I’m not one of those people who don’t believe in God, because “if there was a God, why would He let such terrible things happen?” To say that because sometimes bad things happen, there shouldn’t be a benevolent higher power seems just as logical to me as to say that because sometimes it gets dark, there shouldn’t be any light.
I’m not even one of those people who don’t believe in God. I do; I don’t think science alone can explain everything. However, I also believe that science is not trying to disprove religion (nor is religion trying to disprove science). The two can work together in combination.
What I am is someone whose faith has been shaken. I’m someone who looks at other people who have faith – who looks at how much faith I used to have – and wonders, what happened? Where has my faith gone?
I think the problem is that I believe in God, but not really in religion.
As I write this, I remember a paper I wrote in my sophomore year of high school. We needed to write about someone who had influenced our lives in some way, and I wrote about Rainbow, a homeless man I met while volunteering at Rescue Atlanta, a homeless shelter. Our church worship team left our church early one Sunday morning to assist the shelter in their Sunday activities, which included driving buses to pick up homeless people from Atlanta, serving breakfast, distributing clothes and toiletries before showering, sitting and talk to them while they waited to see a doctor, and finally, worship. We were there for at least six hours, so we changed jobs a lot. At one point we just talked to the people. I don’t remember much of my conversation with Rainbow, but I do remember two things clearly: how easy it was for us to connect despite our differences, and his parting words to me and some of the other members of the worship team. Shaking hands with us, he said, “See you at the Great White Throne.” I don’t know why, but his words have stayed with me all these years.
I mention this anecdote because I think my problem is that when I was a sophomore in high school, I only knew the good side of religion, the sense of community it created. The fact is that I have thousands of such anecdotes. I didn’t know the bad side of religion because I didn’t have to – but things are different now.
I used to feel comfortable with religion, but now I don’t feel comfortable. I recently realized that it is not my faith in God that has been shaken, but my faith in the institution of religion. I have no problem with religion as a whole; I think it’s important for people to come together in like-minded communities to share in worship. I have a problem when people use religion to oppress other people. I have a problem when people use religion as a justification for hatred, bigotry and just plain ignorance.
What I know for sure is that I believe in kindness. I believe that no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you deserve to be treated with respect, and you should offer that same courtesy to other people. And I believe in God, even if I don’t believe in religion.