Friday, February 15, 2008

A Doubting Theresa

Listening to: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – Good Charlotte
Mood: Cranky

Time magazine recently featured a story about Mother Theresa, some letters she had written, and about doubting her faith. I was both amazed and a little saddened about what I read. I was born a bit young to fully comprehend and appreciate all that Mother Theresa did when she died, but I held her in high esteem as a person who had truly made a difference in the world and had compassion for others.

I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God, or divinity in the personified form that religion has shaped it to be. I don’t believe in heaven or hell. When you die, that’s it, game over. I believe in spirituality to some degree, but more as a mental function than anything outward. I’m pretty comfortable with my feelings on the subject. I’m not doubtful about it nor am I apologetic about it. I wasn’t raised this way though. I was raised in a Dutch reformed church and in a very conservative family. I was a pretty serious Christian until I was about 17. It has been a long road for me to become comfortable with what I believe in as an adult. I know the tremendous guilt and uncertainty that comes with going against what you were raised as and believed in for so long. I cannot fathom the spiritual agony that Mother Theresa must have felt when she could not banish her doubt after devoting her whole life to God. It must have been such a huge burden every day to wake up and want to believe whole heartedly and not be able to.

It took years after Mother Theresa’s death for these letters to surface. She didn’t want the letters published, out of what I am going to guess is shame. She was made out to be a saint almost before she died. Her work was heavily tied to God, Christianity, and the catholic church. How could she admit doubt in the face of all of the expectations placed on her? The shame she felt must have been huge. It must have been difficult to go through the day with such a crippling secret and feeling of hypocrisy. I’m not trying to be sarcastic or snide here – I really feel for her.

Mother Theresa, I hope you died at peace. God never commanded people not to doubt, and I do believe doubt is the product of a healthy, productive mind. If indeed your God is real and judged you after you died, I’m sure he forgave your doubts. You made such a positive impact on the world. You not only helped those in need, you inspired the rest of us to sacrifice for the good of humanity. Had you been someone else, you may not have made the difference that you did. We remember you with respect and love, doubt or not.


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