Awe, Doubt, Fanaticism

The Doubt Essential to Faith | Lesley Hazleton

Abolish all doubt, and what’s left is not faith, but absolute, heartless conviction.You’re certain that you possess the Truth—inevitably offered with an implied uppercase T—and this certainty quickly devolves into dogmatism and righteousness, by which I mean a demonstrative, overweening pride in being so very right, in short, the arrogance of fundamentalism…

Like fundamentalists of all religious stripes, they have no questions, only answers. They found the perfect antidote to thought and the ideal refuge of the hard demands of real faith. They don’t have to struggle for it like Jacob wrestling through the night with the angel, or like Jesus in his 40 days and nights in the wilderness, or like Muhammad, not only that night on the mountain, but throughout his years as a prophet, with the Koran constantly urging him not to despair, and condemning those who most loudly proclaim that they know everything there is to know and that they and they alone are right.

And yet we, the vast and still far too silent majority, have ceded the public arena to this extremist minority. We’ve allowed Judaism to be claimed by violently messianic West Bank settlers, Christianity by homophobic hypocrites and misogynistic bigots, Islam by suicide bombers…

This isn’t faith. It’s fanaticism, and we have to stop confusing the two. We have to recognize that real faith has no easy answers. It’s difficult and stubborn. It involves an ongoing struggle, a continual questioning of what we think we know, a wrestling with issues and ideas. It goes hand in hand with doubt, in a never-ending conversation with it, and sometimes in conscious defiance of it. —Lesley Hazleton

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