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Last night I was reading Cary Tennis’ advice column in Salon again, where he answered a churchgoing man in a churchgoing family that’s a part of a tightly-knit churchgoing community. The man’s difficulty is that he had become agnostic, and was no longer sure that he fully agreed with all that the church he went to espoused. But he was concerned about whether he should tell his wife or friends about his shifting beliefs, his unanswered questions and unspoken answers. He didn’t want to cause any pain and heartache but he also didn’t want to be dishonest, and frankly, he was feeling pretty alone about it.

It got me thinking about the very doubt there is about belief itself. Not only is there the issue of whether our beliefs are correct, but also whether they provide us a place in our community, or in heaven, or even in a state of peace. It’s so much more than an issue of being right; it becomes an issue of merit, of belonging. If we’re wrong on fundamental issues, there’s the threat that it could set us up for a truly isolated, horrible time of it for the rest of our lives, or even for the rest of forever. Like uncertainty needs all the extra baggage to make it easier to sort out, right?

So when pondering thoughts of the great global belief war, I usually end up thinking about the baseline rhythm of love that I feel thrumming throughout every corner of the universe. Yeah, there’s some real disharmony out there, but under it all is that current-countercurrent of uncompromisingly binding open-hearted love that has outlasted every single bit of harm thrown around, and I figure, will continue to override our best efforts to thwart it. It’s a force bigger than we are. And it loves us. And at the most minute focal-point of it all, that’s all there is to it.

Here’s how Cary put it:

May I say one thing regarding my own perhaps crazy beliefs on the subject? I really believe it is possible that a grace exists in the universe that in caring for you and saving you does not care one whit whether you believe in it or not, and does not care what you think is true: a grace whose intelligence is so freely boundless and beyond us that whatever we think of it does not even occur to it, or occurs to it the way the consternation of a dog occurs to us when we bathe it. We take note of the consternation of the dog but we do not find it persuasive; we already know what we’re going to do with the dog. We’re going to bathe the dog.

Cary Tennis

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