Fasting from Certitude

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Creative Commons Certainty and Doubt” by Celestine Chua is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The six+ weeks before Easter are time for the game called “Give Up Something for Lent.” It is the religious version of New Year’s resolutions. Identify a particular want, desire, or practice and “give it up” for the duration of the season (Sundays don’t count). The hope is that the religious atmosphere and sanctions will enliven the drowsy or sleeping inner spirit, enabling the game to run its full course.

I am all for personal transformation, but I have never played the “Give Up Something for Lent” game (and I don’t do New Year’s resolutions). I am not against them; it is just that they don’t work for me.

This year, however, I am going to play the game. I am giving up certitude for Lent. I have signed up for Peter Rollin’s “Atheism for Lent” online course.

Those who know me well would probably tell you that I have already put in my rear view mirror a fair number of the tried and true “beliefs” of traditional Christianity:

I have jettisoned the supernatural, all-powerful Supreme Being God of strong theology in favor of the weak theology of John Caputo’s “God doesn’t exist; God insists.” While I marvel at the wonders of the creation, I find no reason to go beyond Gordon Kaufman’s “serendipitous creativity” and posit a Divine Creator.

The concept of an other-worldly Heaven as a reward for those who believe the right things or belong to the right church / mosque / synagogue / temple doesn’t interest or convince me. I am content to discover resurrection on this side of death as I join others in the abundant life that radiates from restorative justice.

I shudder whenever I experience religious tribalism – the provincial and parochial attitude that claims salvation for Us and damnation for Them. Instead, I am willing to join hands across human dividing lines to seek the well-being of all in society through compassion, peace, and justice.

For this Lenten practice of fasting from certitude, I look forward to Peter Rollin’s leadership which I expect will put me in conversation with a variety of “non-believers” (and “believers”) who will challenge me at the very core of my being. I don’t expect to become a disciple of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, but I do expect to be in conversation with them. Genuine transformation sometimes necessitates stepping away from cherished notions and convictions – what Paul Tillich called the shaking of the foundations. Tillich wrote: “It is safe to say that a [person] who has never tried to flee God has never experienced the God Who is really God.”

The mantra of my adult life has been fides quaerens intellectum (faith in search of understanding). I am beginning to realize that my attempt to live into that mantra has been too linear and rationalistic. So, I have begun to deconstruct it. Hopefully my 2016 Lenten journey via fasting from certitude and Atheism for Lent will be a flight into a deep trust that grows as it is encouraged and supported by shared wisdom.

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