Humility & Domineering Doubt, Part II

Last week I posted some reflections on Bill Maher’s anti-religious satire Religulous.  While I thought the movie itself tiring and tired, I found Maher’s elevation of Doubt to the level of high religious virtue too ironic to pass up.  I half-thought Maher was going to recommend building a statue of Doubt and lighting candles at her feet.

I decided to take Maher’s statements about Doubt seriously because I think he makes a mistake that a lot of people make when thinking about religion—namely confusing doubt with humility.

As a more thoughtful example of such confusion I referred to a section of President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame—not the part about abortion that everybody talked about at the time, but a lesser-noticed part when the President spoke of doubt as “the ultimate irony of faith.”

Both President Obama and Maher praised doubt because, in the President’s words, “it should humble us.”  If you think about it, that’s a fairly strange claim.

Humility is, after all, universally praised in Christian spirituality.  When a pious nun asked Francis de Sales for a final piece of advice on his deathbed, the dying saint wrote, “HUMILITY, HUMILITY, HUMILITY,” on a piece of paper.  All the saints that I know of seem to think humility is a good thing, and I’m not inclined to argue.  But the saints have not been quite so keen on doubt.  On the contrary, they’ve said rather a lot about keeping and strengthening our faith, even proclaiming it boldly to the ends of the earth.  Jesus and Paul were pro-humility, but I don’t recall them saying anything like, “Oh, heck, maybe this God business isn’t true anyway; let’s not go overboard on the religion thing.”

We might conclude from the experience of the saints that doubt is not the only way to gain humility and perhaps not even the best way.  Regularly confessing one’s sins to a priest can also lead to a certain amount of humility, as can upholding an extraordinarily high moral standard—say, “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)—to which we often and repeatedly fall short.  Acknowledging the gifts of others as well as our own fallibility, recalling mistakes we’ve made when we start to feel full of ourselves, remembering that everything we do and see and think is itself seen by an all-knowing and all-perfect judge, showing due respect for tradition and authority—all these practices seem rather good ways of inculcating humility, and none of them involve dabbling in agnosticism.

Furthermore, Doubt of the variety Bill Maher advocates does not seem to produce humility at all.  Exhibit A, as I argued last week, is Religulous itself in which Maher levels some pretty sweeping charges against all the world’s believers without seeming to notice that in so doing he falls guilty of the same hubris he accuses his opponents of possessing.  And if we think of the great unbelievers of the past few centuries—Nietzsche, Marx, Bertrand Russell, Freud—“humble” is not the first adjective that springs to mind.  The actions of their followers were not all that humble either.

In the background of the contemporary tendency to praise doubt hovers the specter of religious extremism.  In our post-September 11 world, the fear of religious extremism packs a definite punch.  Maher cashes in on this fear by juxtaposing pictures of jihadists with pictures of mainstream believers (including pictures of the Pope) in his film.

The problem with Maher’s insinuations, however, is that violent extremism is not limited to religion; in fact, it seems more a human characteristic than a particularly religious characteristic.  Plenty of violence was carried out in the last century because of secular nationalism taken too far, and, if we think on a smaller scale, even extreme romantic attachments have been known to lead to the occasional violent act.  Get rid of religion, and you won’t get rid of violence or extremism.

And if by “doubt” we mean something that leads to lukewarm religious commitment, frankly, that’s not something I find very palatable (cf. Rev. 3:16).  Most of the saints could fairly be categorized as extremists.  Teresa of Calcutta, Paul, Francis of Assisi, even our own Ignatius and Xavier took religion pretty seriously, and they took it pretty far.  There’s nothing moderate in the command to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37).  It may sound terribly un-post-modern (or, maybe, post-post-modern) to say this, but the real issue here is not whether one’s beliefs are too strong, but whether one’s beliefs are right.  Suicide bombers are not at fault because they take their faith too seriously or because they never have doubts—I see no reason to imagine that suicide bombers are not, in fact, plagued by fear and doubts—but because it’s wrong to blow up innocent people.

