Five Pounds of Flax

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Theresa's "dark night of the soul"

Monday, September 03, 2007posted by Michael Rothwell @ 5:01 PM

Daniel Dennett wrote down his thoughts on Mother Theresa's doubts -- her "dark night of the soul".

(excerpt) Mother Teresa’s agonies of doubt are surely not all that unusual. [...] I get mail all the time from religious leaders who admit to me in private that they do not believe in God but think that the best way to continue their lives is to swallow hard and get on with their ministries, concentrating on bringing more good than evil into the lives of their parishioners and those for whom their churches provide care. [...] How many millions of priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, nuns and monks around the world are living lives of similar duplicity? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the outing of Mother Teresa inspired a few thousand of them to come out of the closet and acknowledge their atheism! Then it might start being obvious not only that faith in God is not a requirement for morality, but that the loss of faith in God often goads people into living more strenuously helpful lives, as seems to be the case with Mother Teresa. Of course, such honesty carries a price: you have to change your mission in a way Mother Teresa never did. She could have devoted herself more single-mindedly to helping the poor instead of trying to convert them. Perhaps it was her guilt at being unable to convert herself that drove her to work so hard to convert others to take her place among the believers.

That reminds me of Penn Gillette's "This I Believe" segment on NPR.

This "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God." Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.