This I Believe

Lee - Cutchogue, New York
Entered on October 31, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

Title: The Power of Skepticism

I believe in not believing.

I belief in healthy skepticism.

I believe in not blindly accepting the beliefs of others, but in experiencing beliefs for myself, so that I can test the truth or falsity of what others tell me.

I believe in the clarity that comes from trying and finally learning something on one’s own.

I keep an open mind. But I do question authority: politicians, parents, pundits… teachers, bosses, religious leaders, scientists, friends and colleagues; anyone who professes a credo, especially if that credo is presented as fact.

Am I a pain in the neck? Hopefully not. I try not to be argumentative, but undoubtedly my attitude has on occasion rankled those who want me to automatically agree with them.

My father used to call me “yes, but.” I drove my parents crazy, however they were good enough to tolerate my doubting Thomas ways, even when my contrary nature struck directly at their most cherished beliefs. My father taught Sunday school; my mother was a deacon and an elder. Yet when I announced that I was staying home from church, they respected my decision.

Another time when I was a small boy, I was playing at a friend’s house. I had heard that my friend’s mother, a college professor, was an atheist. So, standing in their kitchen, I announced to her that I was an agnostic. “Oh Lee,” she said, shaking her head, “you don’t even know what that word means.”

“Yes I do,” I replied, “it means that I don’t believe in God, or not believe in God, because there is no way for a human being to truly know if God exists.”

She looked at me, quizzically at first, and then a smile crept across her face. “You do know what ‘agnostic’ means, don’t you,” she said.

In college I took a comparative religion course, and was fortunate to have a teacher who encouraged us to go on field trips to Buddhist monasteries. I was intrigued by the Zen Buddhist faith, whose teachers said, “don’t believe us, don’t blindly accept on faith what we say, but sit and breath a certain way, and you can experience for yourself the underlying truth of the universe.”

Twenty-five years of meditation, a number of different teachers, and the promise finally came true. After a day-long meditation retreat, I was sitting in my truck, gazing out over the ocean near my home, and the sky opened, everything suddenly became very, very clear, and I sat sobbing, filled with the pure, rapturous joy of knowing.

I now fathom the ultimate, concrete reality of the power of peace. I have internalized for myself the truth of a pure, divine love that pervades the cosmos.

Thanks to not believing blindly, I now completely, totally and unequivocally believe.