Here the idea of balance is perhaps a more useful concept than that of moderation.  Using reason to interrogate and improve our beliefs is also indispensible.  We must love the truth more than our own ideas, which is where Karl Barth’s idea of “temptation,” which I mentioned in last week’s post, comes into play.  Barth seems to be speaking especially to theologians in warning them that their theological conceptions will always be subject to refinement and deepening, and in some cases complete revision.  Even theologians make mistakes.  This doesn’t mean calling into question divinely revealed doctrines, but it should mean openness to understanding these doctrines on a deeper level.  Who among us, after all, has spoken the final word about the Trinity after which nothing more needs to be said?

Barth has in mind something resembling “doubt,” but he is clear that this “temptation” comes as a divine initiative.  We do not go searching for it.  Likewise the experience of the “dark night of the soul” to which I alluded earlier is not something we can or should try to bring about ourselves.  Times of doubt and uncertainty can be a part of the spiritual life, and God can use such periods for our own spiritual growth—by, perhaps, tearing down our inadequate notions about him in order to replace them with a better understanding or by drawing us closer to his experience of abandonment on the Cross.

Dark times like these are no reason to despair; they are an invitation to deeper trust.  They should not cause us to panic—but we should certainly not seek them out or attempt to willfully put ourselves into a situation of doubt.  To willfully put our faith—our most precious possession—into jeopardy would be an act of foolishness and, worse, an act of pride.  We cannot seize the gift before God sees fit to give it.

In the end, it seems a far better thing to me to pray for a humble faith than to light a candle on the altar of Doubt.

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31 Responses to Humility & Domineering Doubt, Part II

  1. Justin from Ohio says:

    Excellent and though-provoking post….well done!

  2. Henry says:

    Anthony,

    Your latest reflection deserves much more time and care than I can give to it right now but I just want to offer an “off the cuff” observation.

    To paraphrase Deus Caritas Est, when considering the word “humility”, we immediately find ourselves hampered by a problem of language. (BTW, the same is true of the word “doubt”.)

    For example, I remember having many conversations with Fr. McDonald – the priest who instructed me in the Faith – about this because “humility” was always linked to “being a doormat” in my mind – and that’s most definitely linked to the media’s portrayal of a “humble” person.

    So, perhaps it would be useful to define the term because I have found that many people, (especially me!), have confused – and erroneous ideas – about the word “humility.”

    Pax,

    Henry

  3. Michae! Magree, SJ says:

    Anthony,
    I like your post very much. It reminds me of Newman’s famous line: “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.” It seems that he is taking another shot at Barth’s idea of temptation – a time of trial, even a kind of intellectual trial, in which our thoughts of God are challenged and re-shaped. It might change many people’s understanding of what they often call “doubts” to think of it in these terms of temptation and difficulty, because these terms don’t minimize the problem. But they also keep us tied to that relationship with God that is faith.
    Thanks for joining the WD team!
    Michael

  4. Stephanie says:

    You make so many good points I don’t even know where to begin.

    “Most of the saints could fairly be categorized as extremists. Teresa of Calcutta, Paul, Francis of Assisi, even our own Ignatius and Xavier took religion pretty seriously, and they took it pretty far.”

    St Francis sprung immediately to mind when you mentioned “religious extremists” early in the post. Probably because I was just reading a book about him (admittedly, a children’s picture book. Hey. I have three kids five years old and under. I do what I can.) and the thought crossed my mind while reading it that he’s a pretty good example of Christian extremism done right. The difference between him and someone who’s just half-cracked is exactly the point you mentioned. His beliefs were right.

    Like Henry, I think I’ve spent most of my life misunderstanding humility and being afraid of it. I think I’ve confused humility with degradation, something I’ve experienced a lot of as a woman. I still don’t think I’ve really sorted that all out, but I am at least becoming aware that there is a difference.

    Doubting God seems to me unlikely to ever aid in humility for precicely that reason. Without God’s perfect love affirming and protecting your basic human dignity you’re going to feel like you have to defend yourself against a world that seeks to degrade you, and that’s never pretty. That’s been my experience anyway.

