Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The fear of faith

Despite- or perhaps because of- tremendous temptation, I have declared to myself a short moratorium on political or contentious entries, and will be posting only religious or philosophical entries for the near future. The first entry under this new policy is a snippet from my personal Book of Shadows, and is dedicated to Jamie over at Trivium .

One big difficulty in coming out of the “broom closet” is a societal problem with religion in general, not Wicca or Paganism in particular; certain strata of society are deeply contemptuous of any religious faith. Among such people, “faith” is synonymous with “ignorance”- they are truly astonished when they meet anyone of faith who has an IQ in triple digits. It’s hard enough to announce as a Christian if one has such aggressive skeptics in one’s important circles; fear of being seen as a New Age weirdo by them can be unbearable.

That fear is not completely misplaced; I have seen people become born-again Christians as adults and be treated by friends and family as if they were brain damaged. With each passing day such abuse becomes more public and more acceptable; books ridiculing the very concept of religion are best sellers, feeding the normal fear of ridicule. Fear of ridicule is terrible indeed- I have read that the prayer of test pilots and astronauts is not “God, don’t let me die”, but “God, don’t let me screw up!” Such deep seated fear can make it difficult to admit faith even to yourself, let alone others.

How is this fear overcome? By remembering what brought you to your faith in the first place. People don’t come to faith by logical syllogism; nobody draws a Venn diagram encircling both themselves and God and says, “It is proven!” People have faith because at some time in their lives, they felt the presence of the Divine. It may have happened in a church, or a forest, or a hospital waiting room... but at one point you felt, and you knew. Faith is not “belief”- it is inexpressible knowledge.

It has been argued that one cannot believe that Jesus was a good man, but not God, because his words would make him either a liar or a lunatic. But even the most devout Christian will agree that whether or not he was God, he was also a man- and so this must be true for all people of faith, all faiths. Either we have felt the presence of the Divine, or we are liars and lunatics. Billions have felt the touch, have direct knowledge of the Divine. It is not our burden to prove the ineffable to the atheist; our burden is to live the kind of lives we know we should, and not hide our light under a bushel.

So do not fear to declare your faith. And if your religion seems strange to others, what of it? Religions are not faith, they are merely how we choose to express the faith our hearts already knew to be true, the truth we have already experienced.

1 comment:

LazyBuddhist said...

Thanks for your thoughts about faith. It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately myself. Always good to read another perspective.