Saturday, 2 May 2015

The struggle to retain belief

In truth, one of the biggest problems since leaving church has been to maintain my belief in God.

The thing is, if I was still in church, I could happily let my belief wane - even to nothing - and continue the activity of church which might spark the flame again, but it might not actually matter, because I would have the outward show of piety to cover me. I say this simply because I know there are many people in churches who have lost all faith, but stay doing the activity in the hope that nobody will notice.

Without the security of the church activity, my faith seems a whole lot more vulnerable. I am not surrounded by people who believe - I am surrounded by ordinary people, most of whom don't believe. It means that letting my belief wane is so much easier, and yet, in a way, it makes the belief I have so much more important. Suddenly my belief is no longer just something that I believe as part of a group of others, something that is part of my social group. It is something I believe despite my social circles. It is something that is distinctive, and something that I have to maintain despite the opposition (sometimes) of others.

The thing is, something I have to constantly fight for like this seems to me so much more precious. The faith I have - faith in the sense of a whole belief structure - is much more precious because it is not a given. It is something learned, grown, developed and matured. Now obviously, some of the edges do get knocked off. The faith I have now is different from the faith I used to have, but now it is something that I believe and that I work to support.

Of course there is always the possibility that I will find that my faith will wither or die. And there is always the possibility that it will flourish in ways that it could never in the confines of a church. It is risky, difficult and involves work, which is something that a faith-risk-averse church hates.

And that is, to me, the crux of the matter. The church likes un-risky faith, safe professions of belief. While I stayed in the church, my professions of faith had to be safe, risk-free. Outside, my faith, my belief, is permanently full of risk. In either case, there is a lot of work to do - to keep an acceptable faith profession, or to actually maintain my faith, my belief in God.

If I am going to work at my faith, I would rather the latter. A risky faith is far better, far more exciting, because it is what I believe. Risky faith does not mean a faith that makes you take risks. A truly risky faith means a faith that risks itself. So few people are willing to take that sort of risk.

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