I believe in a life that balances reason with a sense of spiritual mystery

Amy - Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Entered on March 24, 2008

I believe in a life that balances reason with a sense of spiritual mystery. I seek a life that rejects cold rationality while I reject the abandon of reason. I would never disavow science, nor would I substitute science for religion.

I have always tended toward a gimlet eyed view of the world. As a young woman, recently graduated from college, a friend and I were standing on next to the ocean on Nantucket on an achingly beautiful summer evening. We were watching the sunset through a few clouds. The sun dipped below the edge of a cloud and then bounced back up. My friend said, “Look, the sun is rising again”. I replied, “Of course it isn’t, the cloud just drifted lower.” She stared at me; at that moment I understood my soul was without poetry. Unsurprisingly, I was an atheist.

Almost thirty years later, I can find no rational argument for the existence of God. I am sympathetic to atheists. I know rationally that the there is no convincing argument for God and that religion has done terrible things. I cringe at the thought of my college philosophy professor hearing this, but, irrationally, I need god. Anyway, studies have shown that we humans are not as rational as we think we are. The parts of the brain involved in emotion light up in images of brains of people who claim they are making a rational decision.

I flirted with religion many times over the years. I visited synagogues Quaker meetings and Unitarian churches. I had a reformed Jewish wedding to a lapsed Presbyterian. After the wedding, I cooked Christmas dinner and held Seders. Two children and one divorce later, I was surprised to find myself dating an Episcopalian with a Jewish surname. We married, I was baptized and I have been a church member for over ten years. I don’t mind that I can’t rationally believe in God, so long as I irrationally can. I don’t believe that the Bible is literally true, and I can’t imagine how anyone can believe it is, given how troublesome the stories are and how internally inconsistent it is. I believe that the Bible shows us that, as humans, we are drawn to do evil and that only by struggle can we be good. I believe it also teaches us that we don’t have to struggle alone.

My youngest child, age eight, still unquestioningly believes in God. My teenage children are either atheists, or maybe they make a nod to uncertainty and are agnostics. They see my belief as a huge cop-out. I have been perfectly fine with them finding their own way. I appreciate and respect doubt. I don’t want them to be gullible, but I worry about their hard edge of rationality. So at sunset, as the sun sinks with the rotation of the earth, I pray.