Chapter 12. Believing


In which we assume the fears and dreams, appreciate the identities, accept the risks inherent, in each other’s lives, for good or for poor, love is indistinguishable from faith, or, as we say, believing in each other.

Something irrational

If I accept that belief in your religion is good, tell me, is it only a value judgment that distinguishes your religion from a Peoples Temple or any other group that behaves like an abduction service? Once I accept irrational authority, testimony, or experience, what role does reason have? Does your religion keep innermost secrets? Does it rest on unprovable promises? Do individual dreams matter? If I follow my curiosity must I give up questioning?

Methodism for Aleuts

My mother’s grandmother was raised on Unga, which had the first Methodist church and school in Alaska established in 1886. My father’s mother worked in Seward at the Jesse Lee Home for Children established in 1926 by the Methodist church. Where my mother was raised, in Seldovia, there were only two churches, the Russian Orthodox and the Methodist, and my mother was a Methodist. If I were to decide, I would be a Methodist, but my parents decided for me, you might say, and so I was baptized and accepted into the church. I didn’t accept it all; I still resist the rituals, but John Wesley taught that all people are sinners who are saved by grace, not by our own efforts. He taught that if one were to be enlightened, that it would happen quietly, a “still quiet voice” would say something like “What are you doing here?”


I don't really believe Jesus made Bartimaeus see; Jesus said the man’s own faith cured him. I don’t believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead; he was probably only in a coma. I don’t believe Jesus expelled a legion of devils from an outcast near Gerasa into a herd of swine, but this is a great story that teaches us everyone deserves respect. Turning water into wine during the wedding at Cana? I read this as a metaphor for the good news. I’m glad I’m a protestant, free enough from church dogma to form my own interpretations. I don’t have to read the Bible literally but can still be comforted by its teachings and reminded that to be a human being is to not always shine with cold reason, but also to enjoy the spirit.


It’s easier to believe something if it aligns with something you fear, such as whether the polio vaccine can give you polio, if it aligns with something you hope for, such as whether aliens can save us from nuclear destruction, if people who argue against it can’t be trusted, such as when bankers say they don’t conspire on rates, or if it’s predicated on the secrecy of people in power, because they aren’t going to admit they’re screwing us.

They say

Eyewitness testimony is the least reliable form of evidence.
—Aron Ra

In college we learned to say “You say you saw a UFO.” This much we can say for sure, we say “You say they were friendly.” No one else knows better what you say you felt. You say they treated you with respect, and we can do at least as much.