When Faith and Skepticism Intertwine

I believe in God, and everyday, I aspire for a Christlike state of mind and being. I intentionally try to put my hand where my mouth is. Some days I get it right, some days I’m barely getting things done. I pride myself as a lifelong student of the Scriptures; perhaps I’m more deeply-engaged than average bible learners and occasional readers. I facilitate Bible studies and discussions and have been to countless group studies as a student. However, I’m also a skeptic, a thinker, and a solicitor of truth. So, in the so-called world of Christianity, where do I fit? Where do I get labeled? Should I be labeled?

Before you say anything, you have to know, concerning the Bible’s narrative, after seeing it in its entirety and finished form; I started to question the integrity of certain seemingly forced additions in between the writings. I have misgivings about textual construction and potential literary implications and traditional ascriptions in some parts of the Bible.

For instance, I don’t support the Christian ascription of baptism by water. Regardless of how this practice is explained; it carries with it a tradition-base, prescriptive call for proof of faith—faith loosely defined as a declaration of belief and acceptance of the Lordship of Christ. Baptism, maybe, is emotionally relevant to the baptized person and related people or church, but it has no relevance or symbolical importance whatsoever to bearing Christ’s image and one’s relationship with God. Christ was baptized by his relative John, a prophet and a life-long Nazarite, as a one-time, symbolical observance and not as a physical act to imitate. There is nothing in the Gospel, according to Jesus Christ, that supports the endorsement and practice of water baptism.

In fact, this ritual adapted by John the Baptist has long been the practice since much earlier times. Water baptism has been ascribed in Egyptian paganism to symbolize unification with the sun-god Ra. It’s also a cleansing ritual to prepare the person to receive the divinity within the said individual. We have actual historical proofs that in ancient Sumerian times, which predates the Egyptian civilization, water consecration was practiced.

About the Reliefs and Inscriptions Ancient Egypt

The Ritual of Water-Consecration in Sumerian Texts

If the practice of baptism by water bore any bearing at all, Christ should have included water baptism, too, in his public ministry. He didn’t—at all. But, Jesus endorses to his disciples and now Apostles the act of baptism by the Holy Spirit. If you looked closely in the text of the Bible and studied ancient history, unfortunately, still under bondage by a need for tangible connections, you will recognize that the Apostles regressed slightly to a tradition-based expression of faith—by this I mean paganistic leanings. (Some scholars and author scholar-wannabes refer to this proclivities as Greco-Roman. SMH)

This is where I will interject that intellectual discernment does play a role in understanding the Bible and in preventing biblical fanaticism. It’s imperative to know which of the reading requires a literal approach and which one needs a literary breakdown. Here’s the thing, if the justification for water baptism is because Christ models it (literal understanding of the text), why stop there? Why not experience the pain of flogging and crucifixion, too? Oh, but wait, certain cultures practice that already. But don’t we cringe and consider the observance of these self-inflicted painful rituals as disdainful?

And yet, we expect others to bear the burden of proving their Christianity through so-called sacred rites. The funny thing is, we in the Christian church also don’t make baptism easy. First, we qualify the baptism-candidates’ worth by making sure they have enough understanding of the Word before they’re given the go-ahead for the ritual. This is a standard process for many Christian churches.

Let’s also not forget the observance of communions. I have known of people who were offended because the ritual of communion is not weekly observed at my home church. The communion that we know now and practiced in many Catholic and Bible-based churches bear no theological resonance to the imaging presented in the Last Supper by which the communion was supposed to have been depicted from for remembrance.

With traditions and rituals being used as institutional patterns to display Christlikeness supposedly, and these being a ticket to acceptance to an exclusive tribe of common believers, I ask, how much did these beliefs cost us in terms of our humanity, our relationship with each other, and God, and the perception of God by others? More to point, how has what I will call instituted fanaticism inspired and encouraged the proliferation of abuses within the church?