  5. Lynn says:

    What makes Obama’s remark particularly odious is the fact that he spent a good part of his career as a community organizer and campaigned on the motivational theme “Yes we can.”
    To preach doubt as a virtue is to assert that one cannot know or be certain of anything. Yet, if one cannot know, one is not in a position to act. Without knowledge, even contingent knowledge, there is no basis for choice and one is left in paralysis and despair as Buriden explained. Doubt is the antithesis of freedom.

    Humilty is the acknowledgment of the contingency of knowledge. It is an affirmation that while we know in part, we do not know comprehensively. Thus we act with prudence, with generousity but we act. (And the ability to act nurtures the the ability to hope.)

  6. Father Joseph LeBlanc says:

    Your thoughts are extremely interesting and open to great discussion. The work is well written and easy to follow. Will pass it on to other confreres.

  7. Ryan says:

    Your post lifts my heart and provides clarification on a topic I have struggled with. God bless your vocation.

  8. Austin Hight says:

    I agree that confessing our sins is the best way to gain humility. Confession helps us to analyze ourselves and realize that we are not perfect, and that we will never be perfect. In realizing this, and seeing that the only perfect being is God; our faith is strengthened. I also agree that doubt will find us; we do not need to look for it. There are plenty of terrible things in the world that can happen to us to make us doubt the existence of God. If we go and search for reasons to doubt, we will live a miserable life. The statement about religion and terrorism is also true. There are many ways of practicing faiths to extremes that do not require killing innocent people. Some of the greatest saints in our history would be considered “extremist” by today’s standards.

  9. Ethan Caballero says:

    I agree that we should not doubt our faith but still be humble enough to realize that we might not have the best interpretation of our faith. I think that people should stand up for what they believe in but still be open to the opinions of others.

  10. sethangelico says:

    I agree with this author that violent extremism is not tied to religion. It is purely a characteristic of humanity. Although “religious extremism” is a term usually synonymous to “violent extremism,” extreme violence does not always occur through a religious base. Even though extreme acts of violence most commonly derive from religious differences like in the case of the muslim jihadists in the Middle East or the Catholic IRA in Ireland, violent extremism can also be sparked by racial, economic, social, or political conflicts. The acts of the Ku Klux Klan can be considered acts of extreme violence in their time; religious differences did not spark the heinous acts of the KKK, but rather racial and political issues did. The extreme domination of Europe by Germany’s Third Reich, which is one of the most notable acts of violent extremism, was caused by German National Pride, which is more of a social rather than religious difference. Even the Nazi attempted genocide of Judaism was began not for religious reason but the reasons of using Jews as a political scapegoat for all of Germany’s problems. Even though violent extremism existing in the U.S. today would lessen with the lack of religious values in the world, violent extremism cannot be pinned to just religion.

  11. Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

    Thanks for all the insightful comments.

    As for defining humility, I tried to cheat and look in the Catechism but couldn’t find a neat definition of humility. I’d say, based on people’s comments, that whatever definition we come up with should make clear that humility is not “being a doormat.” It shouldn’t be incompatible with a certain “holy boldness,” to use a phrase from one of our recent Jesuit documents. So here are two elements I think humility must include:

    (1) Seeing ourselves truthfully in relation to God and to each other. This means a truthful acknowledgement of our faults, but also of the dignity we possess as sons and daughters of God.
    (2) Some sense of self-lowering (or maybe self-giving?) done out of love. I’m thinking especially of Jesus’ humility in the stable in Bethlehem. That the motive is love is very important because we can lower ourselves in response to degradation, as Stephanie said, but that’s not humility.

    I’d also note, in response to Seth’s remarks on religious extremism, that Christianity in particular has done a lot to reduce violence in the world. Examples of religion-inspired violence get more attention, but I would bet that on balance if we eliminated Christianity from the world, life would be much more violent, not less. The ancient world, after all, was not noted for its pacifism.

