Thursday, August 30, 2007


From Newsweek courtesy of AlterNet:

Moreover, this was no mere temporary visitation of doubt. Here are some of the things that she told her various advisers. “For me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves but does not speak.” “Such deep longing for God—and … repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal.—[The saving of] Souls holds no attraction—Heaven means nothing.” “What do I labor for? If there be no God—there can be no soul—if there is no Soul then Jesus—You also are not true.” Like an old-fashioned Morse signal, the cryptic and dot-dash punctuation somehow serves to emphasize and amplify the distress.


Now, it might seem glib of me to say that this is all rather unsurprising, and that it is the inevitable result of a dogma that asks people to believe impossible things and then makes them feel abject and guilty when their innate reason rebels. The case of Mother Teresa, who could not force herself into accepting the facile cure-all of “faith,” is that of a fairly simple woman struggling to be honest with herself, while also—this is important—striving to be an example to others.

Click here for the rest.

Yeah, so this hits on where I'm at with the concept of faith right now. I'll follow suit with Hitchens' glibness: Teresa's crisis was likely caused by a realization that God probably does not exist. I lost faith long ago, myself, but I went through an extended intellectual buffer stage before I decided to call myself an agnostic. For years I saw myself as a deist, believing in God, who created the universe, but who also doesn't really do anything anymore, either. This buffer stage allowed me to continue believing in God, which was very important to my own sense of identity, while acknowledging the fact that there is absolutely no evidence, anywhere, of his existence.

Unlike Mother Teresa, however, this was never a crisis for me. I mean, it was difficult at times knowing that I was intentionally separating myself from a part of our culture that I loved, that I identified with the concept of morality, and of being a good American. But it wasn't a crisis. It was growth or evolution, life's journey, whatever you want to call it, but not a crisis. Unlike Mother Teresa, I never had devoted my life, my own personal "meaning of life," to Christianity. Of course, all Christians make some sort of public declaration of their devotion to God at some point in their lives, but most people don't ever really have to live up to that declaration, either--they just go about their existences, working, sleeping, all that, and never really have to actually do anything for their God outside of going to church, or making the occasional charitable donation, or tithing, that sort of thing. Teresa was the real deal, a fucking zealot. Losing faith when you've bet the farm on it is definitely a crisis.

When she was alive, I never really knew much about her, just that she was supposed to be some kind of selfless, super-charitable, perfect Christian woman, working her ass off with the poor in India. When she died, I was heavily swayed by Christopher Hitchens' opinions of her: her seemingly charitable actions served to glorify poverty as some sort of state of Jesus-like Zen, contributing, however inadvertently, to the wealthy establishment that perpetually keeps the poor in poverty; her anti-sex and anti-abortion rhetoric was also deplorable. Now, I just feel sorry for her. She did everything her culture told her was good and right, but it wasn't enough. She knew there was a very good chance that her entire life's motivation was a sham, but by the time she figured it out, it was too late; she was in too deep to go back.

At least she had a conscience. I wonder if all these recently fallen right-wing neo-puritan leaders here in the US have had the same struggle. Probably not. If there's one thing we Americans have become very good at doing, it's denial.