefs. Whether comfortably exploring a life of faith or struggling to make sense of it, a mature approach to spiritual growth allows our uncertainties to be filed away in a figurative drawer that English theologian Dr. Leslie Weatherhead once called “Waiting for more light.”
Human beings have a fundamental and enduring need to seek answers to life’s great questions. Supported by a community of faith and the rituals that give it identity, the inner self can be nurtured to help resist much of what life throws at us.
If this search is carried out outside of traditional structures, the comfort that comes from relaxing in the mystery of God without doctrinal overlap is an option that many choose to pursue.
Even for those deeply committed to religious life, the element of doubt – the apparent absence of God and the consequent demolition of faith – can be an understandable and credible response to life’s tragedies, illnesses, or pains. Doubt reminds us of the fragility of spiritual life, but it can also be the catalyst for constructive questioning and liberating visions.
For the most part, being born into a particular belief system is a matter of random selection. This raises its own questions for reflection on divine purpose, interfaith relationships, and the respect and goodwill that could and should exist between people who, from different perspectives, seek meaning, peace, and fulfillment in their lives.
Jim Pilmer is an Anglican priest.