This letter is written to the descendents of my great-grandfather Abdul Haqq, but I write openly to share my thoughts with others who also seek answers.
My great-grandfather was born into a fundamentalist Muslim family in what is today Pakistan. At the age of seventeen he decided to abandon the Islamic faith of his ancestors for Christianity, which provided him with satisfactory answers to his outstanding spiritual and philosophical questions. Though he gave up his family and fought through more hardship than I will ever know, he stayed true to himself, his beliefs, and his own convictions.
On my own spiritual journey I have found much of traditional Christianity to be philosophically and metaphysically unsound. I do not reject Christianity outright, but I summarize my criticisms of traditional Christian theology in five statements:
(1) I do not believe in any concept of sin that eternally separates us from God and requires redemption.
(2) I do not believe that humanity was begat by two historical persons named Adam and Eve.
(3) I do not believe that literacy is a prerequisite for salvation.
(4) I do not believe that supernatural beings meddle in human affairs or tinker with the universe.
(5) I do not believe in the persistence of individuality after death.
I cannot accept the tenets of an evangelical Christian tradition that considers proselytization as the greatest career, and I cannot accept any Christian theology that starkly contradicts evidence in the physical world. I therefore offer four statements of positive belief for a modern Christian faith:
(6) I believe that all of life, and the entire universe, is connected in ways that science can only approximate and may never fully understand.
(7) I believe that scripture and tradition can contain Truth that does not depend on historicity.
(8) I believe that living in the moment of our present lives is more important than fixating on thoughts of an afterlife.
(9) I believe that following Jesus’ example means to share our table as equals with our fellow human beings.
Christianity as practiced today is irrelevant for many people because it is slow to adapt to new knowledge about the world. One hundred years ago Christianity provided a lifeline for my great-grandfather to escape an Islamic tradition that stifled him; but the insistence on conformed and enmeshed beliefs caused his descendants to cling fearfully to this brand of Christianity rather than continue the process of questioning that he began.
I write this letter in order to be true to myself, my beliefs, and my own convictions, with the hope that my words may resonate with some of you who read this. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares the “kingdom of heaven” to a merchant who seeks after fine pearls (13:45-46). Our quest for Truth is similar, and—like the merchant—we should never be afraid to give up a flawed pearl for one of much greater value.