Quiz: Mulder and Scully vs. Lois and Clark in an easter egg hunt in Mordor. Who finds the most?


Belief and Doubt

Belief and doubt work in tandem. They are partners investigating this same strange world. And the conversation they hold never ends. I learned that from the X-Files.

Old conventional wisdom says you can't believe and doubt at the same time. But today, even priests talk extensively about how doubt is "okay" and "natural" and even "helpful" to the faith experience because, once you abandon those doubts, your belief is stronger. So ultimately, doubt is a means to an end--at least in conventional wisdom.

But belief and doubt really aren't all that different. In the X-Files mythology, this is shown through the relationship between two FBI agents. Mulder and Scully, the believer and the skeptic respectively, initially have their doubts about each other. The believer thinks the skeptic is out to sabotage his work by exposing his views as frauds. The skeptic thinks the believer is a little unbalanced. But only in the beginning. When they don't know each other. Only when the other person is still an unknown, a dehumanized collection of beliefs (or nonbeliefs) and assumptions, is it possible to think that belief and doubt are at odds with one another. But once they take on the same case, it's clear that they're on the same team. Hell, they even like each other. And they're really two sides to the same coin.

Ultimately, Scully was set up by higher-ups in the agency to expose Mulder and his beliefs as frauds. But by the end of their first case involving a potential alien abduction, Scully cannot bring herself to hand Mulder over as a crazy. Why? Does she feel sorry for him? Maybe a little. Does she think he might be onto something? Maybe a little of that too. But without Mulder, Scully is just one voice articulating something false: that everything has a logical explanation. And without Scully, Mulder is a lonely voice for another falsehood: that faith alone is enough. When the two get together and talk, that's when they find the truth that's out there.

But sometimes the truth is just a smudge on the lens. So make sure you clean your lenses properly.