Bill Moyers believes that faith cannot exist without doubt.
Now, at the end of a week of intense discussion that cast doubt on the survival of religion in America, Moyers is prepared to remark on the future of faith. Moyers, who has been dubbed “one of the unique voices of our time,” will speak at 2 p.m. Friday in the Hall of Philosophy. The title of Moyers’ lecture is “Doubt, Faith and the American Way,” and the broadcast journalist will look at how the dynamic topic of faith has affected the American experience and summarize the week’s conversations.
Moyers is a person of faith himself — he was ordained after graduating from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary — and has also reported on religion through programs like “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth” and “Faith & Reason.”
However, he said, he was honored to speak with this week’s guests because they are studying the most dynamic aspects of modern faith.
“You can’t think of religion as a static subject,” Moyers said. “Faith is so personal, so intimate, so different, that you have to have people who are looking at it from a dynamic of change, not a static reality.
After talking with all of the guests, Moyers said, he concluded that the crisis is not of faith, as the week’s theme asks, but rather in faith. That is because people are quitting organized religion, not spirituality, he said.
Moyers’ own faith and spirituality have changed over time as well. Now, Moyers usually says he is of faith but doesn’t give specifics, but he was raised Southern Baptist from the age of 12 when his family joined a church in Marshall, Texas.
After finding years of fellowship and generosity in the church, Moyers said he began to doubt that his church was purely good and kind. He noticed how his mother was not able to become a deacon when his father was, and how black people would probably be turned away if they ever tried to attend.
“The religion that was so benign to me, for me, was oppressive to other people,” Moyers said.
Moyers said he had to wrestle with this as part of his faith journey. He said he thinks his late introduction to the church — his family was secular before they became Southern Baptist — saved him from Sunday school, where youth are indoctrinated into church culture. He also said seminary was more focused on teaching than convincing.
“I think that helped me avoid the side effects of an overemphasis on dogma and doctrine, and bent me more to the experience of faith than the beliefs of faith,” Moyers said.
Where Moyers has really seen dogma take hold, though, is the religious right, or conservative Christians. He said their highly politicized agenda, particularly their anti-LGBTQ stance, has hurt religion as a whole. He said he has seen people leave organized religion by the droves because they see it as toxic.
Part of this toxicity, Moyers explained, is the fact that the religious right is unwilling to have their belief system challenged and wants the government to protect it for them. For Moyers, however, doubt is a part of faith that he has to live with.
“Doubt is like a laser microscope that looks into the heart of your belief and asks, ‘Is it worth it? Do you really think that?’ ” Moyers said. “And doubt drives us to a deeper assessment of faith.”