My mother’s words still ring in my ears when describing the rowdy Spring breakers in my hometown of Palm Springs California, who were less than model citizens with their lawlessness and drunken street orgies: “They are very secular.” Even though the word lacked meaning to my young ears, I understood the inference from her derogatory tone. It was synonymous with evil, and the word has subconsciously held that kind of severity. After reading these past three books on secularism, I am understanding that some of the most secular individuals were also Christian revolutionists that provoked a transformative movement within Christianity. “…Luther inched his way toward a revolutionary theology of freedom. His theory that faith, and faith alone, opens the gates of divine mercy was that rare thing in history: an idea that creates an era.”
Through this paradigm shift, the social scientist in me is categorizing people into groups. There are the hedonistic, agnostic individuals living their lives with no moral or ethical constraints, and there are the “secular purists”, influenced exclusively by societies standards, disinterested or dismissive of religion. Next, there is those who do not value organized religion but subscribe to spiritual concepts. In stark contrast, the highly religious, who have no tolerance and influence for the secular. Not to be left out, the religious and spiritual individuals who attempt to navigate secular society and their religious beliefs. Each group holds their own spectrum of extremes. But it is this final group that has captured my attention and enlightened me to revisit my former beliefs on secularism and the power of doubt. The brazen individuals history has often branded as heretics yet have shockingly become instrumental in forming fundamental doctrine and behavior standards in modern Christianity. “Luther is thus the prophet of conscience and the architect of an emerging era of “confessionalization,” in which orthodoxy becomes the measure of the Christian. He sets in motion a conflict between conscience and creed that will run, in various forms, into the late modern era.”
Everyone from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King who doubted the traditional Christianity of their day started a revolution that transformed our world and Christianity, intrigues me. When and why did their souls begin to doubt the “Christian truths” so rigidly enforced? How did they find the courage and confidence to combat any and all they knew to promote a new set of beliefs so utterly foreign to its’ day? Erdozain provides an answer: “When all has been said about “social imaginaries,” “buffered selves,” and “immanent frame[s],” the more prosaic truth may be that people are repelled by a religion that threatens to diminish them.” When we fear being extinguished by the very religion we subscribe to, it gives one the boldness and reckless abandonment to advocate for a different belief system, risking rejection, persecution, and even death to pursue a life-giving community.
How similar this sounds to the work of Jesus as he challenged the rigid religious system of his day. He broke many religious rules, while never breaking God’s laws as he challenged the views of the local religious leaders. Since he was fully God and fully man, when did he start to doubt the religious dogma and how did it grow to give him the strength to defy the powerful religious rule that reigned with such a terrifying fierceness? “The ‘religious roots’ that I consider fundamental to modern cultures of unbelief are twofold: the positive content of dissent, including conscience, Bible, and Christian ethics, and the negative stimulus of dogma, persecution, and theologically induced fear.” We know he experienced the “negative stimulus” of religion as he endured persecution, and advocated for and healed many operating in the throes of shame and fear.
History builds on the backs of one another, as the sacred and secular intermingle, yet surprisingly, a transformation is often ushered through the gates of religion. “Here was the seed of the Marxist concept of religion as ideology, emerging not as social science but as a theological critique of Feuerbach’s own, Lutheran tradition.” Theologians influencing the societal leaders and belief systems is a dramatic reminder of how interdependent we are with one another. Separation of church and state operates more in theory than in reality, as people promote personal religious beliefs, and influence the societal context in which they reside. As humans, we are interconnected and our need for acceptance, love, and power can still be overridden when some of the sternest religious systems threaten our existence or our communities. This sets the stage for a “doubter” to be the hero who inspires transformation.
Erdozain respectfully reminds us of the unsung heroes and their emboldened and defiant actions that fostered healthy doubt in others subscribing to bigotry. “Religion is more than theology, and the past is more than a rolling sequence of controversy. The judgments of history would be sterner were it not for the quiet, invisible acts of those who elude its drama.” One such woman could have easily been one of the original members of DMin 7 women: “Katharina Schutz, wife of the German reformer Matthias Zell, who had a “kindly attitude towards radical spirits and a brusque contempt for male intolerance.” She defied the arrogant, pious men (clearly she was not referencing Dmin7 men) who refused to conduct a funeral for two sisters labeled as heretics. Despite her age and illness, she was provoked by the indignation of the bigotry and insisted on being carried to the graveside to perform the service for the sisters. Truly, an inspirational woman to emulate, and heartily coincides with Wilfred Owen’s statement: “I am more and more Christian as I walk the unchristian ways of Christendom.” 
God give us the wisdom to know what to doubt when to align with the spiritual, and how to advocate for a healthy merger of the secular and spiritual. Regardless of our diversity, may we remember we are all humans desiring to lovingly belong to one another and to a relational God.
 Dominic Erdozain, The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx Oxford University Press, 2015, 320-321, Kindle.
 Ibid., 265-267, Kindle.
 Ibid., 224-226, Kindle.
 Ibid., 261-262, Kindle.
 Ibid., 233.
 Ibid., 264.
 Ibid., 263.