What Would I Believe if I Didn't Believe Anything? A Handbook for Spiritual Orphans
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More About This Title What Would I Believe if I Didn't Believe Anything? A Handbook for Spiritual Orphans


What Would I Believe if I Didn't Believe Anything? is a guidebook for spiritual orphans that shows how they can "doubt their way home" by embracing their doubts and asking the hard questions as a meaningful path toward genuine faith. The author helps readers value their own questions and learn to talk about spiritual matters in fresh, non-religious language. Rather than handing down doctrines "from above," Groff invites readers to look at life "from below," exploring experiences of daily living. He helps the reader to find the grace in the grit of everyday life, seeking analogies of faith in film and literature, psychology and science, poetry and arts, music and sports. Drawing primarily from the well of his Christian experience, Groff also incorporates insights from the world's primal myths and major religions.

Fifty reflection exercises make it ideal for group use with journeyers of varied backgrounds for campuses, prisons, communal residences, religious communities and work places.


Kent Ira Groff, a writer, poet, speaker, and spiritual guide, describes his work as one beggar showing other beggars where to find bread. He is founding mentor of Oasis Ministries for Spiritual Development in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and adjunct professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary.


List of Reflection Exercises ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Orientation: Global Orphans xv

Conversations with Seekers: Genuine Experiences, Worthy Questions xxi

THE GIFT IN THE GRIT: Losing Your Religion to Find Your Faith 1

1 Being Agnostic Cracks the Door to Truth 2

2 Big Barriers to Believing 9

3 Hide and Seek in Stuff 18

4 The “Vulgar” Bible 26

5 Yearning Your Way Home: Holy Worldly Paths 31

6 Thinking Your Way Home: Postmodern Clues for Primodern Faith 40

7 Sweating Your Way Home: Body Language 51

WONDER HAPPENS: Surprise! Surprise. 59

8 Dreams, Daydreams, and Discovery 60

9 Serendipity! Surprise Hunger for “Soul Talk” 66

10 Shock. 9/11 and Traumatic Surprise 73

11 You Are Dust.You Are Stars! Two Keys 80

12 Insight Is Not Transferable 85

MYSTERY: Inklings of Transformation 95

13 The Murder of Mystery 96

14 “You Should See Mt. St. Helens Now!” 101

15 The Matrix:Through Anger to Forgiveness to Freedom 106

16 Beauty: Johann,Vincent, and Jazz 114

17 Gesture: Gandhi, Rosa, and Soulforce 121

18 Emptiness: Prozac Days and Dark Nights 126

19 Sex, Mysticism, and Work 138

HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE? Having Fun Doing Good 145

20 Playful Projects for Serious Purposes 146

21 Live as If You Had a Thousand Years to Live,

Live as If You Must Die Tomorrow 151

22 Chocolát and Spider-Man: Passionate Gratitude 158

23 Listen to Love, to Love: Contemplate Truth, Act Truthfully 165

24 Singling in Community 171

25 Dancing Your Way Home Again: Sankofa 182

Debriefing and Homework: Chop Wood and Carry Water 193

P.S. For Once or Maybe Christians: How Big Is Your Jesus? 195

Resource One: Guidelines for Group Gatherings 201

Resource Two: Personal Meditative Reading 203

Resource Three: Group Meditative Reading 205

Resource Four: Faith Finding, Faith Sharing 207

Resource Five:“O For So Short a Time” 209

Notes 211

Bibliography 225

The Author 229

Credits 231


"Groff takes the unusual and highly beneficial step of leading the reader through some of the great secular and religious classics, but also of encouraging guided reflections on key passages. This original approached enabled me to appreciate them in a wholly new way."
—Harvey Cox, Hollis Professor of Divinity, Harvard University, author of The Secular City and Common Prayers: A Christian?s Journey Through the Jewish Year

"If you are piecing together your spiritual roots, as many of us are today, this is the place to start. A wise, open-minded vision of what it means to embrace the spiritual life comes through Groff's work."
—Lauren Artress, author, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, canon for special ministries, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

"In an age when many have lost confidence in conventional approaches to Christian faith and spirituality, Kent Groff faces these concerns honestly and sympathetically, and from that posture of wisdom and humility offers fresh insights and inspiration for those at the crossroads or roadside of faith's journey. What Would I Believe...? is a welcome resource for seekers and doubters and those who care about them."
—Nathan D. Baxter, former dean, Washington National Cathedral

"Today, people hunger for meaning and direction as perhaps never before, yet the assurances offered by traditional religions and philosophies have become hollow for many.  In What Would I Believe if I Didn?t Believe Anything? Kent Ira Groff meets this dilemma head-on. This is solid writing grounded in intuition and intelligence, on the most vital questions we humans ever confront. What Would I Believe...? is a spiritual compass pointing toward a richer, more fulfilling life for anyone fortunate enough to read it."
—Larry Dossey, M.D., author, Healing Words Beyond the Body, Reinventing Medicine, and Healing Words

"This book is a cornucopia overflowing with spiritual adages, insights, practices and prayers culled from many sources. . . . there is sure to be some fruit or flower that will nurture you here."
—Wendy M. Wright, chair of humanities, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, and author, Seasons of a Family?s Life

"With Kent Groff as a guide, seekers?skeptical or earnest?are likely to glimpse unexpected connections between the mundane and the Holy that stir the embers of the soul and disclose pathways to faith that for many have become obscure?but remain longed for."
—Sharon Daloz Parks, author, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith

"This is a book for seekers who are longing to find their way home, those weary of religious platitudes, yet awed by beauty, truth, and the ultimate mystery of God.  Kent Ira Groff offers not a road map, but a compass that points the way for his readers' own journeys. With this rich tapestry of ideas as inspiration, Groff invites readers to find community with fellow pilgrims and to embrace the divine mystery that is the source of life."
—Martha J. Horne, dean and president, Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Virginia, and former president of the Association, Theological Schools in the United States and Canada

"The author writes well, poking fun and prodding the reader to consider different angles and visions. Rather than making a legal argument, Groff paints on a canvass and asks us to step back and take a good long look at it."
—Michael Long, Assistant Professor of Religion at Elizabethtown College in PA, director of peace and conflict studies program and author of Have the Time of Your Life: Live for God in Each Moment and Creative Living: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Good Life