Meghan Florian in Salon (via Religion Dispatches) notes that Teresa MacBain isn’t a reason to bash atheists. What she goes on to say after that got my rather annoyed attention.
(I haven’t said anything here about Teresa. That’s because I don’t want to. I like her a lot, so I don’t feel like it. I’m assuming that you already know the story.)
Florian recounts the recent events and disclosures first.
What strikes me as inappropriate is to use this as an opportunity to bash atheists—even those who we might feel misrepresent the Christian faith. Did it irk me when MacBain said, in an interview on Religion Dispatches,“I’d always been a thinker so when questions relating to my faith began to pop up, I ignored them at first. You see, questioning and doubts were sinful in my faith tradition”? Of course it did. I wanted to jump up and raise my hand, to shout, “I am a thinker too!” and “Doubt is not sinful! Who the hell told you that?”
But I am pretty sure that’s not the right thing to do here. After all, growing up in a conservative Christian subculture myself, I wrestled with doubt for years also. In college I encountered professors who modeled a “faith seeking understanding” approach to both the study and practice of Religion. For me, that process of asking questions—of seeking—actually saved my faith. For MacBain, it appears to have been the opposite. I respect that, as I hope anyone who has seriously wrestled with doubt can respect that.
That seems like bullshit to me. Self-flattering bullshit. It annoys me, the way religious people use “doubt” that way as some kind of empty badge of honor that doesn’t make any actual difference to anything. It’s just something they “wrestle” with for a little while in order to come out anyway on the side of Team God. People don’t wrestle with “doubts” about whether or not Elmer Fudd will be coming over to play poker. Adults don’t bother with “doubts” about Santa Claus. People shouldn’t brag about their precious “doubts” if they’re going to go right on believing the legless stories just the same. It’s nothing but pious preening. “That process of asking questions” – only to end up with the authority-based answers. “Seeking” – forget seeking and try filtering or razoring, instead. Doubts that do nothing but “save faith” are just posturing.