Copyright © 2012 by Howard Pepper
It seems wherever I go these days, I encounter people who are struggling with one aspect or another of their faith. If not their own faith, it may be how to live comfortably among people of faith – especially if this is someone who may be gay or who has many doubts about or objections to the faith he or she was raised in.
It is incredibly helpful that there are now many places – forums, we might say – for people to explore their doubts and share their struggles. Many of these are on the Internet and thus are especially oriented toward people under 40 or so. However, I know first-hand that many people well over 40, even over 60, do participate in such online forums (usually blogs) and also in live gatherings.
So doubt is out in the open!
It was never fully hidden but now, for sure, the tendency of religious institutions to quash doubt and keep it under wraps has succumbed to an end-around play. People can connect cross-country and around the world, and do so anonymously if they want! This is a big, big help to many. It is only one expression of a broad and accelerating shift in the way religion and spiritual life are viewed and practiced.
To a degree that is scary to some and exhilarating to others “spirituality” is encroaching on the monopoly religion has held. People are moving around within religions or denominations as well. In this book, we will focus on the American aspect of this, but the changes are worldwide in varying forms. Sometimes changes seem to be going in opposite directions in the Global South and the more developed North and West as well. I imagine these to be a reflection of stages of development with some reactionary stepping back. Changes are taking place in contexts that are on different time scales – for groups as well as individuals. Both must be seen together though our focus will be more on individual needs and processes.
The crucial part of my own questioning and revising my faith happened when the Internet was little known or used. But, hey… I am now thrilled to have it as a means of interacting, researching, and finding out what others think. It may prove to be the most significant tool, with its related technologies, for the spread of information and interaction… far more versatile than the printing press!
So what kinds of problems go with religious or spiritual doubt? What are yours?