Monday, August 27, 2007

The Doubts of Mother Teresa

Naturally, we are hearing all of the usual rebuttals to the recent news that Mother Teresa apparently lost her faith many years ago. The theist conclusions go along these lines:

"There's nothing unusual about this. All people of god struggle with their faith at times in their lives. It's part of the process. It makes you stronger in your relationship with god. Look at all the wonderful things she tried to do even though she was having these personal struggles - it's due to god!"

I can accept that nearly all people of faith struggle with it at times. The "personal god" hypothesis is so absurd, how could you not ever doubt it? Most of us were not raised as atheists. Some were, but the majority of present day atheists were brought up in some sort of religious tradition. Therefore, at some point we had "doubts". Instead of quashing those feelings, we examined them and concluded that our faith was erroneous.

Most believers continue on despite their doubts. I would guess that many of them actually find a way to rationalize the doubts out of existence, as easily as they initially rationalized god into existence. Apparently, though, Mother Teresa was not one of those! To say that it somehow ultimately made her faith stronger and her relationship with god a closer one, is highly disingenuous in this case. Had her letters revealed that she ultimately came back to her original position, then I would be mistaken in this assertion. However, it looks like she didn't. It looks like she lost her faith many years ago and never recovered it - right up to her death.

I read an excellent article this morning at the American Chronicle. In it, author Dale Netherton says:

"More than the physical misery she experienced and the suffering she alleviated Mother Teresa must be commended for exposing what all honest humans experience when dutifully sacrificing their inquiry for the dogma thrust upon them. Her doubt cannot be dismissed as being sustained by faith. Unquestioning belief is faith and Mother Teresa had many questions. This was the humanity that she should be honored for, not the handouts and charity. Any foundation could help the needy but how many could challenge the doctrine they accepted and eventually honestly question it? Very few.

"Of course Mother Teresa could have openly stated her doubt but like so many she was willing to live under the canopy of dogma that daily challenged her to sacrifice more and more. For not questioning she received the suffering that could have been quelled. Perhaps it was solace to know she was practicing what she truly thought would bring her the peace of mind she sought. She was fooling herself and she knew it and this is why she expressed her honest doubts. The price she paid was the life she sacrificed. It was not happiness she gained. A stature of saint awarded by the living is hardly rewarding to the dead. It is fodder for future flocks to live a life of pretense."

High recommendation for the entire article. This should particularly be read if you disagree with my view on faith.


Sillysighbean said...

For such a proclaimed "Humble Servant", she sure drew a lot of attention to herself, mingling with high rollers and private conferences with the Pope. How cool is that. Maybe if they were going to consider me for Sainthood, I would tow the company line myself.

John - Evolutionary Middleman said...

Yes, on the one hand it is even HARDER for a "mother teresa" to come out honestly about atheism. On the other, someone like that could have an even greater impact on the world than people like us - so you'd love to see more prominent folks speak up. Plus, like the article I linked points out, SHE would have lived in a lot less agony. It's always liberated to be yourself.