Feb 7, 2013

Doubt in the library

Megan Phelps-Roper, once thought to be the future of Westboro Baptist's campaign to tell America how very much it is hated by God, has now left her grandfather's church.

As she told journalist Jeff Chu, doubt came, as it so often does, from questions of epistemology and a sense of the expanse of history. Megan's situation is unusual, but this thought process follows a well-travelled route.

Chu writes:
She kept trying to conquer the doubts. Westboro teaches that one cannot trust his or her feelings. They’re unreliable. Human nature 'is inherently sinful and inherently completely sinful,' Megan explains. 'All that's trustworthy is the Bible. And if you have a feeling or a thought that’s against the church's interpretations of the Bible, then it's a feeling or a thought against God himself.'

This, of course, assumes that the church's teachings and God's feelings are one and the same. And this, of course, assumes that the church's interpretation of the Bible is infallible, that this much-debated document handed down over the centuries has, in 2013, been processed and understood correctly only by a small band of believers in Topeka. 'Now?' Megan says. 'That sounds crazy to me.'

In December, she went to a public library in Lawrence, Kansas. She was looking through books on philosophy and religion, and it struck her that people had devoted their entire lives to studying these questions of how to live and what is right and wrong. 'The idea that only WBC had the right answer seemed crazy,' she says. 'It just seemed impossible.'
Phelps-Roper has left the church, and Topeka, and is currently trying to figure out what she does believe.