The Prayer of a Student Skeptic

Gordon Carkner
October 23 2019


Dear God, Buddha, Allah, Plato, Krishna, Beings from other planets, Jesus, Confucius, Zeus, Ra, the Universe, the Great Principle, etc.

Is anyone out there? Pluralism is confusing. Could you get together, have a chat and send one representative to explain all this? So many worldviews on offer; so many games in town. How do I choose? How can I trust any of you? How do I know what’s true and bogus, aside from all the shouting, the rituals, images, many paths to peace and funny hats?

OK, right, this is awkward.... I don’t really believe in you anymore.

I’m kind of still angry with Dad who dragged me and my sister to church and forced religion on our family. It’s just not cool with my friends to think or talk about spiritual things; they get creeped out. They are big on science, world politics and extreme sports. God talk is out of the question. I don't want them even to know I'm thinking about this meaning and purpose stuff. They'll think I've gone off my head.

One of my social science profs is keen about Nietzsche, will to power, self-assertion therapy. He loves Foucault and the power of self-invention and reinvention--freedom to be who we want to be. But it's a big job to create one's own universe of meaning. Daunting really.

Practically I’m concerned about my career big time–medicine is my goal. Jobs are scarce and I want security and a chance to leave my mark. Is meaningful work too much to ask for? But a thousand other colleagues want the same thing. How's that going to work? Competition for everything is brutal: professions, grad school, employment, mates.

At my university, there is an endless list of complaints about religion, mocking it mercilessly in fact. Everybody's soaking up the New Atheists doctrine of religion bashing. It's the latest bandwagon I guess. Perhaps you should send an envoy to address some of their questions? Dawkins is accusing you of some really nasty behaviour and questionable motives.

I'm not presently getting any answers to my doubts, just angst. Science and religion seem like oil and water, or worse, at war. Faith, my friends tell me, is like wishful thinking, juvenile fantasy or pure subjectivity, an escape from hard, cold reality.

But just on the outside chance that you, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are, are real and that my fellow agnostics, skeptics and atheists are a bit overconfident, I have some questions that I’ve wanted to ask. Sometimes frankly they claim more than they know or have evidence for. Their egos get pretty large sometimes, especially in those late night residence bull sessions, or after a couple beers at the pub.

Why are you so hidden, invisible, if you run the universe?

You do have a very low profile for an omniscient being. A spot on CNN, CBC, Al jazeera or BBC maybe to update humanity? At least a Facebook account, or Instagram post, I suggest. I hear LinkedIn is a good professional network to meet people of like interests.

What’s the deal with the terrible violence, human suffering and injustice? This is very disturbing; I hate it. Can’t something be done to stop it? I don't get it. If you are out there, do you care? I wish I could believe that justice, truth and goodness will prevail, but so many bad things happen to good people, like innocent kids.

By the way, what is love anyway?

I don’t know why it is so hard to trust and love someone. Is it just mutual manipulation for self-interest? Frustrating, confusing, illusive stuff. How do I sort out reality from fantasy? Is it more than sex or an emotional high? My last boyfriend hurt me so much. It knocked me down for months, and I don't know if I can ever trust a guy again. I long for stability and a good life partner. Some Christian friends say you are all about love. What does that mean in a broken world?

I sense the need for more substantial meaning than work and friends, but I am afraid of looking the fool, hoping for too much and being disappointed. Isn't it just easier to play the cynical game? Partying is not doing it for me; extreme drinking is scary; my friend passed out last week in a bar and didn't know where she was til the next day. She could have been badly hurt, or raped. I’m so damn lonely and stressed out.

There's got to be more.... There's got to be something more stable to hold onto....

Things are so complex and the expectations are so high.

Is there a formula for happiness I’m just not getting? Does Positive Psychology have any answers?

Sometimes I think life expects too much of me. It’s not fair, it is just too hard. I didn't sign up for this.

It is an awesome universe and nature is fantastic; hiking, biking, poetry, music and skiing gets me inspired and feeling good. I am challenged by the beauty of these mountains and the vastness of the ocean, the size of the cosmos, the mystery of the early morning fog on the lake. That’s something that speaks to me. How do you make fog? If you did make the mountains and the Milky Way, well done.

I’m trying to be honest with myself, to face my demons, but it's really hard. There's no time to find myself amidst all the contradictions and varying ideologies. How do I get above my basic desires and fears, to get some perspective on life, to find my calling? Is that transcendence?

University seems so full of paradoxes and irony. I came with such anticipation and high expectations. I was supposed to find answers to life at university, to get on my own feet. What's all this? More complexity and contradictions everywhere.

Morality confuses me, but I sense there is something to it, living for some good cause or some virtuous ideal: save the world, feed the poor, cure a disease, discover a new drug or win a Nobel Prize. We need some principles, some parameters for relations, some good to reach out for, some ground for trust and cooperation as a society. My ex-boyfriend could sure use some. He cheated on me.

I sense I need something to believe in, a source of inspiration beyond study, survival, paying bills, a future mortgage. Is there an article, a movie, book or webpage that I can read to sort all this out? A class maybe? A brilliant person to mentor me?

Please respond…. I honestly need help, I'm curious but suspicious of easy answers,



p.s. This is a fictional statement based on hundreds of conversations with students over several years. Perhaps the next stage if you identify with these longings of the heart is to read Anne Voskamp's brilliant quotes or consult with a religious professional. Your life is too important to trivialize. Your heart questions are too important to bury under your busyness.

Next Steps

You can find out more information about OC's Campus Ministry here.

Suggested Reading:

David Adams Richards, God Is: my search for faith in a secular world.

Apologetics Resources:

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, the Director of Graduate & Faculty Campus Ministries, along with his wife Ute love connecting with future global leaders within the graduate student university community. Through hospitality, biblical investigation, prayer and discussions of faith and academic studies, these students are drawn into kingdom concerns and introduced to God's powerful agape love. This is a transformational experience that builds community at the crux of high achievement passion, loneliness and stress. With a team of faculty, the ministry mines the wisdom of the ages, employing excellent Christian scholarship.

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