The dictionary defines skepticism as the doubt of the truth of something. It defines a skeptic as someone who is inclined to doubt accepted truth, in particular when it comes to religion.
Generally, I wouldn’t classify myself as a skeptic. Whatever level of skepticism I have doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Some of it comes because of my life experience. In particular when it comes to believing deeply that something was true, only to eventually believe it isn’t true.
When I was younger, I was a pretty black and white person. I wasn’t overly comfortable in grey areas. I tended to believe that there were many absolute truths. Today my skepticism is essentially rooted in the fact that I’m doubtful of absolutes. I’m not saying some don’t exist, especially when it comes to science. But when it comes to matters of the heart and religion, those are much greyer areas—for me, anyway.
In my intro to this series I mentioned that I’ve never not known God. Some of my earliest memories are about learning about Jesus and going to church, the Roman Catholic Church. It’s quite common for children or teens to resist going to church, to not really like it. That isn’t my story. I loved it. Always. I was so excited when I did my first communion in grade one. I remember preparing my heart to receive Jesus, just as the nuns at school were telling us to do. It was an authentic spiritual experience I’ll always cherish.
Later I became and altar boy, then I had dreams of becoming a priest. Being a priest was in the back of my mind until I was about twenty-one, when I finally decided to pursue becoming a parent instead. In my late teens and through my early thirties God was a big part of my life, and for me, that meant being part of the Roman Catholic Church. I had accepted that it was the true Church, that every Christian denomination outside of it had wandered from what God wanted. I didn’t believe that they weren’t saved or that they didn’t love God. I simply thought they were misguided.
Even though the university I went to was a secular one, it did have a protestant seminary on its grounds. It was a fairly large building with many classrooms. Given that there weren’t as many seminarians as when it was first built, the university took advantage of the empty classrooms to hold secular classes there. I had a few classes in that building. I remember walking its halls thinking how lost the seminarians who attended here were, how far they were from the real truth, that the Roman Catholic Church was the one true Church. It wasn’t a judgment of those students. It was a sadness. I felt bad for them. My narrow-mindedness blinded me to the possibility that they might have a lot teach me about God.
In my late twenties through to my late thirties it was a collective of influences that led me to start questioning some of what was happening in the Roman Catholic Church. The exposure of sexual scandals and their cover up let me understand that my Roman Catholic Church was flawed. Today I understand that it, like every other church or religion, is flawed because it’s made up human beings, and we’re all flawed.
I started to want to learn more about what was true and what wasn’t. Topics like transubstantiation (the Roman Catholic belief that the elements of the Eucharist actually become the true body and blood of Christ during consecration), women not being allowed to be priests, priests not being allowed to marry, and in particular what did I have to do to earn my way to heaven. As I tried to learn more about these issues, I discovered that the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church wasn’t always true. One of the big one’s for me is when I discovered that God’s grace was all we needed to be saved. We didn’t have to earn it.
When I came to the realization that the church, which I had always believed to know the truth, wasn’t always right, I became somewhat of a skeptic.
I see my skepticism as a good thing. It’s allowed me to question my beliefs, to learn more about what I hold to be true, or what my church community holds to be true.
One of the areas where this has been the most meaningful to me is my position about homosexuality. A decade ago I accepted the teaching of most Christian denominations that it was a sin to be a practicing homosexual. But because I had come to the conclusion that sometimes the Church can be wrong about what it claims to be true, think of things like slavery and women’s rights, I started exploring the teachings of other Christians who believed that our traditional beliefs about homosexuality were flawed.
Today, because of my skepticism, I’m an affirming Christian who believes in the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community in every church.
I view my skepticism as a good thing. I want to remain open to discover new truths. I don’t want to pretend everything we believe is necessarily true. We should always remain open to evaluating our beliefs. We should do this in community and challenge each other. We should call on God to guide us in our journey.