Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What Is So Lonely About Doubt?

I have titled this blog, "The Lonely Man of Doubt." It is a play on the title of a book written by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik titled: "The Lonely Man of Faith." Both titles are true, though in opposite circumstances. A believer in a sea of atheists surely feels the loneliness that surrounds a claim in which he strongly believes. Conversely, I feel in my situation, except it is not a belief that I possess that is causing the loneliness, but a lack thereof in a strongly religious community.

I do not always feel a sense of loneliness. I have a lovely and loyal family, an embracing community, and other deep and meaningful relationships with friends. I can be, though choose not to be, surrounded by friends, or at the very least friendly acquaintances, all day and night. I am, by the look of it, the least bit alone.

Yet, because of my doubts and lack of faith, I am alone. I do not perceive the same world as the people around me. We read the same scriptures, yet where I see inconsistencies or immorality they see misunderstandings and God's will. We witness the same occurrences and they see miracle and I see nature or coincidence.

I will challenge a point in religion or faith to the believers and they seem calm and undisturbed by it. They shrug and say they don't care if they could prove it, or that they feel no desire to challenge their faith. To them God is so real, that his denial is an act of philosophical foolishness. Who has time to discuss the validity of a claim they know to be true? They are unfazed by my questions and are not provoked to search their inner soul for the truth. Though, they seem to indulge in it as delightful table talk, and to them, it is just that.

There are few places I can go to converse with people of like-mindedness. Most of the time, I retreat to the the writings of the great philosophers (both secular and religious) to find my solace. It is in their brilliance that I find an escape, not from the questions, but rather to people who also heard them.

I do not wish to give off the impression that I am not happy -- for I believe myself to be -- rather to convey the unfortunate lot of he who trudges against the current. He, who will not just lie on his back and let the river drag him along, but will stand against the raging waters and move in the opposite direction.

Yes, I am aware, and never falter from saying, that there exist, as well, religious people who in the face of mockery by non-believers still held their ground, so to speak, against the tide. They too, I'm sure, would agree that there is a great loneliness to be found in such a life. Hence: "The Lonely Man of Faith."

Where it is faith that is praised, the non-believers are viewed simply as they who do not want to believe and/or are searching and eventually will find the truth in faith. In the world of belief, it is the atheist who is the blind fool walking along the river banks.

This is the great loneliness I feel. The intellectual island upon which I stand. They cannot see my world, as I cannot see theirs. I still believe it better to be true to thyself, than to march in-step with the herd. It is for this reason that even if I could somehow find a way to eradicate my doubts and become a believer again, I would not; unless it became apparent to me that it was, in fact, in truth that I had once believed.

And when, in the times of great loneliness, I wonder if I should just "switch off my mind" -- though I am not sure that is at all possible -- I am comforted by the words of the hero in George Orwell's 1984: "Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad."  

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