I’m a secret CNN Belief blog junkie, I love to read the different viewpoints and recent archaeological discoveries that relate to various world religions. Recently a blog was published entitled “Noah’s Ark discovery raises flood of questions,” and I found it to be a fascinating read (and I love the pun). http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/28/new-discovery-raises-flood-of-questions-about-noahs-ark/
In summary, the archaeological world has discovered the oldest known Mesopotamian version of the famous flood story. A scholar has found a 4,000 year old tablet in Iraq with the biblical account of Noah’s ark. The catch? The ark is described as a “large round vessel, made of woven rope, and coated in pitch to keep it waterproof.” This is very different from the description in biblical accounts.
Here is the conundrum for me as I examine and explore my faith; does it matter that historical facts often differ from theological accounts? The Israelites who wrote the story of the ark described the ark as a “boat” they were familiar with. This differs from the vessel that was used in ancient Mesopotamia. It would more likely have been that the vessel was round and that the Israelites shaped the story to what they knew in current time. These archaeological discoveries are becoming more and more common place, and they contradict biblical accounts. Another recent example included the use of camels during biblical times. Apparently even though the bible says that camels were used as transport, this was not true. Recent radiocarbon efforts have shown that camels weren’t domesticated in Israel until hundreds of years after our biblical fathers (for example Abraham) wandered the earth. Again, the writers of the bible wrote their account based on their current culture rather than historical accuracy.
This has been a major tripping point for me in my personal faith. If certain “facts” are not actually true, what else is not true? It is a slippery slope my friends. It is with great sadness and grief that I have lost my faith, describing myself as someone who is in limbo, a former Roman Catholic turned Agnostic.
I grew up with the wonders of the world around me, and as a child I would even sing songs to God on my nature walks, feeling joy dance through my heart. I grew up feeling a sense of peace and calmness after prayer and after confession. I have lost that feeling and have been on an ongoing journey to reclaim my faith, reshape it and make it mine. You see, that’s the thing, faith is personal and it cannot be dictated, shaped and governed. It cannot be accepted blindly, or at least I cannot accept it blindly, for I am convinced that God did not create us to be mindless, but to search our own hearts for the truth.
What is dismaying to me whilst reading these CNN Belief blogs is not the content of the blogs themselves, but the comments made by various readers. Should you seek a complete disregard for religious tolerance, one simply has to read the nasty comments in these sections. I started to fear that I was becoming one of those people, making snarky comments about the legitimacy of the bible and my friends’ opinions on their own faith.
Then one day I was hit with an indelible truth while at a lunch with a beautiful friend of mine. My snarky comments weren’t because I was some expert on historical Christianity, my negative attitude and commentary represented my feelings of grief and loss. She recommended joining her bible study group where we would read chapters from a book at each meeting in an effort to explore various biblical and intellectual concepts described in that book. The idea of joining both intrigued and scared me. Would they see me as a hypocrite? Would my doubts come out loud and clear as if I had a bullhorn and was using it to announce my questions and concerns? A safer venue would be to take a theology class, but I had not yet found one. I had also entertained studying on my own, and had previously downloaded numerous books on various religions, books on the historical Christ, books on unpublished “gospels,” and books that described the different world religions, but I had not yet read even one of them. This was an opportunity to start my studies and exploration, my quest for more knowledge, in a weekly and organized manner.
I have never met a group of women so open, so loving and so accepting. The feeling I get when I leave each Tuesday tells me I am onto something, whether that is knowledge about the bible or about myself, depends upon the day, but it is good.
Here is what I have learned so far. It is so easy to write off another person’s faith without truly researching and going on that journey yourself. I’m not talking about going through the motions that you were taught as a child. I’m talking about picking up your “holy” book and opening up your heart for the messages and truths within them. I’m talking about taking your doubts, your historical accounts and details and researching what scholars have to say about them. I have learned that regardless of my doubts and fears, I leave that group feeling just a little bit better, a little bit lighter and a little bit happier. I feel love.
I end this post with a question. Have you challenged yourself and your faith? How do you reconcile your faith, your holy book with what archeology and history tells you? Do you read about other faiths? Other belief systems? I once read an article that stated that agnostics answer more questions correctly on the beliefs of the worlds religions than any single believer in a particular faith. This leads me to believe that others just accept and study what they were raised to believe and study. Do you look for truth? What is your truth?
I don’t know if I will ever get to a point where I am certain. As a person I am never prone to look at things in black or white, I always see the shades and colors between the two and accept that this is an ongoing journey. I guess the title of this post is all wrong, perhaps faith doesn’t have boundaries, perhaps faith is something you have or you don’t. I admire your faith and pray that I come to terms with my own.