What do you have to lose?

September 21, 2011

A man is standing on the campus mall with a microphone, right now, right as I type this.

When I walked by on my way to work, this is what I heard: “You’re twenty years old with your whole life in front of you. What do you have to lose? God is real: don’t go to a man, go to God. And if God isn’t real, what do you have to lose?”

This strikes me as awful on many levels – one of the reasons I struggle so with my faith is that I don’t believe that faith should be shallow or entirely self-interested. I’d love to believe that there is a god who cares about the minutia of my life, who sorrows with me, who notices even the smallest and most personal of tragedies. I’d get a lot of comfort out of that if I could believe in it. If I could believe in it again. But I can’t base my belief on whether or not it would be comforting to believe a certain way. That shortchanges me, God (if there is a god), faith, and belief. It doesn’t have truth at the heart of it, and faith, to be worth having, should have truth at the heart of it.

I miss my faith, but I won’t settle for a new faith that’s based on my need for comfort. Not that comfort is a bad thing – very much the opposite, in fact – but I want mine to come from a place of truth and strength.

Hearing what amounts to, “So what if you live a lie, so long as it brings you happiness,” makes me want to howl. It’s a terrible, horrible argument, and one, I suspect, more geared toward getting bodies into church than toward helping people find faith. (It’s no coincidence that these evangelists show up at this point in the year, when our newer students are starting to feel overwhelmed by coursework and homesickness really begins to set in.)

And, well, what if one of these college kids buys what he’s selling. What if she takes on a faith and that faith doesn’t stand up to what her life brings to her – questions, sickness, natural disasters, or a dead baby? What if she’s left bereft of, not only a loved one who died too soon, but of her belief that there is meaning to the universe and that there is a god who cares for her? She’s lost a lot, to answer your question, Mr. Microphone Man. She’s lost a lot.

I much prefer, “Oh God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.”* At least it doesn’t ask for belief on the one hand and then on the other say, if you live your whole life as a lie, what does it matter?

So please, man with a microphone, stop trying to sell what shouldn’t be sold. If you can’t talk about faith and truth and belief meaningfully, shut the fuck up. Just because these kids are young doesn’t mean they don’t deserve something true.

Rant over.


*Attributed to Ernest Renan



  1. Yes. You said it. I need to think more about it, but I just want to say that I can’t stand faith used as a deliberate way to ignore some of the harsh facts of life. I want truth, too. And I refuse to take the easy way out, or believe without asking questions, or think that happiness is the only thing that matters. Everybody deserves something true.

  2. Beautifully said. I lost the lot when Emma died, I’m just beginning to find it again now from, as you say, a position of truth and strength not willingness to be sold a lie to placate my heart.

  3. New to your blog… but a resounding ‘yes’ on so many levels. My faith was certainly rocked after Cullen’s death. While still present, it has evolved and learning to accept that has been one of many steps in this whole process of living life ‘after’.
    Sending you light…..

  4. I just found your blog and seriously the two posts I have read totally reflect what I’m going through. I too miss my faith. I thought it was during trying times like these that your faith sustains you. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case at all. I’m slowing making it through a book called “Where the Hell is God” which is helping a bit. I hope to find my way back or more accurately to a different place of belief. I don’t think you can experience sudden, unexplained loss and not change.

    Great writing and thanks.

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