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Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt

October 1, 2013

living by faithI’m officially an author now.  Today marks the release date of my book Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt, a reflective memoir about the uncertainty that came to rest at the heart of my religious faith and why I believe this uncertain faith, if not well-suited to everyone, may benefit those struggling to reconcile their belief with their unbelief, their faith with their doubts.

Fair warning: it’s not a book that tells you how I arrived at all the right answers. It’s a story about my struggles to live in a state of questioning and my decisions to hope and love, as best I can, without the surety of what this life is all about. It’s an account of my attempts to make sense of a life shattered by divorce, estrangement, and terrible losses.

Mostly it’s about the people I strive to love and my hope that death does not rob my love of its meaning and worth–that love endures and will endure when all that we call life has passed away.

I have all of you to thank. Your feedback over the couple years has aided me tremendously as I’ve endeavored to think through my doubts and questions and the meaning of my Catholicism.

The book is available from Loyola Press, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

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  1. Dante Aligheri permalink
    October 1, 2013 6:59 am


  2. October 1, 2013 7:52 am

    Congratulations! I ordered your book and I look forward to reading it. It was highly recommended by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn whose opinion I respect very much. I strongly believe that for some (most?) people, the only way to reach a deep faith is to confront and embrace the doubt that accompanies it. That was certainly true in my own case (my own journey is briefly described in series of blogposts below; maybe someday I will give a more comprehensive account).

    As Pope Francis said in his recent interview published in America Magazine (which echoed the writings of his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict):

    “[I]n this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.”

    W. Ockham

    • October 1, 2013 8:33 pm

      Thank you, William. Yes, I was excited to see Pope Francis give an unofficial seal of approval to the uncertain faith that I and many others have.

  3. October 1, 2013 2:05 pm

    “I believe this uncertain faith, if not well-suited to everyone, may benefit those struggling to reconcile their belief with their unbelief, their faith with their doubts.”

    I’m glad you recognize that such a “faith” (though, in the strict theological sense, “doubt” is incompatible with faith; see the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Doubt”) is not for everyone.

    However, for a variety of personal as well as theoretical reasons, I’m genuinely interested in knowing more about why you think it is well-suited to you in particular. Does the book cover that? That is to say, if you’re broad-minded enough to admit that this “faith with uncertainty at its heart” is not well-suited to all personalities, temperaments, “types of brains” or however we might describe the difference, rather than being some sort of absolute philosophical requirement…then what do you think it is about your personality, your temperament, your type of brain, your psyche…that makes the idea of “certainty” and unwavering assent/commitment to a dogmatic system so uncomfortable or uneasy with you?

    Because I’m coming to see in people that philosophy and philosophical “conviction” very often has a lot more to do with how well ideas correlate with people’s temperament (or even just social context) rather than with any notion of being arrived at through some sort of air-tight process of syllogistic “proof.” This idea is very prevalent in Catholic notions of faith, actually, as part of the Catholic notion is that faith is ultimately an act of the Will, of choice, not merely some sort of purely rational movement of the intellect by abstract propositions. So I’m interested in the different sorts of motives people have, and also what appeals to different types of personality or temperament (and, especially actually, what makes an epistemic commitment “certainty” such a uneasy idea for a growing segment of the population).

    More generally, besides your own personal introspection in this regard (is that covered in the book?) what sorts of personalities or “types of brains” do you think are inclined towards this approach, why, and what connection do you see, if any, to modern social arrangements and cultural trends?

    Do you know your Myers-Briggs type, for example. In my experience (as an INTJ myself), INTJs are much more inclined to notions of “certainty” and would find the sort of post-modern deconstruction I’ve seen you doing “squishy and waffling” at best, and downright pathological to right-thinking at worst. But I’m coming to see this is a “biased” perspective from only one sort of brain, one heuristic of thinking, one sort of personality, one set of intra-personal values and priorities.

    We might look at right-brain/left-brain ideas too, the “OCEAN” set of “Big Five” personality factors, or even at personality-disorder tendencies. I think everyone “leans” towards at least one personality disorder; as someone whose biggest leaning is towards OCPD, the idea of a sort of “tentative” faith like yours is troubling given my tendency to value order, control, predictability, certainty, rationality, logic, and having everything tied up into a nice little package with no loose ends. Then again, someone who leans Borderline might find the idea of total certainty or commitment to be terrifying (they do in relationships and identity, so it would make sense if that also translated into how people with such tendencies approach epistemic questions as well). Someone who leaned Dependent or Schizoid or Avoidant might likewise have different attitudes or approaches based on the “inner logic” of those tendencies or temptations-towards-excess in their personality types…

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      October 1, 2013 7:33 pm

      Interesting ideas here. I think you’re right that temperament has something to do with it. I too am an INTJ, and this may partly explain why I can never be as postmodern as Kyle sometimes is, although I’ve certainly entertained plenty of doubts.

      And yes, I see the irony of my use of the word “certainly” in this instance.

    • October 1, 2013 8:29 pm

      I haven’t taken a personality test in a long time and don’t remember where they tend to place me. However, a brief self-assessment suggests that my personality plays a part in my spiritual life. In the book, I do trace the beginning of my faith (and philosophical interests) to my experiences of being a child of mixed religion and then divorced parents. I grew up not being in a place where I could decide between the stories my parents told about the here and the hereafter, and I grew to be at home with this uncertainty.

    • Ronald King permalink
      October 3, 2013 8:56 am

      Sinner, Your post is what has been and continues to be my focus on the development of faith as the study of interpersonal neurobiology has evolved over the past couple of decades. Kyle, I am looking forward to reading your book because in my thinking there is no doubt that doubt is a natural part of having faith.

  4. Chris Sullivan permalink
    October 1, 2013 3:00 pm

    Thanks for writing this book Kyle to share your journey with others. I’m sure it will be helpful to many. The journey of many passes from certainty thru doubt and a feeling of the absence of God. As William has pointed out, the Holy Father has your back on the merits of doubt and the dangers of too much certainty !

    Peace be with you.

    • October 1, 2013 8:30 pm

      Thanks, Chris. If the CDF comes for me, I’ll have to say, “But, but, Pope Francis…” ;-)

  5. brian martin permalink
    October 3, 2013 3:02 pm

    I was recently reading a book written by a muslim, (I am sorry I cannot think of the author and properly attribute this quote) and I ran across a quote that really spoke to me. It was something to the effect of “If I am not free to doubt, I cannot have Faith”

  6. Agellius permalink
    October 7, 2013 2:47 pm

    Congratulations, Kyle.


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