Blind, brittle, broken faith

There’s an odd tendency within many Christian communities to shield themselves–and more importantly, their children–from outside influences. They reaffirm their faith by dealing only with other people who believe as they do, which makes sense in a way, because if you never heard a dissenting opinion you will likely never question that faith–at most, questions will lead to rationalisations of what one already believes. So one’s faith will become increasingly unwavering.

The problem with such things is the same as the goal–an unyielding faith.  It can be hard to damage something that won’t bend, but when it does occur, it can shatter spectacularly. I don’t say this as an abstract, because I’ve experienced that shattering myself.  While my hometown was not reclusive by any means, it was overwhelmingly Christian and for many years I didn’t know that a person could be anything else (I knew Dad didn’t go to church, but I never considered what that might imply about his actual beliefs).

That lasted until age ten. At that point evolution was first introduced to me as a concept, and the first time that it was suggested to me that the Bible could be anything other than a literal account of the past. Since I trusted my teachers to teach me the truth (we weren’t exactly an observant family, and by that time church had no impact on my life beyond the faith it instilled in me), I believed them, and as I suggested above, my faith shattered at that instant, rendering me athiest for a period.

There are a number of issues with not questioning the belief system that is handed out to you. One is that you can be easily misled, because you trust you authority figure so implicitly. In many communities, it can also lead to a person being unable to make decisions, because so much of their life is dictated to them. But what stands out for me is that such a faith is never tested. I tend to liken it to building a bridge–if no one ever crosses it, then it will never fail to hold them. I don’t really see the point of such a construct. Today, I have faith again, but it is not the blind, unquestioning faith I had as a child.  I question it.  I test it against new concepts. Where it proves to be weak, I find ways to strengthen it, which can be a rationalisation (adding more supports) or a change of view (altering the design). This means that I don’t need to avoid outside influence, because it is outside influence that made it what it is, and it is ready to withstand other concepts. Many people use only the first method, sometimes using one support to hold up many concepts, making failure to hold more likely if that support is compromised.

My faith today is made strong by questioning it.  Instead of avoiding other concepts, I embrace them and use them to refine my beliefs and values. For me, the end result of an unquestioning faith was atheism, and that defeats the whole purpose of having faith at all.

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