What If There is No God?

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

Leaving my apartment this morning to spend my half-hour of prayer and meditation at St.Eugene's chapel, the thought struck me, "Could I be wasting my time? What if my prayers are no more useful than the wishes we make before blowing out the candles on a birthday cake? What if my prayers are addressed to a delusion, a made-up God who exists only in our minds?"

Years ago, I would not have put my own doubts out there so bluntly. I would have been afraid to do so. I dared not express my doubts, even to myself. To doubt the very existence of God was unthinkable.

Through the years I have learned that I can't make doubts go away by stuffing them. I like Thoreau's perspective; He said "Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt, I should not believe."

Besides, Christianity has had a long tradition of doubters starting soon after the Resurrection of Jesus with one of Jesus's chosen disciples, that old skeptic Thomas. He wasn't about to take the words of the other disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. "Oh yea? Prove it," was Thomas's response. I suspect many of us, even those of us who fill the pews at Sunday services, have at times shared Thomas's reservations.

Dostoyevsky, one of a long line of Christians who had his own struggles with faith, once said, "It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born in the furnace of doubt." There was a man who took his religion seriously.

Like the iconic Russian writer, many of us continue to struggle with our faith. Others, perhaps unaware, or in denial of the commitment that the Christian faith implies, are more inclined to shrug their shoulders, saying in so many words, "Whatever."

They get on with our lives as though it doesn't make any difference whether they believe or not. After all, they rationalize, God's existence can hardly be proven or, for that matter, disproved so, why bother our heads over something we can't know?

William Sloane Coffin, a man who grasped the implications of what it means to be a Christian, said that for him, faith is much more than believing in a slew of dogmas. According to Coffin, "Faith isn't believing without proof. It's trusting without reservation."

Faith in God, in that sense, is more like you say to your son or daughter, "Honey, I believe in you. I know you can do it." That kind of belief is based more on trust than on logic. That kind of faith can energize us and cast out doubts.

If I believe in God in that way, any hesitation vanishes. God is as real as life and love and the air we breathe and the trust we have in our best friend. Far from wondering if I am wasting a half-hour of my time in prayer, I should be on my knees 24/7 for I tread on sacred ground. If God is truly the source of all that is good and holy and beautiful, being in his presence is exactly where I should be.

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