Customs and traditions in and by themselves are not bad. It’s the devotion to these that incites division. Ritualistic predilections, most often than not, isolate people and turn even good and well-intended individuals against those who don’t share their theological predeposition.

If we were to reflect fully, do the institutional traditions, we firmly adhere to turn away people from seeking God and enjoying their faith with us? Does our strict observance of religious customs prevent us from forming peaceful and meaningful relationships with everyone everywhere? Including Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hinduists, Atheists, Zoroastrians (Zoroastrianism is a religion which includes a monotheistic theology that predates that of the Hebrew belief system and Islam), LGBTQ+, people of different races or political beliefs, refugees, and many more.

And if we in the ascribed Christian churches are deeply tied to the adapted sanctimonious ritual practices, shouldn’t it be fitting to also respect the observance of similar rites by other religions and faith-based institutions?

Notwithstanding my stance on the practice of water baptism, I do get why churches and leaders offer it and why the members buy into it. If anyone truly desires a ceremony of water baptism, I respect that. I hope we can also be open to the conversation that this devotional practice has likewise disconnected if not shamed many God and people loving people in the process.

Here is a good spot for you to take a pause or altogether stop reading. If the above pronouncements aren’t potentially ”heretical” yet, the following may be it for you.

People look for the tangibles to give them hope. Rituals and traditions are seen as tangibles in the religious world. While in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the monotheistic groups of people condemn the idolatrous practice of paganism, the ironic part is, the monotheistic worshippers are also idolaters. True, the Temple didn’t have an object to worship, unlike the temples of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Primarily because the Hebrews and the Jews didn’t need one. Not in the poetic concept of the narrative you expect in your selective reading. The Hebrews’ belief became their God, and the Temple was their consecrated idol. Just like in today’s Christianity. For many Christians, Christianity has become a god and the Bible, an idol.

For a long time, I have not been convinced that the Bible is perfect in the sense that it contains no textual errors or weakness of any kind. I contend the Bible is a book, no more, no less. To a particular degree, I acknowledge that the Bible is God-breathed—albeit, my acknowledgment is highly restricted and only relates to its authors and not the Bible per se. I believe that their understanding of God inspired the authors of the Bible to write stories and depictions of their faith to pass along the future generations. And some of the stories it tells also exists in the ancient literature much older than the Bible itself.

Will you scream, ”Blasphemy!” if I brought to your attention that the monotheistic theology espoused by the Bible wasn’t an original concept? Will you consider that, perhaps, we’d been lied to or were theologically manipulated to submission?

I reasonably believe that the Bible, as it exists and how it is institutionally being presented, is a byproduct of contextual twisting— a deliberate form of manipulative control.

Biblical people who see the Bible for its prescriptive value don’t have an intrinsic understanding of its literature, history, and theology, let alone, the textual knowledge of the book. The truth is, the Christian world is riddled with Bible quoters with a minimal background of the book’s content that’s learned in its totality and finished form. Most theological education in early and modern Christianity depends on somebody’s truncated version of somebody’s truncated knowledge of the Scripture. And truth be known, the Scripture has been transcribed, perhaps authored and doctored to fit a specific moral paradigm.

Considering all of the preceding, I ask again. In the so-called world of Christianity, where do I fit? Do I fit? Or maybe the more important and relevant question is, why should I care? And should I? Still, my heart for service and my deep faith of God or whatever name we give an Almighty Being, remain. If anything, my skepticism is leading me to a better understanding of forgiveness and how it is to love everyone everywhere while I also mindfully gauge my cynicism towards institutionalized Christianity or any religious organizations and entity. Institutionally-drawn divisiveness, hatred, racial and gender discriminations, and abuses of all kinds, must not only be called out; these also have to be condemned definitively. The only purpose I provide for cynicism is so I could change course, be more encouraged to learn and seek the truth and be steered to where my service will work best. I wonder how many people out there share my sentiments.

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