Belief

What If I'm Not Sure What I Believe?

Close-up of hands, Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

Close-up of hands, Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

I get asked questions sometimes that I feel are useful for a larger audience to consider and discuss. One such question was submitted to me by a reader a while back, which echoes the sentiments within many other similar questions I’ve received. Here’s the essence at the heart of those questions.

What do I do if I’m not sure what I believe?

First of all, don’t freak out. Most of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament is about a priest suffering a crisis of faith. And though some argue it was more a fulfillment of prophecy (quoting a psalm) rather than a personal cry of distress, it’s hard not to feel Jesus’ own existential suffering when he cries out from the cross for a God who seems to be missing.

My Brother John: A Eulogy for the Living

Stone cherub in London cemetery, nagib / Shutterstock.com

Stone cherub in London cemetery, nagib / Shutterstock.com

For some months now, I have been ruminating on the writer John Podhoretz’s eulogy in Commentary magazine for his sister Rachel Abrams upon her death, from stomach cancer, at age 62. Commentary effectively being the Podhoretz family house organ, and the Podhoretzes effectively being the mythological family of the origin of neoconservatism, the essay would be of interest to anyone interested in cultural and religious sociology — or at least to me.

I, too, come from a family that has also tended to think of itself in somewhat mythological, contrarian terms — This is what Langstons are like — so a meditation from the heart of another large, bustling family is an immediate and natural draw for me.

But lay that all aside. The eulogy wins, and haunts, because it is the passionate remembrance of a sister by her brother. Despite their being part of a prominent East Coast family, its focus is relentlessly on the small acts of family and home that transfigure quotidian existence. Podhoretz dwells lovingly on Rachel as a housewife, a lifetime foul-mouth, an exuberant and dedicated mother, an artist, and finally a writer who let loose with political commentary in her late fifties as online blogs began gathering steam.

“I loved you, Rachel,” he concludes poignantly, in words I could read over and over. “I liked you. And oh, oh, oh, how I admired you.”

So much of that poignancy is derived from direct address to his sister, who is no longer there to receive it. Having just hit 45, Dante comes to mind: midway-through-the-journey-of-our-life-I found myself within a dark wood for the right way had been lost. Who can know how our days are numbered? The lesson for me is that I should tell of how I love my brother John, even as he lives.

Are Atheists Smarter Than Believers? Not Exactly.

Person taking an IQ test. Photo courtesy RNS/shutterstock.com

Person taking an IQ test. Photo courtesy RNS/shutterstock.com

A new study of almost a century’s worth of data shows that the smarter you are, the less likely you are to believe in God.

The study, conducted by Miron Zuckerman, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, examined the findings of 63 earlier studies — one dating back to the 1920s — that measured intelligence and religiosity. The majority of those studies found that more intelligent people were more likely to lack religious beliefs.

“The relation between intelligence and religion is negative,” Zuckerman said. “It was very early in the study that we realized that.”

But Zuckerman is careful to point out that his work — known as a “meta-study” because it examines a range of other studies — does not mean only dumb people believe in God.

Rather, he said, it shows only that more intelligent people may have less need for religion.

The Problem Isn’t God; It’s Certainty

Boy covering his ears,  3445128471 / Shutterstock.com

Boy covering his ears, 3445128471 / Shutterstock.com

Uncertainty about the existence of God is not the same thing as certainty about the non-existence of God.

I’ve enjoyed taking part in the “Subverting the Norm” conference this weekend with many of the forefront thinkers in what has been called “Radical Theology.” Although the word “radical” has sensationalist connotations for lots of people, it really just means a theology that isn’t firmly rooted. I know that in itself sounds scary to some folks, but the radical theology camp might suggest that fear stems from an addiction to certainty.

When Spouses Lose Faith, Sticking Together is Hard

Tying the knot, albund / Shutterstock.com

Tying the knot, albund / Shutterstock.com

SALT LAKE CITY — For years, Matt Duff was an uber-Mormon.

At 17, he ran away from home and moved in with the only black Latter-day Saints family in his New England town.

Two weeks shy of his 18th birthday, he joined the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

By 19, he was on a Mormon mission in Denver, and two years later he enrolled at Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he met his future wife, Kylee, a multigenerational Mormon with a winning smile and a guileless faith. The two married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple.

Eight years and three children later, Matt Duff stopped believing.

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