Delivered at Ames UCC on March 18, 2018
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
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Part of how I’ve been able to have a faith, and be part of the Christian religion, has been by rejecting belief. I’ve rejected the notion that I must believe in God, believe in the Trinity, believe in resurrection. I don’t reject God, Trinity, and resurrection, I reject that requirement of belief. Because, for me, the word belief is about intellect and conceptual understanding, none of which can encompass an encounter with divinity.
I believe, for example, in thermodynamics and diabetes and global climate change. I have received data on all of those, data gathered through rigorous, intentional testing by those who have undergone rigorous, relevant training. Maybe over time they will be proven wrong or modified in terms of biochemical or geologic mechanisms, but I believe energy is a physical phenomenon, as is insulin, and the rising waters resulting in environmental refugees.
Belief, I am trying to argue, is the outcome of a formal and predictable process.
Until now. Now it seems that belief as a function of the human brain and so a major factor in human society, is no longer tied to process.
I just finished a book by an Episcopal bishop on parish ministry. In it, he references a Duke University researcher who has studied how an audience holds on to both positive and negative misinformation as it relates to politicians. Basically, we conform facts to our experience up until the moment we receive the information, and we are remarkably unwilling to budge on our beliefs even when given reliable data that countermands our beliefs.
That research was in 2013. At this point it feels like anyone can believe anything, be it about politics or medicine or the planet, without any need for logic or data or relevant credentials, merely a suspicion of all three.
So talking about belief in God doesn’t make sense to me because the concept of God cannot be tested scientifically and belief itself is now so loaded a term as to be toxic.
Instead, I have faith. Instead of belief in God, I have faith in God.