Doubt, God and Risk

Are there different ways to doubt?  Is one type of doubt good for us, and another type negative?

On the one hand I believe that doubt can be a great motivator for people to personally verify the reality or unreality of something.  And I believe that personal verification is the ultimate and only real verification of “spiritual” and/or emotional truth.  Accept no substitutes, sorry no easy way out (reading books, listening to enlightened teachings and getting religion included).  So, as Buddha said, “believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”  However, doubt can also be a cop-out for inaction; for being lazy, not trying, not challenging oneself.  For not struggling to come to terms with reality.  After all, until we really “know we know” something, why give up the search for that understanding merely because, to us, one side or the other seems unlikely or doubtful?

I’ve been thinking about the question of God’s existence (not to mention, who/what *is* God really?).  I have feelings, experiences and intuitions that pull me in both directions and there is no clear answer for me.  I simply do not know.  So, is it negative not to know something?  Is that even doubt?  It could be more like a barrier, or maybe a blank slate.  Either way, which is worse, not knowing something and admitting it, or not knowing yet choosing to believe in something (perhaps out of pressure, or in reaction against something else) that you really don’t know for sure?  The first path is at least honest, and more open to reality.  And that sounds good doesn’t it?  But I doubt even myself, and so I couldn’t help but think…

What if we make a deliberate conscious choice to invest our belief in something, despite our lack of knowledge?  This is in contrast to the way beliefs are often formed.  And I think there’s no question that beliefs which are formed on the basis of unconscious forces like societal pressure, are not well formed, and leave us suffering in confusion when circumstances challenge and threaten them.  But what about taking a risk and choosing to believe something, acting on it as if it were true, and following it through, even though you don’t know for sure?  Does this make sense?

Jesus tells the story of a man who trusts some money to three servants while he is away.  The first two double their allotted sums, but the third is very conservative, knowing his master doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and rather than risk losing any, buries his in the ground.  When the master returns, the third servant gets scolded for playing it safe, for not taking any risk, not even to let the money earn interest.  But what is this risk Jesus is talking of?  Are we supposed to take some risks in everything, including in what we believe?  I think the real key is not to be controlled by fear like the third servant was.  In the case of believing in God, I think the point (of belief) is really to get people to address how they live, not superficial modification of beliefs and behaviors.  However, I do think everyone should take a slightly different risk regarding their beliefs; and that is the “risk” of questioning and challenging them.  It can seem risky because what if we find out we’ve been going in the wrong direction all along?  Depending on what we’re confronting, this can be very frightening.

Why do we take risks?  For reward.  What’s the reward for believing in God?  Heaven?  Maybe, but it just doesn’t feel *real* to me (I could be wrong).  But a true Christian wouldn’t do good for the sake of going to heaven anyway.  Rather, the true Christian, or any truly good person, does good for the sake of good.  Their fruit is good because their heart is good.  A good person just naturally does good things without any selfish ulterior motive.  So what’s the point of taking beliefs and forming sides?  Beliefs are superficial.  They are a fruit of the heart, at best, not a shaper of the heart.  Faith, by the way, is different from belief (as I see it), but more on that another time.

What so many Christians and people in general don’t understand, is that if you want to really understand a person, you should pay much less attention to what they believe, and much more to how they live.  What good is a person who agrees with you on everything you believe, but is very selfish, negative and offensive to be around?  So the risk that I think is necessary, is taking the chance to do things we’ve never done before, face the unknown, face fears and uncertainties with the aim of making something positive out of it, rather than sitting on our laurels unchallenged, comfortable, and stagnating.  The point is to be alive, striving, moving and advancing….

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