Thursday, July 18, 2013

Can Secularism Help Make Faith More Meaningful?

 I am an avid David Brooks reader, and one of his pieces made me think more carefully about the correlation between faith and a secular society. Here, Brooks attempts to summarize Charles Taylor's academically dense book, A Secular Age. Whereas most would point to an increasingly secularized society as obstructing faith, Taylor argues that a secular society has made faith more of a choice, making it more meaningful for the believer.

I believe that Taylor is correct.  People 500+ years ago could only imagine the cosmos from a purely religious standpoint. For them, faith was intertwined with fact, making it less of a conscious choice to believe. Conversely, we have the opportunity to discover and perceive our place in the world from a variety of perspectives. While I am immensely grateful for my religious views, I am edified from Tolstoy's insights into the human condition, a study of photosynthesis to understand the natural world, and Margaret Fuller's philosophies to help me contemplate women's societal place.

Because of our increased access to knowledge in myriad fields, faith becomes a much more deliberate decision. We have the opportunity to consciously choose a faith-based perspective as a means to interpret our world. And that's how it should be. If faith is an imperfect knowledge of things,  it would not mean much if we did not experience a propensity for doubt. I think it is a shame that doubt is often feared by the faithful, while I have come to realize that the greater chance for doubt, the better opportunity I have to increase my faith. Perhaps that is why Joseph Smith's vision is so intensely meaningful for me, as there are myriad reasons to dismiss the story. And yet I do believe it with a fervent intensity.

I am grateful for prayer, probing, and pondering to find the answers I am seeking, to mitigate my gaps in knowledge, as well as confirm what I hope so earnestly to be true. And I am grateful to be on a lifelong search to find nuggets of truth, wherever I find them.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.


  1. And in looking to Joseph Smith's experience, it was in a moment of doubt (when he was attacked by Satan), that he was able to demonstrate more faith. And that level of faith leads us to a fresh view of God, oneself, and the world. And Joseph gained that fresh view.

    Thanks again for another fabulous post, Sarah!

  2. Excellent point about Joseph Smith, thank you Raymon! :)