Doubting Teresa

Sam Harris has a new article at Newsweek where he exposes Mother Teresa's questions about her own faith. Christopher Hitchens has another at MSNBC. I find her confessions, below, to be rather poignant and that much more sad for not facing the reality of God's actual absence and Jesus' real and eternal death.

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone ... Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.
So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
— addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated

This was the tethered mind of someone who felt she had no choice. Here we see the power of what Dan Dennett calls "belief in belief" (explained well here and developed in Breaking The Spell) She wanted to believe because she believed that in that belief she would achieve something that would transcend all of the the suffering of herself and the world; from this belief she could attain a level of love and bliss that she couldn't find in earthly life. Or, perphaps, it was her belief in belief that prevented attaining real joy here on Earth because belief in a supernatural omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent God would only ever grant it later. Thus, her embrace of universal suffering and her death houses (see Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything).
Just briefly, revisit this segment:

If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.

This is much like one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 130, De Profundis clamavi est, which reads:

Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, shalt observe iniquities; Lord, who shall endure it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness:
and by reason of Thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on His word; my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him plentiful redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all her iniquities.

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Let us pray.
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful,
grant to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins,
that through our pious supplication they may obtain that pardon
which they have always desired;
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

That's beautiful stuff in the light of medieval thinking. It is a call from loneliness to hope and I have and always will have a soft spot for it because it is the earnest cry of one who feels banished. Perhaps something could save the Psalmist from his and his community's iniquities? But alas, like Teresa, the Psalmist too was alone and without a God who reigns for ever and ever.

What do I labor for? If there be no God—there can be no soul—if there is no Soul then Jesus—You also are not true.

The reality is "darkness and coldness and emptiness" when you seek for that which is not there and maybe Teresa knew that nothing was there but fought it every day of her life as she sought for that thing, that eternal love from a fictitious malevolent filicidal misogynist that would never come. When people are tools for such a non-existent entity, they are NOT ends in themselves. They are MEANS for God. How can you have an "I-thou" relationship with someone who believes in nothing? Really, turn the question around: How can a person who believes in nothing have an "I-thou" relationship with you? By deceiving themselves perhaps. But it seems that it takes a rather herculean effort that stretches the believer on a Procrustean bed that really destroys parts of them.
Here we see Teresa faced with the existential crisis and it is binary, as I suppose it often is. She has faced herself with a seemingly logical chain:
1. There can be no meaning in life without a soul.
2. Souls come from God.
3. There is no God.
4. Therefore, I have no soul
5. Therefore, I have no meaning in life.
But her deduction is only as good as her premise, the first of which is false and so is its conclusion. Were she to have been unfettered by her slavish belief in belief, perhaps she'd have worked to alleviate people's suffering instead of giving them places to die from that suffering. Did she really make a mistake in surrendering her life to the Sacred Heart? It would seem so. As Hitchens notes, "It seems, therefore, that all the things that made Mother Teresa famous—the endless hard toil, the bitter austerity, the ostentatious religious orthodoxy—were only part of an effort to still the misery within." A lifetime of overcompensation. We can almost see the little woman inside of her like the real wizard in The Wizard of Oz, shouting all the time, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
But it would seem that there never was a man behind the curtain in this case, just the palest simulacrum.
So out of the depths I call to you my brothers and sisters, and that you will listen to the sincerity of my voice and leave behind these chains, stop this poison, break this spell, end this faith, and free yourself from this delusion that calls itself by many names - God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, Krishna, or Shiva - and leads us into meaningless labyrinths of smoke and mirrors.

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