A clarification of my Dallas Morning News column “We should value religious uncertainty more”

This past Saturday, my column, “Faith can polarize us – and certainty is not the answer,” was published in the Dallas Morning News.  Well, it turns out that writing about faith can be polarizing as well.

This morning, a well written response to my column was published in the DMN.  Unfortunately, it was titled “Atheists care too much.”  To clarify, I am completely unsure whether or not a God exists; I am by no means an atheist.  In fact, I think the arguments in favor of the existence of God laid out by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity and Dr. Francis Collins in The Language of God are very well thought out and lead me to believe that a deity does exist.  However, I think it’s possible – perhaps even probable – but by no means certain.

I also learned the hard way that what’s published in the paper and on the internet is written in stone.  In the column, I wrote that faith is simply “glorified ignorance,” which I regret.  I regret the sentence because it’s been misinterpreted, not because I don’t stand by it.

While ignorance does have a very negative connotation, it’s defined as “lacking knowledge.”  As one man commented on the article, “Faith is, by definition, belief without proof. Faith is fundamentally inconsistent with certainty. You can BELIEVE that yours is the correct conception of the existence, nature, and will of God, but you can never know it as a certainty.”  So without any definite proof of the existence of god, faith is necessarily ‘lacking knowledge’ and therefore ignorance.  But to further clarify, ignorance was not the right word to use and I sincerely apologize if I may have offended anyone.  By no means do I consider believers ignorant.

The response published today also asked, “If someone doesn’t believe, why should they make such a deal that I do? Why not just “not believe”?”

The reason that I made “such a deal” is because, as I attempted to point out in the article, the certainty that so often accompanies faith is extremely polarizing.  If one’s beliefs are supposedly the will of God, then it immediately closes one’s mind.  How can anyone argue with an omniscient, omnipotent deity?  Religion plays a huge role in our society, and more importantly, it plays a huge role in politics.  When religious arguments are used in debates over almost every single issue, it’s extremely important to address the problems that religious certainty can impose.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:21 states, “Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.”

The point that I was trying to make is that it’s okay – no, it’s vital – to recognize when we’re uncertain.  If we understand that we don’t have all the answers, we can better understand one another.  As philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, “To endure uncertainty is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues.”