  12. Scott Gibson says:

    Although I have not seen Bill Maher’s movie, I think I have a pretty good idea of the kind of “beliefs” it preaches. The anti-religion movement has really picked up support in recent years, mostly from angsty teens who consider themselves enlightened because they watched a few Dawkins debates on Youtube. When I see some of Maher’s disiples yelling down the opposition on the comment boards, it’s pretty obvious that these people are not searching for truth, but a position that escapes scrutiny. Most of the time they do this by constantly pointing the finger at other viewpoints instead of proposing an idea of their own. The typical neo-atheist is not concerned with forming his own beliefs; he is concerned with mocking the beliefs of others.

  13. Austin Villanueva says:

    Everyone will doubt, no one person can be truly certain of anything; they can only believe. However, their belief maybe very strong. Humility is something that we must ask God for, and something he will reveal to us when he thinks we are ready. I agree that there are different ways to gain humility, and that being humble is in no way bad. Those who try to find humility in the wrong way show their pride; this shows that they feel that they are on the same level as God. Looking at religion in an “extremist” way–loving God with one’s full self–is the way that I feel we should view our faith.

  14. Woody Brown says:

    i also agree that the most humbling experience is realiving everything “secret” or sin in the confessional. it allows us to see the true value of not being perfect and however much we strive for perfection, we will never be able to achieve it. humility also helps to see our faith and give us the chance to see other peoples beliefs and ideas.

  15. Michael Nguyen says:

    In order to believe, one must doubt. One cannot have one without the other. Doubt is present because belief is only knowledge based on trust. It does not humble us, but rather it questions us. Rather, I think that doubt is present to affirm our beliefs. Without doubt, no one would ever question any kind of knowledge; but when doubt arises, these questions arise and are answered. This process would then lead to one reaffirming again and again their beliefs to a level of high “extremism.”

  16. Colby Kiefer says:

    I agree with the author’s statement regarding the relationships between religion extremism and secular extremism to an extent, but there are some points that can be made on that subject. Of course its obvious that violent extremism is not solely reserved for the religiously deranged, but i believe that violent extremism takes its most primal, inhumane form when channeled through the medium of religion. The numerous examples given by extremist muslims recently are proof of the incredible lows people will go to for a religious belief and a bunch of wispy virgins.

  17. Henry says:

    Anthony,

    I have used a kind of “Lectio Divina” with your provocative posts (this one and the previous one – Crusading Doubt) these last few days and I want to share the fruit of my work with you so that you can help me tie up the loose threads since my thinking is still in an inchoate state.

    And I wrote in my first response: it would be useful to define the term because I have found that many people, (especially me!), have confused – and erroneous ideas – about the word “humility.” And I, like you, initially looked up the meaning of the word and its etymology in various resources including Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary, the New Advent website, etc. But doing so showed me that that I actually had a deeper question, i.e., that your post actually activated deeper questions in me and so I started with those questions!

    Humility first. As Stephanie so beautifully put it, we often confuse humility with degradation and that’s why “humility” was my least favorite word. But the more I reflected on my belief the more it pushed me to ask why? After all, Jesus said “learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart” and so it must be something positive. So, since I realized long ago that words are tools we use to describe an experience, I asked myself, have I ever had an experience of humility? And, if yes, what was that like?

    Now Christ used your, Michael’s, and Lynn’s posts as road signs on my existential journey and because of the work I did on my heart I realized that “humility” – in order to be understood and embraced – must be tied to “realism” (about our heart and about the One who can fulfill that heart) and not doubt as the President and Mahler assert. Why do I say that? Because I realized that I had had an experience of humility when I realized that “I” in this moment am not making myself” but rather, that my existence was a gift from a Being whose very nature is gratuitousness. And so it dawned on me that “humility” must be tied to “realism” – which Fr. Giussani defines as: “the urgent necessity not to give a more important role to the ideas, constructions, or schemes already in our minds, but rather to cultivate a total, passionate, insistent ability to observe the real event or object — i.e., a total, passionate, insistent ability to observe the fact.” And so I am convinced that doubt will never lead us to humility, in it’s true sense, because it perpetuates the myth of our self-sufficiency, the antithesis of humility.

