November 12, 2009 at 5:55 pm (Islam, personal, why I didn't convert to Islam)

“Great article. I found the tips on how to manage worry to be quite helpful. My favorite is letting go of needing to know and learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.”


There are many things I could worry about. But it’s always religion that gets it.

This just seems to happen episodically. It happened about 3 weeks ago, and I see that it happened a month before that too.

When it happens, I feel as if I am about to have to abandon all my beliefs, however rational and deep the convictions, over a little issue that throws it all into question. Like now it’s Muhammad’s marriage to Zainab, and last month it was the fact that the Quran appears mostly addressed to men. I forget what it was the month before that.

These little issues just cast an enormous shadow of doubt over everything else that I’ve become convinced about, and send me into a spiral of anxiety. Maybe this is a totally inordinate response. Maybe I need to learn to let go of needing to know everything, and be comfortable with the uncertainty.

I want to go and buy that issue of SciAm Mind so I can find out what causes this. Either it means something is seriously wrong with my approach to religion, or this is a personal trait of mine (or perhaps a particular way that I respond to the general uncertainty in my life). I don’t think I ever doubted this severely in the past, but then, back at age 18-21 I was a lot more courageous and flexible and not so worried about a lot of things.

Maybe what this means is that I still haven’t established an emotional conclusion about the question of religion. The emotions only come in when I worry and doubt, and I can’t calm them with the experience of better emotions. I am not getting an emotional conviction, just an intellectual one.

The negative emotions pass and then the urgency to seek an answer to the question dissolves as well. Because when I break out of the spiral and calm down, it doesn’t seem such a threatening thing. It would be easier to force myself out of the spiral if I had previously arrived at a conclusion that I was determined to hold onto. But I am still in a mentality of making my mind up. I don’t want to cast any questions out of my mind. I think all questions are valid. I even question whether there is ever a reason to feel sure of anything, or to commit to a belief or a way of thinking.



  1. susanne430 said,

    It seems now you have moved on from this and are not quite so worried any more, right? 🙂

  2. LK said,

    Fantastic article. I need to remember these things, I worry far too much and think that intellectual reasoning will prove and solve everything. I’m coming to understand, at least with religion, that it will not.

  3. Sarah said,

    This is a surprise! I made a few old private posts public, didn’t think they would show up in feeds as “new”. Last time I did this, they didn’t seem to, even though I gave a heads up about it! Whaddya know!

    I am glad they did, though, if you got something good out of it, LK.

  4. Jasmine said,

    “comfortable with uncertainty”

    Well. (ahem…clears throat) We have lots of uncertainties in our lives that we are comfortable with already-we dont know what is going to happen tomorrow – we dont ever know the future, and we can predict people or things and thats all good,
    The whole POINT of religion is that it’s constant and stable and unquestionable.

    How can you worship something that is not stable? HOw can you rely on it?

    God is like a bridge – you walk the bridge, over the dangerous road to get to saftey with God on the other side. The bridge must be stable – after all, it claims that it is stable – the bridge alledges by its own words that it is stable. But if! When you walk that bridge it bridge creaks and struggles under you weight, snaps and falls and you haveto pull it up and rebuild it…or indeed FIX it as you go along, just so it would work – then that’ not a bridge anymore is it? Its a spectre of bridge that you are making work through your own abilities and earthliness. And the bridge lied when it said it was stable.

    The bridge or the bridges PR exec that is. Someone somewhere told a porky or two right?

    Beause no sound, rational individual would take a bridge across troubled water if they knew it would break and snap halfway. If they new it wasn’t sturdy.


    And people get mad when you point at it and say: “that bridge looks like its onna break” and they go: “blah blah blah! you have no faith, your fith s weak…blah blah blah, pray pray pray…blah blah blah”

    But really: who is the unreasonable one? The one who sees the bridge is uncertain?
    Or the one who things praying will fix a bridge?

    Ultimately Wrestling YOU are the sane one. I wouldnt worry about your reactions – your reactions are very healthy. Ignoring such things instead of reacting to them is called “ignore-ance” – i.e. ignoring on purpose. Ignorance.

    “Accepting uncertainties” is basically accepting ignorance.

    And you cant do that.

    Can you?

    • Sarah said,

      Jasmine, thanks for this amazing comment! I love the way you express yourself 🙂

      I agree completely. The only way people get comfortable with a “faulty bridge” is by ignorance and/or denial.

      At one time I thought I had the wrong approach, and that I just needed to trust more and tolerate uncertainty more, and just get on with it like everyone else – but honestly, life is so much less stressful once I stop trying to convince myself to *believe* in uncertain things and just let them be uncertain! The anxiety was all created by my insistence on treating uncertain things as if they are certain. What a contradiction. Some people can stomach contradictions – but I couldn’t.

      I have never been happier than since I decided to build my own bridge, by taking lessons from all the great bridge-builders in human history 😀

      • Jasmine said,

        “I’ve decided to build my own bridge”

        **applause** !

        Me too – feels great doesn’t it? ;0)
        Big, big very very big smiles at you ;0)

        • Sarah said,

          It does feel great! From when I wrote this post to now, is like night to day. 😉 Big smiles back at ya! 😀

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