February 3, 2007

The Callousness of Faith (?)

Habitually, my prayers include the line "help me to grow in faith," but faith is such a thing that I'm continually surprised at the ways in which I discover that this prayer has been answered. My surprise bears close relation to my belief that all of the stark and dramatic differences between believers and nonbelievers come down to the simple "yes" or "no" of faith; one cannot blame, that is to say, the unreligious person for sometimes thinking the believer to be callous or self-absorbed or fanatical. Following a "yes" just a few steps of logic yields a state of mind that the "no" can only translate in viciously negative terms.

For reasons involving my children (on which I won't expound, except to say that everybody's now known to be fine), I'm thinking, specifically, of our reactions to illness. At those times when others have recently given me well-wishes and expressions of concern, I can't help but feel that they expect a different reaction from me — more dramatic. Perhaps less aloof. But, although I would disclaim the charge of aloofness, I wonder: how is one supposed to react? If an illness is to be overcome, it will be, often with an unbidden benefit (a silver lining) to everybody involved. If it is not to be overcome, well, my religious beliefs lead me to trust that it all ends in grace, anyway.

Such proclamations are all well and good, of course, when things have turned out OK, but what I'm expressing, here, is my suspicion that these thoughts, on to which I held right until the moment that diagnoses made them superfluous, would already be foreign to nonbelievers — or even "otherwise believers."

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:53 PM | Comments (1)