    Now “doubt”. I also realized that doubt is a false and mendacious need. Why do I say that? Because my heart – a human hear – craves certainty. For example, I am confident that all of us writing these posts and responses desire the certainty that we are walking on the right road. So the real problem is not our coherence or incoherence, but rather the problem is that we don’t acknowledge the fact that we have the desire to know that we are on the right road even if we are going slowly or limping along. So, I assert that “doubt” is a lie that we are indoctrinated to believe is true, primarily because we’ve been told that it makes us look mature. So it’s something we are taught and not something ontological and that’s why it alienates us from ourselves. (Perhaps Stephanie, who has three children can chime in here and share with us if she sees this desire in her children.)

    There’s so much more I want to say but since this is not my blog, I will simply end by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with your assertion that the idea that “doubt should humble us” is indeed a fairly strange claim! And, of course, Maher’s erroneous definition of faith as “making a virtue out of not thinking” only demonstrates his ignorance because anyone who has ever read Augustine, Aquinas, Chesterton, Von Balthasar, Giussani, Marcel, Zubiri, Feser, many who post and comment on this blog, and countless others, knows that the Catholic Christian Faith is not the Faith for those who refuse to think.

    Thank you for the very stimulating and inspiring post!

    Pax,

    Henry

    • Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

      Thanks, Henry! Your thoughts hardly seem inchoate to me! I particularly like the way you tie humility to realism, and I like what Fr. Giussani says. I think you’re right about a certain kind of doubt undermining humility. Relativism in particular makes a true humility impossible because it denies that there is anything ultimately real.

      I think your reflections on doubt are also insightful. In today’s intellectual climate we’re sometimes made to feel that if we don’t express doubt about our faith or at least a detached cynicism, we aren’t intellectually “mature.” As the Catholic thinkers you mention demonstrate, however, we can subject all of our beliefs to probing rational inquiry while still remaining passionately committed to our faith.

      Another possible theme for reflection and meditation along these same lines is what do we mean by “belief”? It seems to me there is an intellectual component (rational assent to a proposition), an emotional component (feeling securing in holding that assent), but when Christians speak of “belief in God” they also mean a third thing, which is trust in God. I haven’t fully thought this out, but this last thing might be the most important and it can grow even when the first two are shaken… I suspect Virgilijus and Kierkegaard would agree, though I don’t want to put words in their mouths.

      It’s edifying to see all the comments on this blog and know that others are wrestling with all these issues. Thanks for sharing the fruits of your meditation and prayer.

      God bless,
      Tony

      • Henry says:

        Tony,

        Thank you for your encouragement and kind words – it made me very happy and momentarily puffed up my ego! I was not trying to be modest when I said my thoughts were inchoate and I wrote that because I sincerely feel that my thoughts are imperfectly formed. Of course I would love to say, “Oh yes, I am great and I thought of all these things myself” – but that would be a complete lie because I follow a method that has been given to me by Christ through His servants, Fr. Gussani and Fr. Carron.

        Alright, so why do I think my thoughts are imperfectly formed – or better yet, why do I think I have a skeleton that needs muscles and flesh? Because I intuit that I need to do more work on/with the word “doubt.” For example, if I am mad at someone I love – truly love (e.g., my mom or dad) – I don’t “doubt” my love for them or their love for me and I don’t lose my faith in them. And of course, that’s probably because they are a real presence to me.

        So, it seems to me, that you rightly perceive that the problem rests in a false conception of Faith. Of course, for the last year and a half in CL, Fr. Carron has been drumming into us that we do not believe that faith is a certain method of knowledge; and as time passes, I see how true that is – not because he said it – but because I see it in my experience!

        Regarding your sentence: “…when Christians speak of “belief in God” they also mean a third thing, which is trust in God.” If you can, I strongly encourage you to read volume 2 (Hope) of Is It Possible to Live this Way? by Fr. Giussani precisely because the chapter on Trust is amazing and I think you will enjoy it very much.

        It’s beautiful how your post is resonating with so many people – thank you for being a conduit for Christ!

        Pax,

        Henry

    • Stephanie says:

      Great post Henry! Very insightful!

