This past weekend I went to church for the first time in many years (not counting weddings, baptisms, and funerals). One of my best friends invited me, and I said yes. I was curious for two reasons. First, this friend is a person I respect, and he had only good things to say about his church. Second, recently I’ve come to recognize the power of faith–not specifically religious faith, but faith in general.
Church was much as I’d remembered. I participated in singing the hymns and receiving Communion, but I was not especially moved by the experience. However, I did notice that I was feeling some resistance at times. Later that day I realized what it is about religion (or to be fair, the way that many people practice religion) that bothers me: The way that the believers tend to judge those who believe differently as being wrong.
And for the first time I saw where this tendency comes from. It comes from the idea of Truth.
Is there such thing as objective Truth? What is the relationship between faith and Truth? Does faith require Truth? What I mean by that is this: To have faith, must I be convinced that what I believe in is the Truth? And if you disagree, must you be wrong?
My personal faith is that we are all a part of a creative and intelligent whole-call it Universe like Bucky Fuller did, or call it God. Love, not fear, is the path to happiness and fulfillment. And the meaning of life is to expand one’s capacity to love and to learn something new each and every day.
The problem I was faced with in wake of my recent visit to church was this: If you don’t believe these things that I believe, are you wrong?
To me, faith is a very personal thing. Faith is powerful because it sustains me in the times when it seems like tragedy or defeat are inevitable. It gives me the courage to make principled choices even when it means forgoing a tangible short-term benefit for a long-term benefit that I may never consciously know or recognize as a consequence of my choice.
It doesn’t make sense to me that faith requires the faithful to make everyone else wrong.
Understand that questioning the existence of Truth is not the same as denying it. That denial would be a Truth of its own. I’m simply saying that I’m not at all comfortable saying that I absolutely know the Truth or that if you disagree with me then you absolutely do not know the Truth. Maybe this leads to moral relativism, maybe it doesn’t. If it does, then maybe I’m just more comfortable with moral relativism than with the idea that one person or group of people can know the Truth any more than another.
So have I answered any questions? I think I have, at least for myself (you’re thinking, “Thanks a lot, Curtis”). I am attracted to people and groups that share wisdom without judgment, and I am put off by those who want or need to make other people wrong. Also, I think that any faith that does not directly confront this problem of Truth risks being interpreted or applied with judgment instead of love.
Faith, in my opinion, does not have to imply judgment. Unfortunately, I think that for many it does. But I know that for me, my faith does not require another to believe it. My faith is rooted in what I believe is the best path for me, not for you. If we are all one as I believe, then there is no right or wrong, for how can one part of the whole be right and another part be wrong?
(For more on the power of faith and how you can use it to overcome fear, see Class #10 of the Turn On to Life! course.)
©2005 Curtis G. Schmitt