An Honest Religious Believer

I sometimes ask people who tell me they believe in this or that religion the following question: “When you doubt, what do you doubt, and what do you say to yourself to make the doubt go away?” The most common reply is, “I never doubt.” This answer used to bewilder me. Whence the unwarranted certainty? I still don’t understand it. But I am no longer surprised by it.

And this is why I like the below story. The Archbishop of Canterbury doubts. Of course he does. His honesty is like coming up for air. How in the 21st century can one not doubt the ludicrous claims of religion?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tells an audience that he too has moments of doubt VIDEO

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to An Honest Religious Believer

  1. dcyates says:

    A couple things…
    First, of course, in our more honest moments, we all have doubts. Indeed, personally speaking, there’s hardly anything I can’t doubt if I put my mind to it. The problem, I think, is that too many people — particularly those of a religious persuasion — have been told that doubt constitutes an enemy of faith. On the other hand, as far as I’m concerned, I agree with the great Neo-Orthodox theologian of the last century, Paul Tillich (at least I think it was Paul Tillich — if anybody knows otherwise, I’m open to correction), who once said something along the lines of: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Indeed, it is a vital aspect of faith. Doubt is the ‘ants in the pants’ of faith; it keeps it alive and moving.”
    Second, while there are, in point of fact, a great many truly “ludicrous claims” within religion, I would want to point out that even the most wild of them pale in comparison to the frankly ridiculous and nakedly irrational claims of the decidedly anti-religious. Namely, that everything came from nothing, that life came from non-life, or that consciousness is merely an accident of the cosmos.

  2. Longtooth says:

    “…….. everything came from nothing, that life came from non-life, or that consciousness is merely an accident of the cosmos.”

    Well, how do you know they are ridiculously irrational claims? What substantiation do you offer?

  3. Santi Tafarella says:


    You think it’s ludicrous that “everything came from nothing, that life came from non-life, [and] that consciousness is merely an accident of the cosmos.”

    Obviously, life came from non-life, so let’s take that one off the table. Whether you believe in God or not, somehow the cosmos went from inorganic to organic chemistry (at least on our planet) without a violation of the laws of physics (a miracle). It was part of how God set up the cosmos (if God exists).

    Secondly, to posit that everything didn’t come from nothing, but from something that is eternal and has always been here is itself equally dumbfounding. So the mystery exists regardless of which way that one goes.

    Thirdly, consciousness may have evolved for very good reasons (see Michael Graziano’s new book for a potentially good explanation for consciousness), and we may live in a multiverse in which a lot of improbable things nevertheless happen.

    But let’s say that this is the minimal religious position set off against the minimal atheist position, and let’s say that reasonable people can agree that the three things you’ve mentioned are difficult to explain on any terms. Where, beyond these three points, can religion go without drifting into pure speculation?

    And yet no religion (save perhaps deism) stops there. And that’s where the woo comes in.

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