      To answer the question you posed to me, yes, I see that desire in my children. In fact, I’d say that the desire to know that they are on the right path is one of their top two desires, the other being to know that they are unconditionally loved. They are constantly looking to me, my husband, my father and their teachers for reassurance that they are on the right path. They want to do the right thing and they are capable, when they have a clear idea of what that is, of great persistance.

      Even baby James, who is 8 months old, is trying to get a foothold in reality and understand how things work and his relationship to the world in order to better navigate it.

      There is nothing so exasperating to a child as relativism. Just to use a simple example, if I tell the four and five year old to clean their room and we don’t have a predefined and agreed upon idea of what “clean” entails, dollars to donuts all of their toys will be shoved under the beds and in the closets. It’s overwhelming, looking at a floor full of My Little Ponies and books and legos. They need a standard, legos in the lego bin, ponies in the pony basket, books on the bookshelf, or they’re completely at a loss and things only get messier.

      That’s pretty much how I see relativism. If we don’t have the correct standard (Christ) we don’t have much chance of sorting the whole mess out and, in fact, are probably just going to make things messier.

      Tony, I’d love to see you write an article expanding on the ideas you brought up about defining belief.

      • Henry says:

        Stephanie,

        Thank you, thank you, thank you, for answering my question – your observations about certainty and relativism are of inestimable value to me and I am so grateful that you shared them with all of us! I hope you don’t mind but I am going to use it in my Adult Education Classes.

        I pray that Our Lord and Our Lady continue to envelop you, and all your loved ones, in their proactive and overabundent love.

        Pax,

        Henry

  18. Trevor Laborde says:

    I agree that doubt should not humble us. I think that those are humbled are humbled by choice. I believe that everyone has some form of doubt, but what seperates them is how they choose to act on it. I also agree on the matter about extreme violence. I also think it is foolish to believe that religion is the reason behind these terrors when not every person even believes in a faith.

  19. Derek Dunham says:

    I agree that the best way to be humbled is by telling your sins to a priest. It helps us to relize our flaws and work to being better. Doubt is also a way to help us gain humility. Doubt is something that has to be treated carefully though. i think that doubt is something that all people need not only in themselves but also in their faith. Doubt makes people strive to be better and it also helps people to believe they are not all-knowing. Doubt is something that shouldn’t be saught out though, doubt will always be there and to much is a bad thing.

  20. James Reuther says:

    I do agree that the influence of religion does more good than bad. a great way that relgion best helps me to be humble is confession. It helps me examine my mistakes and correct them. Also, people that rarely confess their sin often forget even committing them which leads to lack of knowledge. I think that the lives of the saints are great examples of frequent confessions; people that are slow to anger and forgiving.

  21. Cleve Daigle says:

    Yes, doubt can be very dangerous as it can blur faith and rattle our beliefs, but it is a necessity to be able to believe. This doesn’t mean that we should go about our lives consciously seeking to doubt things as Maher says, that is when we can jeopardize what we believe in and what we hold as important. Instead, natural human doubt should be a tool used to strengthen our beliefs. As for humility, from what I’ve read it seems like what Maher says is that to be humble is to give up what we believe in, in this case, religion. He says that humility is doubt. If this is true, then Bill Maher is the biggest hypocrite on the planet because he, without a doubt, believes that there is no God and that religion will destroy the world. Argument invalid.

  22. Many points can be flogged on issues raised in
    this excellent discussion! Just some general and generic reflections:

    1- Maher is not a frame of reference for me so am
    not too interested in discussing someone like him for
    no purpose: watching his interviews re his movie
    on TV was enough to tell my mind that he was just
    another person in the long line of confusing “reason”
    with faith, and confusing “religion” with the
    existential phenomenon of “a” religion found in all
    known civilizations begging instead not doubt,
    but the question why such a universal human
    reaction to life, and lived experience?
    (cf. C.S. Lewis’s “Til We Have Faces.”)

    2- Humility is “honesty” with who we are: period.
    It’s got nothing to do with going to confession,
    or going anywhere except on the road of
    self-discovery which in and of itself, is humbling,
    and ultimately leads to lived, real humility.

