Editors Column: For God and Truth



Amanda Fox

As I approach the end of my undergraduate career, I realize that I am no longer the woman who arrived in Hamilton almost four years ago. This, I suppose, is to be expected. We all change, evolve, mature as we progress through our liberal arts curriculum, our education and life experiences shaping the way we read literature, understand politics, translate historical patterns. Our time at Colgate molds, at the most fundamental level, the way in which we interpret the world around us.

Yet, looking back on my first semester from my last, I realize that I am but a shadow of my former self. I realize, with striking clarity, that Colgate has forced me to question my beliefs, to examine the traditions and principles in which I have invested my trust, to ask why and how instead of accepting what I have been told. I realize that my diverse and expansive liberal arts education has encouraged me to reconsider my goals, my opinions and even – at the cost of all stability – my faith.

When I first arrived at Colgate nearly four years ago, I prayed each night. I believed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believed in prayer and the power of God to hear my appeals with a compassionate and loving ear. I believed that by celebrating Christmas I was celebrating the birth of Christ, that my Confirmation in the Catholic Church was a solidification of my faith to my religion and my God. I had doubts, but they floated on the periphery of my consciousness, patches of precariously dark thunderclouds that remained steadily on the distant horizon.  Faith, after all, relies not on reason or logic but blind loyalty and confidence. It’s a funny thing, faith.

We live in – we have always lived in – a time in which religion has the power for beautiful traditions and cultures, for providing many with comfort and consolation in a world characterized by, at times, brutality and insignificance. Is the world, as it is, all there really is, each of us no more than tiny, miniscule animals roaming a planet in the wide, wide universe? Is this it? My Bible told me no, offering me an alternative to what would most certainly be a frightening, life-shattering reality. Live in the here and now with no possibility of heaven? Of never meeting deceased loved ones again? No thanks. Existential angst? Not for me.

And then, somewhere in my undergraduate career, perhaps between reading the Bible in Western Traditions and studying Nietzsche in Modernity the ominous thunderclouds, which had always drifted in the distance, came rolling rapidly forward and I had to ask myself the most obvious question: Do I really believe in God? Do I really think blind loyalty and confidence in a potentially non-existent entity is a good thing, a safe thing? It’s quite remarkable what the prospect of eternal peace will compel some to do, I think.

In my introductory psychology class first semester I learned about superstition, about classical conditioning and pairing a stimulus with a response and how sometimes, we inappropriately associate the two. A sign from God, a prayer answered. Or are these only associations gone awry?

We learned about serotonin, receptors and synapses and how the brain can be chemically induced to, literally, be happy. Nietzsche called Christianity the narcotic of Europe and it seems to me that religion is certainly a drug – a way to induce happiness when we are surrounded by so much suffering.

In Astronomy 101 I learned about the ever-expanding universe and the birth of galaxies, stars and planets. I saw that energy is a cycle, never lost nor gained, not just a part of the world, but of the world entirely. Perhaps this energy is my deity. Not in the traditional sense, but a new way or method in which to organize and make sense of the world.

It is possible that I will look back on these years of my life as a stage just as the generation before us looks back on its wild child days with a smile and a shake of the head. But I hope this is not the case; I like living my life immersed in the here and now, with no belief in a transcendent reality.

I like that my liberal arts education has forced me to form my own beliefs, to be inquisitive and curious and untraditional at times. Certainly, as I leave Colgate now, I find myself walking away on shaky footing, no religion or God or belief in an ultimate justice to ground me anymore. But I like the person who I am walking out much more than the person who I was walking in.