Faith in Faith


A reader writes:

As a faithless former altar boy, I love your colloquy with Sam Harris. I think it will be a colloquy without resolution, however, as trying to rationally describe the mystery of faith is like trying to unzip fog. In fact, when the expression of faith becomes codified in a liturgy it becomes leaden, earthbound, and encourages rote recitation. It dies a little. Nothing creeps me out like hearing the thoughtless, unfeeling droning of the Nicene Creed at Mass. Beautiful words, rendered dead. I did it myself without thinking for years, until I began to feel like some kind of body-snatched cultist. Like I said, I was once a pious little altar boy, but I no longer believe. But here's the thing: I find myself living in the limbo of not believing in God, but rather having a fervent belief in faith. I deeply envy faith. Funny world, huh? And no place in the world offers me the solace of a semi-darkened, stain-glassed cathedral, with statuary of saints and a hint of incense.

I was raised to believe that we must believe these things because they have inherent power and meaning, and that is why I eventually fell away, because my faith was too weak to stand up to the challenges of the rational world. What I now believe is the obverse: that because we believe in these things they take on a very real power and meaning. And no less powerful or meaningful than what I believed as a child. The Obama quote you cited yesterday afternoon really resonated with me for that reason, as he entered into his life of faith by choice, and not by revelation.

(Photo: Barack Obama by Jeff Haynes/AFP.)