In the midst of this season, I’ve discovered something surprising: I’m a skeptic. I never really considered myself one, because I also consider myself a Christian. But, as a scientist, I’m just can’t wrap my mind around some of the things Christians are supposed to believe in. I’ve reflected on my faith time and time again in my life, and each time I find myself in the same place, but different. I consider this growth to be much like a spiral motion – with each turn of doubt, I find myself believing again, but on a different (hopefully higher) level than before. For the record, here’s where I am now:
I believe there is some sort of presence, or God, which permeates everything in the universe. I believe this being gives us strength for doing good. I believe that a man named Jesus taught us what it meant to worship/respect/love God, and I believe in most of his teachings as recorded in the Gospels, especially those encompassed by the Beatitudes. I believe that this man, by preaching the importance of God over country, was crucified by the Roman authorities on a cross, as were other prophets of the time, likely including many women; they just didn’t get the same press.
I believe in putting this credo above all other desires in my life (career success, material items, other types of personal gain). I believe maintaining this focus helps me to be a more centered and happy person. I believe that I suck at maintaining this focus, and that I need help from whatever type of spiritual force is out there to achieve this goal. For me, this means going to church, participating in its ministries, tithing, praying/meditating/yoga-ing, and talking about what I believe (i.e. witnessing*).
Okay, so with all that believing, exactly how can I call myself a skeptic? Well, I do not believe in immaculate conception. I don’t believe Jesus actually turned water to wine without some grapes and time. I don’t believe he rose Lazarus from the dead, walked on water, or healed a leper.** I have an incredibly difficult time in believing that Jesus never got laid.*** I do not believe Jesus was raised from the dead, at least not in body. Furthermore, I do not believe that subscribing to any of these ideas is necessary to get into heaven/be forgiven/be “saved”/live a good and righteous life/be a moral person/get rich/whatever the fuck else people want to use to oppress others.
I also have no idea what the spiritual force that I refer to as God is. I have no idea if this force will someday be explained by science, or if it will always be beyond our realm of understanding. I have no idea if we were created “in the likeness” of that force, beyond our capacity to love and care for others. I don’t know if that force is all-powerful or simply a gentle movement that opens our eyes when our souls sit still. I don’t know if there’s a heaven, at least not in the sense that mere mortals could ever understand, and I don’t think we need one to live by Jesus’ teachings. Moreover, I think defining God in such narrow terms limits our understanding of whatever kind of “power” God exerts over our lives and our world.
There are some Christians out there who would say I’m not a Christian because of my skepticism. There are some scientists who think I can’t be a great scientist, simply because I believe in something beyond what I can explain in a test tube. These individuals are rare, almost as rare as those on either end of Dawkins’ scale of theistic belief. But they’re vocal and rude, and I’m sick and tired of them getting all the air time. Nobody has ownership over my beliefs or my intellect, just as nobody has ownership of God or Science. I doubt, but I also believe. And I have no problem with that dichotomy.
So tonight we’ll take Monkey to the early children’s Christmas service at my parents’ church. Hubby and I will read the creche story from the Gospel of Matthew to Monkey at bedtime, followed by ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Tomorrow we’ll open presents, dine with family, and say thank you to God for all the blessings in our life. We’ll let our hearts soak in all the different meanings this holiday season engenders, and I won’t talk too much about my doubts. Because they don’t really matter – not to me or my family. And probably not to “God”.
*For the record, witnessing is NOT telling someone else what they should believe, and it is not talking about what you believe with condescension. It’s giving an unbiased recording of what you “see”.
**FWIW, neither do the Synoptic Gospels.
***A bunch of Bible-thumpers just felt a disturbance in the force and will be here shortly with their pitchforks.