A common perception about religious believers is that they think they have an edge over people who try to face life’s challenges without faith and on their own. There are at least two realities about faith that this perception ignores.

One is that even the most conscientious believers have questions and doubts about their faith from time to time. The other is that people with faith and people without it share a common yearning for a transforming relationship with an ultimate source of being, power, value, and meaning

And so, neither believers nor non-believers who are struggling with confusion, uncertainty, and doubt need criticism or rejection for asking hard questions about what they have been taught to believe and do. What they do need is encouragement to pursue truth, no matter where the pursuit may lead them.

It is painful to be in the throes of radical questioning and doubting in matters of faith. What makes the pain worse is being exhorted to let go of the questioning and doubting, trust what religious authorities teach about God, the world, and human destiny, and leave it at that.

In centuries past, exhortation was an important instrument for keeping members of religious communities mindful of how different they were from the unsaved. The approach succeeded because the premise on which it rested, the supremacy of the religious community/institution over its individual members, was taken for granted — if not always enthusiastically — by almost everyone.

This premise can no longer be taken for granted by anyone who believes that individual conscience is deserving of respect, even when it turns negative toward the realm of the sacred. The more plausible premise is that we should pay homage to a belief about the sacred only in the light of personal experience and reasoned judgment.

There is one important role that exhortation does play in the nurturing of religious feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and actions. It is to discourage our minds’ becoming malleable to any and every Transcendence-affirming and Transcendence-denying belief tossed to and fro on the winds of an uncritically relativistic and pluralistic culture.

Even in this process, however, reproof-oriented exhortations are not likely to work nearly as well as can (1) good listening, (2) questions offered in an inquiring rather than judgmental spirit, and (3) strong encouragement of honest seeking. Taking faith on faith does not make for mature faith.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest


This entry was posted in Doubt and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Frances long says:

    I think everyone should have to take a class in “good listening”. Not just one, but several because right off we become judgmental when some one says something we do not agree with and especially, if it is someone we really want to believe as strongly as we do, it gets sort of ugly. Not always, but sometimes. I had to learn that it was okay for people to say they did not believe in God. It took a lot of listening a lot of just sorting out what they felt and if I should say anything in return. All this stuff we hear in the world today, which ever theory it is, we need to at least be able to listen.to. I believe living my faith, doing what I tell other people I believe, is the best I can do. Being judgmental only hurts yourself, it really does not do any good to tell some one they got it all wrong, because they quit listening to those words a long time ago. SO, be patient, be understanding, walk in their shoes a day or two and take them with you now and then and see if it helps and in the long run, it may help both of you.

    You have to build trust in a conversation. The church has to build trust that they really care about what you need to say. There is so much hurt and pain we have to be able to pick up the pieces of someone’s faith, no matter how complicated it may be, and help them put it back together.

Comments are closed.