My friend was having trouble reconciling the fact that I am both a scientist whom she respects and someone who calls himself a Christian. How do I tell my friend that being a Christian has not always been foundationally defined on belief, but a transformative way of newly living, a faith?
Most Americans pick, mix and combine a variety of religious and cultural idioms to find what works for them in their everyday lives. This includes a majority of those categorized in recent polls as "nones."
Many of us give ourselves permission to say things we really don't believe; challenging our beliefs can serve as a filtering system that enables us to compare what is in our minds and in our hearts and to confirm there is a congruency between thought and belief.
There is nothing terribly religious about a questionnaire on belief in angels during a college psychology experiment. These studies fail the basic scientific test of measuring what they purport to measure.
We must seek those quiet spaces in our life that are safe for vulnerable explorations of meaning. These spaces are not found inside physical institutions or places where demagoguery slays reflective, rational and factually grounded discourse.
I still believe in the communion of potluck meals... in the importance of a community's witness and support when you celebrate or mourn. But I question whether we must have uniformity of belief in order to minister to each other.
The benefits of walking along the path of belief are clear: faith gives meaning to both the joys and struggles of life. Faith in God means that you know that you are never alone. You know and are known.