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How the Shroud of Turin made me an Agnostic

By Slow Break ~

I find the Shroud of Turin and all the speculation, myth and conjecture surrounding it among the most intriguing things in all of Christendom. At a minimum this is an extremely old religious artifact that people have been venerating for hundreds of years. It has survived wars, fires, water damage, and carbon dating. At most, this is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ himself that was imprinted with his image at the moment that he was resurrected from the dead by God the Father. Some dubious historians have even claimed it could be the burial shroud of Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar.

Full-length photograph of the Shroud of Turin ...Image via Wikipedia
In my opinion the shroud ranks up there with Sonny’s BBQ on the list of my favorite things.

I once had the opportunity to hear a professor lecture about the shroud. Unlike most Christian “experts” this guy had a genuine claim to some serious knowledge about his topic. He was present in 1978, when they cut pieces from the shroud and sent them to three separate labs to have testing performed. He has actually seen and studied the shroud in the first person.

I don’t remember much of what he said that day about the shroud but one thing he said has stayed with me. At the end of the lecture one of the students got really original and asked him if he believed the shroud was authentic. Was this the burial shroud of Christ?

He said something to the effect that “On good days he was about seventy to eighty percent sure that the shroud was authentic. On the bad days….something significantly less”

The concept of placing a percentage of certainty on a matter of faith or belief was a novel concept to me. I think many Christians would be scandalized because it’s sort of like laying odds on a horse race. “Give me horse #4 to finish top 3, and while you’re at it let me put a grand on the virgin birth. Also, what’s the line on Armageddon? ”

I believe my Christian experience is fairly representative of most people raised in the evangelical tradition. In that experience, there was never room for the tension between belief and unbelief. In Christianity, matters of faith are to be settled not left to simmer.

Several years ago I would have said that I have Shroud of Turing faith. On good days I’m about 70% certain that Jesus is God and died for my sins. On bad days I’m maybe 20% sure.

Today, I might tell you that on good days, I’m 90% sure that there is no god and on bad days I’m only 50% sure there is no god.

Christians often say they find “rest in him”.

I find rest in being comfortable with the tension of unanswered questions. I find a great deal of peace in being comfortable with the incompleteness and evolution of my experience.

The incompleteness and evolution of my experience.

Millions of Catholics in Italy see the Shroud of Turin as a boon to their faith, it gives them strength and inspires them to deeper commitment.

For me, the Shroud of Turin gave me a boost over a mental hurdle keeping me from honest reflection.