I've been reading a couple of blogs about the Pope's speech in Assisi. Begun by Pope John-Paul II, the Holy Father invited members of the world's religions to gather at Assisi. This year, though, there was a difference. Pope Benedict also invited non-believers to this gathering, and spoke eloquently about religion's part in driving them away. He acknowledged the place both religion and anti-religion have played in violence throughout the ages.
What intrigued me was the Holy Father's almost *praise* of doubting. He says, basically, that agnosticism serves to keep both atheists and believers from holding onto the extremes of their positions to the detriment of others.
He calls those who doubt "'pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace'. They ask questions of both sides," the Pope said. "They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it."
How inspiring for those of us who have had our periods of doubt and uncertainty! We must remember that even such modern-day saints as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta have struggled with "dark nights of the soul".
Doubters, the Holy Father says, are seekers of the truth and challenge unbelievers to join the journey.
Pope Benedict then goes on to address a very important help doubters provide to people with strong religious faith:
But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others. These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God.
Just as the extremism of anti-belief should not practiced, neither should those of us who are believers let our religion make us too proud to be able to share God with others. We do not have God wrapped up in a fancy box, tied with a ribbon, only to be open by those who meet our strict criterion.
Doubting is not the worst thing that could happen to someone. It challenges both believers and non-believers to re-think the extremism in their positions, and let someone else in.