The city council meetings in my hometown, Lancaster, California, start with a prayer, a minute or two long, usually to Jesus.
I’m not saying these prayers should stop. But as a member, not of the faith community, but of the doubting community, I think there should be an opportunity for me (or someone else within the doubting community) to express a minute or two of doubt each time a minute or two of faith is expressed.
It’s only fair.
The doubting community, after all, has a rich tradition that includes such American luminaries as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and Emily Dickinson. And I pay taxes in the city of Lancaster. I am not a second class citizen. I shouldn’t be rendered, in so formal a manner, invisible.
What I want is equal opportunity–along with fellow members of the doubting community–and equal time. Wherever a member of the community of faith gets two minutes to quote from St. Paul and speak to Jesus or quote from the Quran and speak to Allah, I expect an opportunity to quote from a historic luminary from the doubting community–a few lines from Emily Dickinson or Thoreau would satisfy me, accompanied by a minute in which I offer a reason why I doubt the existence of God (the Holocaust might be offered as an example).
In short, I am not a potted plant. As a member of the doubting community, I want my speech accorded the exact same official time, equality, and tolerance that the city council of Lancaster accords to the speech of those in the faith community. The civic order should not be favoring an establishment of the faith community over the doubting community, nor giving pride of place to the faith community over the doubting community. Doubt is as much a virtuous habit as faith–arguably more so.
Tonight there is a board meeting at 5:00 pm. I will be there. After the clergy member takes his or her turn, I plan to rise and make a simple request for equal time for an expression of doubt.
Do you suppose I’ll get it?
If you live in the Antelope Valley, won’t you join me? A friendly or supportive face in the audience might be helpful.
Here’s what I plan to say, still standing, after the prayer has been offered and all others have taken their seats:
I mean no disrespect, but I’m a member of the doubting community, not the faith community, and since you’ve given two minutes for an expression of faith from someone in the faith community, may I have two minutes for an expression of religious doubt?
If the answer is no, I’ll ask when I might have such an equal opportunity, accept the answer given, and sit down. If yes, I’ll proceed to say the following:
Thank you for attending to a public expression of doubt. One reason I doubt the existence of God is the problem of suffering. It is difficult to believe that the Holocaust is part of God’s plan. If God is all-powerful, but did not act to stop the Holocaust, it seems that God is not good. And if God is good, but could not prevent the Holocaust, then it seems God is not all-powerful. Either way, God as all good and powerful at the same time seems doubtful. Something is wrong with the traditional idea of God.
I also doubt the efficacy of prayer. The victims of the Holocaust prayed and the Holocaust still happened. Think about that. Perhaps we should have a moment of silence for those victims of Hitler who prayed to God and received no response.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express a public moment of doubt.