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Trusting Doubt
A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light

by Valerie Tarico, Ph.D. The Oracle Institute Press LLC, 2010

Valerie Tarico holds a doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa and has completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Washington. She manages the website WisdomCommons.

In her early teens, Tarico was a Fundamentalist Christian activist. She was pursuing what she called "God's truth." All truth, she believed, was God's truth. Like other intelligent young Christians she wrestled with doubt. She attended Wheaton College in Illinois, a college noted, according to Wikipedia, for its "twin traditions of quality academics and deep faith."

Tarico writes of studying biology while maintaining fundamentalist views: contemplating the mechanisms of microevolution but not connecting these mechanisms to the world of biology that includes humanity.

She does more than pick at points to trash Christianity. She writes that in her youth she was into asking wondering and kept a list of questions she hoped to find satisfying answers to. Three of the fifteen she lists are:

If God is good, and he made nature, why does nature so often reward strength rather than goodness?

Why do so many people, including children, suffer excruciating pain, even pain unto death?

Why do I feel like I'm lying to myself when I try to make all the pieces fit together?

On page 23 she writes of having spent "hours weekly studying when she was a teenager," and add: "It never occurred to me to ask about the histories of the Bible rather than histories in the Bible.

She writes of the Bible as a collage, as "a collection of documents written over a time span of six hundred years or more," with selection as to what would be included based on the prevailing orthodoxies of those doing the compiling. Written materials that didn't fit that orthodoxy were rejected. She writes that some of what is included "show signs of having their roots in oral traditions, in storytelling or chant. Others appear to be fragments of liturgy."

She mentions interpretations of nature in accordance prevailing awareness, citing Genesis 1-3-5, 11, 16, where she claims God is described as creating day and night and plants before the sun and moon are created.

Tarico wants fundamentalists to ask questions. She writes:

Humans spirituality runs stong and deep, connecting us with a sense of purpose and unity that transcends the varies of day-to-day living. This spirituality takes many forms. Some of these nourish the best in us, others do not — of this I have no doubt.

Now as never before, humanity has the means to honor not the answers of our spiritual ancestors but their questions: What is real? What is good? How can we live in moral community with each other?

Someone comments at Amazon.com:

What I really appreciate as a recovering fundamentalist is the sensitivity and humility she demonstrates in her writing. She respects progressive Christians and knows the culture of Evangelical Christianity. Any thoughtful Christian should be able to read this book and benefit. I have read many other atheist authors including Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, and Dawkins but this book spoke my language in a way that touched my heart.

An online search for Valerie Tarico, YouTube, will include: "Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science"


Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.