The Faith of a Wimp

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.

Comments

  1. Well said.

    Press, Radio, and films.

  2. Kevin Shea says:

    I have admiration for those who have found a faith or a way of believing that they can embrace with conviction. It does not equate with courage, though. You could make the case that it is its own form of cowardice, because by believing so strongly in something one can stop thinking and questioning. It has, more often than not it seems, the unfortunate side effect of making the believer close minded, exclusionary and in the extreme cases, irrational.

    Nothing wrong with a little irrationality, it is a necessary component of faith in anything. It is not, however, logical. This is where Michael’s case starts to fall apart. He says that he is trying to explain logically why prophets other than Jesus are fools or flawed mortals, but the entire premise is based on faith: believing what the Bible says.

    Sorry, but you can’t make a logical case based on premises that aren’t supported by logic (i.e. able to be proved).

    It’s nice to think that Jesus was original, but he wasn’t that original. All faiths that I am familiar with have prophets, teachings, etc. that talk about love and faith and kindness, about the need to live virtuous lives, The Buddha, the Torah, Krishna, Allah, all of them.

    Michael may be right when he says there are plenty of “logical reasons to believe in a real, personal, all-powerful creator of a god”, but that doesn’t equate with any particular faith. That belief can be pursued no matter which shrine you visit or prayer you say. It is unfortunate that belief, as it is being defined by those who strongly believe, too often becomes exclusionary.

    I wasn’t aware that having the courage to admit that you don’t know, that you don’t have all the answers in a neat bundle, signified being a wimp. On the contrary, it takes courage to say that one doesn’t know. Kudos to Tom for being brave and honest.

  3. I agree with the original column.

    I do not believe in god or a higher power. Instead, I choose to put my faith in things that are tangible. My friends, my family, etc. Instead of blindly living my life by the rules of an old book, I think for myself.

    And let me tell you, if you don’t think it took a never-ending busload of faith to be a Red Sox fan prior to 2004 then I don’t know what to tell you.

  4. Tom Matlack says:

    Thanks Daddy Files. And Ron yeah I am not the greatest when it comes to the Traditions. Seeing as my whole story of sobriety is out there in book form not sure I can hold back now. Agree Kevin that the only thing I find offensive about any religion is when they claim to know the one true path where all others are relegated to inferior status. All too often in this world that is the case, and bloodshed and war soon follow. I gotta believe that God, whatever your belief, is about human compassion.

  5. David Wise says:

    “I am a just a speck of dust in a massive cosmos over which I have no control.” This quote is perhaps the only thing I don’t agreed with. To me, it’s the same old “we are but filthy rags in the sight of God” sentiment that Christians have. I believe we are co-creators in the universe and each of us possess a part of the divine. We are immortal souls and choose our karmic paths in life. Shanti

  6. Tom Matlack says:

    Agreed David. It is just way of fighting the ego which tells me I am way more important than I actually am. That said, my belief is like you that we each carry the Devine in our souls.

  7. Ken Goldstein says:

    Faith almost by definition has to be personal. It is a decision we each make, what to believe. Institutions lure us with the promise of belonging, which we all desperately need, but in offering that bait, almost universally trade on our insecurities with the exercise of power, their underlying purpose. My sense is that the group exercise of conformity over the individual’s right to self determination is at the core of religious corruption — the turning of moral ideals into judgment, which for me represents the antithesis of faith. If faith is personal, my decision, but acceptance in an institutional sharing of faith requires me to subordinate my personal redemption to the judgment of a gathering of strangers whose true agenda can almost never be transparent, how does judgment (qua indictment) help me to better determine what I actually do believe or can believe? If faith has the potential to be the root of all goodness in that its author and owner can make the choice to lead a life that is selfless, judgment has the potential to shut down the reflection of the individual and replace it with conflict that is manifest in expressions of ranking. That isn’t to say that belonging cannot help us make better choices if honest dialogue is shared, but the arrogance of proclaiming one’s own reflection to be superior to others cannot likely help the emerging moralist to be anything but silenced, weary, and ultimately angry. The laws of society are delicate and necessary for us to live among each other, but the core value of faith and spiritual inquiry would seem to me always to be a function of the private rather than the public, thus the value of institutional judgment in assessing that which is personal will always be more a conduit of conflict than resolution.

  8. Fascinating conversation, here. Faith, by one definition, is “the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.” Hope and conviction are not the currecny of wimps. I read in Tom’s work a struggle between conviction and humility, which is a noble struggle for any person of faith. My life of faith is not so much about taking a stand for something as it is being committed to the search for that something. And the orientation to that search shows itself in the life I live – or so people tell me. I, like Tom, “practice” Christian worship, but am not afraid to embrace what is of value in other faith traditions, or even to acknowledge value in them.

  9. Sandra Parrotto says:

    Now this is a meaningful conversation…Such a difficult one, as well. There are specific “rule out” factors that make being a Christian, a Muslim or a Buddhist exclusive. So… for someone who sees their faith with reverence and conviction, they are left feeling as if they’re on the outside or “wimping” out. As Ken Goldstein mentioned, the “promise of belonging” cuts deeply when we are excluded from belonging as someone of faith because we choose not to buy into the “rule out factors”.

    I find myself in conversations with those who have chosen to “belong” and am left feeling not wimpy, but certainly unacceptable. Am asked to provide proof for what I believe, justify why I won’t buy-in and then seen as an alient (uninformed and skewed). Everytime someone writes about an experience close to mine, as Tom has, I am grateful for the support in simply believing – for being on a path that questions, learns and searches for the answers to my humanity. Thx to the Good Men Project – you continue to amaze me…

  10. Tom Matlack says:

    Thanks Ken, Roger and Sandra for expanding the conversation. As always, the goal is conversation about the most important topics, not close ended answers.

  11. Randy Strauss says:

    Christianity is a religion. Faith is spirituality. In that sense, religion is a path and faith is the destination. We may take different paths, but we are all heading towards the same place.

  12. The phase that stood out for me in this article was “a picture of God in my mind to hold onto”. If God is an incorporeal spirit, then we can’t really form any picture of God. And even if we believe that Jesus was the Son of God made man, we have no way of knowing what He looked like. I think the Jews were/are on to something when they refrain from depictions of God or even from saying His name. Since the Bible tells us that man was made in the image and likeness of God, it should be enough for us to see God in one another.

  13. Kevin Shea is absolutely right when he says that your friend Michael’s argument unravels when he tries to make a rational case for something irrational: faith in what cannot be proven. A point that I think Michael misses is that faith in something doesn’t automatically give your life meaning, or guide your actions in any way. You could have faith that, for example, someone has already died for your sins, and so you can just relax and do whatever, because you have insurance against sin. I’m not saying that’s Christian dogma, but it’s certainly one way it’s interpreted by people.

    People turn to religion for different reasons. Meaning is one, but so are a desire for community, transcendent experience, moral challenge, or social acceptance. I found myself within organized religion for a few years, because I was humbled and grateful to be alive, and I wanted to express that in a way that held meaning. I found the laws comforting and adherence a meditative, spiritually rewarding practice.

    But once those laws no longer held me through faith, I was lost again. I’ve since regained comfort in expressing my more religious impulses, in whatever way comes to me. I think I still find, as Daddy Files does, that my faith belongs in the world. We should have faith in our marriages, friendships, and children. I have faith in my dog, and in the sun rising.

Speak Your Mind