    The more we know who we are and what we are in
    essence, determines the level of our humility!
    Which is why St. Ignatius presents LEVELS of humility
    in his Spirituality, with a call to the 3rd level
    of Humility (within his Jesuit Constitutions) which
    few either know about or seek to grow into!!!

    3- Faith wouldn’t be faith, if we had no doubt!
    Eternal Life is not a cake walk! “Eternal Life”
    is the essence of Revelation, since many claim
    that they can live a “good life” without
    involving themselves in Christianity. And so they can.
    But, in their case as opposed to mine, they will STAY
    6 feet under while I won’t! Period!
    The rest is detail!

    4- The most profound insight to “faith” for me, is
    Kierkegaard’s prayer, that by one author’s account
    is a summary of Kierkegaard’s philosophy, theology, and psychology:

    “God in heaven, I thank Thee that Thou hast not
    required it of man that he should comprehend
    Christianity; for if that were required,
    I should be of all men the most miserable.

    The more I seek to comprehend it, the more
    incomprehensible it appears to me, and the more
    I discover merely the possibility of offense.
    Therefore, I thank Thee that Thou dost only
    require f a i t h, and I pray Thee
    to increase it more and more. Amen”

    • Henry says:

      Virgilijus,

      I love this profound sentence: “Humility is “honesty” with who we are: period.” – perfect, perfect, perfect. What I especially love is that it deflects all the moralistic baggage that we attach to humility.

      You also taught me something I did not know – I did not know that St. Ignatius wrote about levels of humility and so I looked them up on the Net and they were great. I have actually never read anything by St. Ignatius but that’s probably because my interaction with his priests and brothers left such a bad taste in my mouth. But interacting with everyone on the blog is allowing me to see a more attractive side of the Jesuits.

      Lastly, have you had a chance to see the movie I recommended? I’ve seen the one you recommended twice and I want to discuss it with you – we just have to figure out a way to do that.

      Pax,

      Henry

  23. John Simpson says:

    I believe that humility and doubt go together in order to have a strong faith. In order to understand what you believe in, you must first have doubts as to why you believe what you do. If you have doubts, then you have the humility to know that you do not know all that there is to know about religion. it is impossible to know everything because God does not reveal it all to us nor will any one man ever be able to know all on earth. The balance of doubt to faith must be kept because too many doubts blurs God, but no doubts leaves you with completely blind faith that is not truly faith.

  24. Christian Fraught says:

    I agree that repeated confession is a good starting point for gaining humility. The constant examination of our faults and wrong decisions forces us to look at ourselves as less than perfect and put our pride on the shelf. I also think that the idea of balance is the most important issue when dealing with doubt. I choose to think of doubt as a never-ending search for truth, and it is important to balance doubt with faith in our beliefs. We must gain a balance between complete distrust and blind obedience. We must hold fast to our ideals while still considering the possibility that our ideas may be incorrect, as well as have the courage to accept our misconceptions and change our position. Perhaps doubt is nothing more than the ability to keep an open mind and recognize change.

  25. Eric Haydel says:

    In addition to Seth:
    There are people that argue that acts of the KKK and more prevalent groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church are direct products of religion. While I do think that religion plays a part, it is not the agent in all of this. People would hate other people for their reasons even without religion. Many people use it as a crutch to fund their own hatred.

    G.K. Chesterton once said “A mouth is not made to be open. It opens only so that it may close. So are our minds.” A person who believes in doubt essentially believes in nothing, and tolerance in a modern sense is another way of saying lack of principles. People let other people walk right over them in fear of offending them. Doubt is a natural thing, though too much of it leads to no good. I agree that humility is a better alternative; this humbleness should not derive from doubt, however. This humbleness should derive from sheer immensity of the universe, the tiny specks of nothingness that is man. We can not, and never will be able to know even one hundredth of one percent of our universe or about God.

  26. […] be friendly to religious faith.  See, for example, my posts on Bill Maher’s Religulous (here and here).  Michael Moore pioneered this type of documentary—NOVA meets Saturday Night Live—with Roger […]

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