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Home » 3 Faiths Together


24 October 2018 No Comment

Father John Walsh

We often forget that there is one thing that faith and belief require and that is the element of doubt. Unfortunately many people allow their doubts to overwhelm them. Doubts are challenges to rethink faith and belief. The reality is that there can be no faith without a good dose of doubt. The lack of doubt would turn faith and belief into absolutes. Absolutes define faith and belief in such a way that divide believers from non-believers. The defense of the absolutes means that dialogue is rendered impossible. There is my way or no way. I hear Christians use the passage, I am the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father unless through me, that is Jesus. Proselytism is the order of the day and when non-believers accept the Jesus defined by absolutist believers they will join the “true” believers. The options are not few but only one and that is to accept Jesus as defined or suffer being ostracized from the community. There is no discussion possible or needed; simply believe. Period. The identity of such Christians takes no account of the fact that the writings of Paul and that of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, project different waves of how Jesus was seen and understood. It is a question of identity, religious identity.
Michael Ignatieff, in a recent article in the Financial Times wrote on identity politics and offers a comparison of Francis Fukuyama approach in his book Identity and the politics of resentment and that of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s approach in his book Lies that Bind. Ignatieff says that Fukuyama offers a way out of identity politics that is polarizing democratic society and in many ways,
Is it not religious identity that is polarizing religious communities? I would simply refer to Fukuyama when he points out the instinct that identity politics is a symptom of democratic decay and a diversion from the real task. He enumerates a few and concludes with the need to recognize the human identity we have in common. Hans Küng may be right when he says there will not be peace in the world unless there is peace among religions. Religious identity begins with our human identity that we all have in common.
Appiah argues that identity is a lie that binds when we allow it to imprison us but equally it remains as lie when we suppose we are free to choose our identities at will. Religious identity, he argues, is not fixed by doctrine or liturgy, but instead is an evolving inner dialogue between faith and doubt. His mother once told William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury that she has trouble believing one of the 39 articles that define the Anglican faith. He replies, yes that is hard to believe leaving Appiah’s mother to understand for the rest of her life, that doubt was not the enemy of her faith but its constant companion. He Christian identity made room for doubt, but equally, other believers believe their faith requires them to stamp our any second thoughts. Fundamentalists preach a return to scriptural orthodoxy in order to bolt a fixed identity so that it won’t be shaken by modernity. But religious identities refuse to be fixed in this way. Religions survive because they are open source code.
Doubt is what gives joy to a believer when she or he thrives on knowing that new information may question the expressions of faith and belief to strengthen a believer’s resolve to understand faith and belief in all new way.


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