I began the Faith in Doubt website in 2010 as a place to reflect on faith from the perspective of those on the border between faith and doubt with regard to Christianity. At the time I was a Christian who was on the doubt side of the border, but expected that I would soon return to the faith side. I was so certain that this would occur quickly that I worried that those on the doubt side would think that I was deliberately duping them to read a believer's musings. I need not have worried as my sojourn on the doubt side of the border lasted for a few years and more recent years have been spent right on the border with a begrudging admission that I suppose God might exist. Towards the end of 2015 I moved a little more decisively into the faith side of the border because I saw that my chief objection to the possibility of God's existence was a very objectionable proposition.
My problem with the idea of God was that the carpet was pulled out from my key understanding of God as the creator of the universe. When I studied theology and later taught it for ten years I was a firm believer in God the creator, but was not that firm about much else. I worked on the principle that our understanding of Jesus, salvation, or the spiritual life could radically change, but it would still all be part of the Christian tradition if it involved belief in a creator God and some reference to Jesus. Until my faith in God was shaken I was quite happy to accept Jesus as divine and part of some sort of Trinity, but the whole edifice collapsed when the creator part of the equation no longer worked for me.
My focus had like much of religious philosophy focused on the big questions that delve into the realms of astrophysics and what, if anything, came before the Big Bang that started off our universe. My problem came when I reflected on the possibility of a creator God at the opposite end of the time and space scales. It was at the microscopic level that I found an insurmountable problem. I attended a lecture on the structure of the human body at a time when I believed in Christianity, but felt little enthusiasm for it. I recalled reading about scientists who were brought to Christian faith through their scientific studies and I was confident that exploring the wonders of the human body would help me return to a more enthusiastic faith. That confidence was misplaced and instead that lecture demolished my faith in a creator God. As the lecture progressed I felt more and more dismayed as I concluded that the mess that is the human body could only have been the result of the chaos of accidental evolution and not the design of a creator God. My primary problem was with the notion that God would design humans to be so dependent on other microorganisms in order to stay alive.
This disquiet grew during other microbiology lectures in which I learnt of much more dangerous bacteria. The crunch point was learning about Clostridium Difficile, which was then very much in the news. It had been the cause of several hospital deaths and had led to a renewed focus on improving infection controls on the wards. When I learnt that Clostridium Difficile lives inside many humans without causing harm, but can cause problems that antibiotics can do little about I decided that the thin thread of my belief in a creator God had snapped. Even if divine creation was, as I had long believed, God setting the process going and then letting it find its own conclusions I could not see any benefit in believing in a God that could allow such dangerous bacteria to exist within us. Maybe a very distant philosophical principle of a God like Aristotle's Prime Mover might exist, but there seemed little point in worshiping a God who is incapable of interacting with the world of time in which we live. I kept attending church each Sunday, but squirmed if there was any reference in sermons to God caring for us. I thought that there could be no care from a God incapable of showing that care (or in Aristotelean philosophy even feeling anything).
Later I would accept that God might care for us, even if God could not or choose to not intervene in the creation set in motion. That was such a weak notion of God that I decided that at best it moved me onto the borderline between doubt and faith, but no more. I could not move any further into the realm of faith because of my continuing problems over the existence in humans of Clostridium Difficile. I had not thought to research if it is present in all human guts (it is at about 3%), but the change that brought me back to a firmer footing on the faith side of the border was about reflecting on bacteria in general. I was thinking through some ideas for a novel based around human evolution and it struck me that it was unfair to blame a creator God for a bacterium that may not always have been present in humans. After all I had no problem believing in a creator God when I knew of rabid dogs and rogue elephants as a child, so why was I treating microorganisms differently?
My feet are now firmly on the faith side of the border, but the border is still clearly in view. I no longer have difficulty with the possibility of a creator God existing and I am happy to believe that such a God exists. I do not think that anyone else must believe in a creator God, but then I never had much time for the medieval theories known as the Proofs for the Existence of God. I am standing by the border, but not as a boarder guard keeping the doubters out. Nor am I standing there as an evangelist calling the doubters to believe in what I believe. I stand just inside the border on the faith side of the line and seek to stop anyone building a fence. The border between faith and doubt is one that anyone should feel free to move from one side to the other with great regularity. Neither faith nor doubt belong to the super believers or the ardent atheists. Belief and non-belief are part of being human and each person has the ability to choose and change between faith and doubt as a basic human right. That always was and will remain the primary motivation for this website Faith in Doubt.
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