One of the many benefits of expressing my doubts about Christianity and God both on this blog and in my personal life has been the normalization of my doubts. It feels now as if my faith crisis is a normal and expected experience for someone who is serious about her religious beliefs and serious about seeking the Truth. I no longer feel like I am an outlier with whom no one can relate.
I have no empirical studies to back up my personal experience, but I've certainly noticed some similarities among individuals like me who seriously wrestle with issues of faith and religion, whether they be Christian or atheist. One similarity is their deep commitment to their religion (whether currently or in the past). Richard Beck writes about this at his blog and defines this attribute as religiosity. Richard Beck, who is an experimental psychologist, described himself as religiously precocious during childhood. I love that description and connect well with it. I, too, was such a child. I took notes on sermons in elementary school and held Bible studies with other children in hopes of saving them. I had definite opinions about which Bible translation I preferred and requested a new NIV as a gift in lieu of a senior class ring. I helped lead our youth group, started a Bible study group at my high school, went on evangelistic campaigns with my youth group in the summers. In college I majored in both psychology and vocational ministry and went on mission trips to Hungary. I married a preacher and was quite happy to fill the role of "preacher's wife." I truly couldn't understand why most people around me weren't so naturally interested in knowing and living out God's Word. It's only now that I realize how unusual I was as a child for my religious zeal. I've noticed that many who have lost their faith started out like me, and perhaps because of this zeal, studied intensely and worked themselves out of the faith they defended so fervently.
The other similarity I've noticed among those who wrestle with doubts about their faith is that they are often analytical types, whose thought pattern can often be described as obsessive. They are problem solvers who tenaciously puzzle over solutions to quandaries they encounter. They can't let it go. There often isn't a lot of choice in the matter. They feel compelled to pursue, to find an answer. This describes me well. I've been amazed at the number of individuals I've encountered online who, if not theologians or philosophers, are engineers or computer programmers or scientists. In the book club I started at church to discuss science and religion, just about everyone is (or was) an engineer or in the computer field (except for a couple of psychologist types). Careers quite befitting detail-oriented, problem solvers.
On the other hand, I have friends and family who truly don't seem to struggle with these faith issues. Even if they try. They either can't get enthused about religion and faith or they just don't feel intensely bothered by the unanswered questions and contradictions that plague my thoughts and prevent me from "trusting in the promises".
What is the point of all this? Maybe there is none. But, I have to wonder, how much sense does it make for one's salvation to depend on whether or not you happen to have the right personality type? So little of our personality is under our control. It's an intricate interplay between environmental factors and genetics. One strong blow to the head can alter our personality permanently. Maybe baptism isn't enough to give one a "new life" leading to salvation. Maybe neurosurgery is also in order.