I’m currently reading An Imperfect Lens, by Anne Roiphe, a historical novel based in Alexandria, Egypt, with a plot woven around the search to find the cause of cholera. One of the French scientists who has just arrived in Egypt is Louis Thuiller, a student under Louis Pasteur. He has just discovered that the first doctor he has met there, Dr. Malina, is Jewish.
[Louis] resisted turning his head to look at the door. He himself had not met any Jews, not in his village, not in his school in Paris. Though of course he had heard of them. He had read about them. Louis blushed and wished he hadn’t. “I’m not a religious man,” he said.
“Neither am I,” said Dr. Malina. “We have that in common, then. But of course we disbelieve different things.”
What an interesting thought. One I had not considered before, at least not in those terms. I think a lot about what I believe, not so much about what I disbelieve.
Thinking about it now fits with a beautiful comment I recently read in a comment thread at Ancient Hebrew Poetry.
I’m a curious George by nature, but it’s the intersection of people, ideas, and their experience of God (however understood) that has always intrigued me the most. When I’m on good terms with someone from another faith tradition, I eventually ask them to give me lessons in their faith, Thus I have been catechized, if only briefly, in a dozen different traditions. It’s fun to watch a Muslim or a Buddhist trip over the same questions we all do. The result is that I go back to trying to make sense of my own faith tradition with a little more humility.
The words “intersection of people, ideas and their experience of God” resonate with me. I’m an anthropologist at heart, though certainly not a professional one. Like John, I find intersections, such as the one he has verbalized, intriguing. I sometimes find it hard to be as verbally curious as I would like (meaning asking direct questions) because it seems easy for curiosity to be misunderstood as a challenge. Especially in areas of faith difference. And especially in areas where we sometimes have more questions than answers, but still hold to our faith.
Still, thinking about this interest of mine again is, perhaps, giving me more courage in this area.
If you care to share some things you disbelieve, I promise to be intrigued! I may ask you more questions to clarify, just because I’m really curious and really want to understand. Because I really am.