Monday, October 19, 2009

New doubt? New course!

New doubt? New course!

One of the areas of difference between belief and non-belief arises wherever "doubt" does. What I mean here is that theists have a different formula for settling doubts than non-theists. And lets be wise: Our occasions of doubt are valuable. They raise awareness for new opportunities to learn. So let's take care to deal carefully with doubt.

Given any theist on the skids, someone who is having doubt about what his religious leaders and his holy books have told him, the recommended remedy for the doubter's dilemma is one of the following: pray, go to church, read the scriptures, seek religious counseling... (There may be variation on this but for the most part, that's it.)

Given any non-religionist who gets an urge or an idea that he may have missed the boat by not believing, the usual solution to his dilemma is to inquire into the validity of why he hesitates to believe and to look at what religion offers.

Although the ground that both the back-sliding believer and the non-believing agnostic rest on may be the same, for example: they may both question the effectiveness of intercessory pray, the approach each takes to settling his mind over the matter are quite different. The doubting religionist, almost in a knee-jerk reponse, returns to the beginning point of his beliefs to re-establish his faith without judging the merits of his doubt;. His aim is to restore his faith. no questions asked. The non-believing agnostic, questions his own reasoning. He examines his doubt, its originating cause and the evidence upon which that doubt was derived. He validates or not; and then, he proceeds to extend his examination into studying that which religion claims, examining it and judging it critically against his own current disbelief. It is by these differing processes that differing results emerge for theists and non-believers in doubt.

The clear difference here is found in the word "question" and in ones attitude toward questioning. Religionists are intolerant of questioning. Non-theists aren't - they thrive on questions and learn from their investigations into them.

If the doubting religionist took the approach of the non-believing agnostic, would he become agnostic? The chances are high that he would. On the hand of the non-believing agnostic who already practices critical examination, the chance that he will become a "true believer" stand few unless he chooses to abandon his habit (his good habit) of using his intellect to make thoughtful judgments upon answering the questions of his own doubt.

Clearly, I'm not inclined to think the typical religionists solution to solve back-sliding - that applying "more religion" to rekindle the fire - is a good one... at least, it isn't a good one for the individual. Preachers will undoubtedly disagree. And therein is the rub.

I think it's time to set a new course for settling religious doubt and here's my quickie recommendation for doing it... The greatest doubt of all gets its beginning at the words "In the beginning..."

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