One pastor in the report recounted:
“My first few years of doing this were wracked with, ‘God, should I be doing this? Is this ---? Am I being ---? Am I posing? Am I being less than authentic; less than honest?’ … And, I really wrestled with it and to some degree still. But not nearly as much.”
“I will be the first to admit that I see Christianity as a means to an end, not as an end unto itself. And the end is very basically, a kind of liberal, democratic values. So I will use Christianity sometimes against itself to try to lead people to that point. But there’s so much within the Christian tradition that itself influenced the development of those liberal values, you know. They didn’t arise through secular means. They came out of some religious stuff. …I could couch all that in very secular language. If we were in a college setting, I would. But we’re in a religious setting, so I use the religious language.”
Myers says about this report by Daniel C. Dennett:
Of course the WaPo panelists present a "conventional" view of the faith/doubt issue
Unfortunately, the WaPo couldn't just put up Dennett's bombshell on its own: they've surrounded it with a confusing cloud of commissioned articles to answer the question, "What should pastors do if they no longer hold the defining beliefs of their denomination?". Most of them are believers, except for Rebecca Goldstein and Tom Flynn and Herb Silverman, and most of them are making excuses. You just knew that someone would make the inane argument that "doubt is part of faith." No, it's not. Faith is the blunt instrument used to crush doubt.
à la Larry King, and for "inclusive" purposes there's that guy Deepak Chopra...
Q:What should pastors do if they no longer hold the defining beliefs of their denomination? Do clergy have a moral obligation not to challenge the sincere faith of their parishioners? If this requires them to dissemble from the pulpit, doesn't this create systematic hypocrisy at the center of religion? What would you want your pastor to do with his or her personal doubts or loss of faith?Religion poses many tests of conscience. This isn't a drawback. If anything, it's one of the reasons organized faith exists. But of course there are extremes of opinion about how acceptable it is to disagree with church doctrine. My insistence that religion must teach people how to think about God for themselves would be seen as extreme -- or even heretical -- by those at the opposite end of the spectrum. We've witnessed the tide of tolerance ebb and flow in the Catholic Church. We've seen gay Episcopal bishops advance in a liberal climate only to cause a schism among conservatives.
Needless to say neither the WaPo panelists, especially Chopra, nor P.Z. Myers reflect the views of Zen Buddhists, which is the point of this post. Great doubt and great faith must coexist for great enlightenment. You have to doubt the faith, you have to have faith that the doubt will lead somewhere. The question is key.
With this viewpoint, you simply cannot lose your faith, nor can you blindly believe. Dammit, that guy long ago said "Rely on yourself. Do not rely on others. Rely on the Dharma. Do not rely on others." Which of course leads to the questions: What is the Dharma? What am I? Am I different than the Dharma? Am I the same? Is this gibberish?
But, like all phenomena, Buddha nature is "stuck" to it - permeated through it like a dye on a fabric, as some teacher said. Even if I accept Jesus as my personal Lord and what not, or even if I picket all religious institutions or lack thereof, or even if I just watch TV for weeks on end munching on potato chips, it's all there. Now there's consequences, of course, to all behaviors, including behaviors of pretending to believe, which is recommended by certain folks ("Fake it 'til you make it" is a slogan in certain religious quarters).
But there is no escape. The authentic "position" or "stance" in which one carriers out one's life, and the emptiness of all of it (including emptiness of emptiness) remains the same. You cannot not be who you are, even if you are pretending to be something. The "essence" of Sartre's waiter performing as a waiter did not annihilate the emptiness of the phenomena of the waiter-in-life.
So, basically, we practicing Zen Buddhists don't have the problem alluded to in the report or panel responses or Myer's response. And when Chopra says
My insistence that religion must teach people how to think about God for themselves would be seen as extreme -- or even heretical -- by those at the opposite end of the spectrum.and when Myers says
Faith is the blunt instrument used to crush doubt.
I have to call them both out. Great doubt and great faith must coexist, and nobody can tell you how to do that or not to do that, and all the rumination, pretense, or lack thereof simply cannot change the nature of our existence in this life. Great doubt and great faith are natural functions and conditions of our existence, and to privilege one against the other is to "oppose our reality."
And that's my 2 cents.