What do you believe?

 


Prayers Today

Originally uploaded by marrngtn (Manuel)

The posts regarding Christian Nationalism has led me to ask, what do you believe and why?

I was raised Roman Catholic and I want to believe in the tenets of the church. I really do. At the same time, I am drawn to Secular Humanism as well. The question I consistently deal with is “Do I still believe in God?”

So, dear reader, what do you believe. If you want to quote something, please expand on the quote. I am extremely interested in reading about other’s beliefs. I’ll write up more about mine after work tonight.

update 1:
Anonymous sent this to me in an email. Here is a snippet of this person’s insightful thoughts.

I’m also incredibly sensitive to (and rather put off by) very public displays of faith, but I think that’s a personal overreaction to where I went to college (a private, southern baptist university) than anything else. It was blatantly obvious when I was there that often the loudest proponents of anything (public displays of faith in particular) were often the people I most disagreed with about what it means to “walk the walk”. I think being told by well-meaning but … not well-thinking people that they would pray for my mortal soul to not be tempted into Hell by the doings of Those Damn Catholics had a lot to do with it too, really.

I’m a huge fan of Chesterton (and Lewis, but less so, and not particularly Narnia), and his way of explaining how faith makes sense in this world. He argues that rather than the world being sane, and Faith being madness, that instead it’s the world that is mad, and faith that brings us a breath of sanity in the midst of the madness. He’s oft called the “Apostle of Common Sense” – which endears me to him all the more.

“There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.” -GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

10 thoughts on “What do you believe?

  1. Secular humanism, I suppose. I identify strongly with the ethical tenets and cultural identity of Reform Judaism, but I absolutely do not believe in a God or higher power, personal, universal, remote, anthropomorphic, or otherwise. Still, I maintain a healthy skepticism about everything, and that extends to the belief that the human intellect can explain everything.

  2. Careful, I’m going to ramble.

    What do I believe? I don’t know. I haven’t known for a long time, though I couldn’t point to any specific event that made it that way. I guess you could say my beliefs fit in best with Secular Humanism – it is, really, pretty much how I live my life – but at the same time, I’m not quite ready to deny the possibility that there might be something out there bigger than ourselves.

    Like Marty, I was raised Roman Catholic. My parents were never especially devout, though they made the effort, while I was going through CCD classes, to bring me to Mass every week. Sometimes we did well, sometimes we didn’t. I could recite the Nicene Creed for you right now – but do I believe all the things I’m asserting I believe when I say it? No, I don’t think I do.

    I went through periods when I was little where I was extremely god-fearing. Overactive imagination? Maybe. When I think back on my early education in all things churchlike, the strongest memories are always adults teaching about how this or that would send you to hell.

    In my early years, I seemed to always stumble upon people handing out pamphlets declaring the impending rapture. Of course I read them – I read everything – and for years I had dreams where everyone else was assumed into Heaven and I was left alone. (I put it into a ficlet, once. I haven’t had the dream in years, but it’s still vivid in my mind.)

    My third grade CCD teacher was extremely pro-life. She brought in those pins with the size of a baby’s feet at… three months? Tiny things, less than half an inch. She insisted we wear them. She taught us that if anyone we knew even considered having an abortion, we were going to go to hell with them if we didn’t stop them.

    Third grade. She taught all other sorts of hellfire, too, sending kids home in tears every week. Eventually enough parents complained and she was removed, but to this day, I can remember that classroom. I wore that pin long after she was gone from my life and I barely even knew what it meant.

    I remember sitting down in the basement of St. Bridget’s school a few years later, having a priest come in and lecture us about the evils of abortion – this was, apparently, a hot topic in my parish. We talked about promiscuity and abstinence then, too, and it bothered me that — if our God was supposed to be this loving God who would forgive us anything as long as we truly repented — all we seemed to talk about was how we were all going to fuck it up and go to hell.

    We were just barely out of the boys are icky phase, and there were the pillars of our community trying to teach us that we were inherently naughty, dirty little things.

    It wasn’t until high school, really, that I actually started learning about all those things I should have been taught in my first twelve years of faith. I went to Catholic high school, so religion classes were suddenly part of the curriculum. My freshman year, I had a great teacher who talked about the stories in the Bible first in their historical contexts, then showed us what was relevant about them in the present-day.

    Sure, the miracle of the loaves and the fishes sounds neat. There’s our savior, not pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but bread out of a basket, over and over for his followers.

    Only.

    Only that wasn’t the miracle, said Ms. King.

    Think about it. You’re taking the family to listen to a man preach far outside of town. It’s going to be an all-day affair. What do you do? You pack a lunch. And when this man who has just spent several hours inspiring you declares that it’s time to eat, you look at the person next to you, someone who forgot to bring food, or who was perhaps too poor to do so, and you share what you have with them.

    That’s the miracle, she said. Human kindness. Generosity. Compassion.

    And all these years, I’d been hearing how we were such terrible people in our modern times, undeserving of God’s love, undeserving of the light of Heaven.

    But that didn’t suddenly instill me with a newfound faith in God. It did, however, leave me with a deeper appreciation of the stories, and for the intent behind them.

    Those of you who know me know I’m a sucker for stories. I’m especially a sucker for old stories – myths, legends, histories, and yes, religions. There are common threads that run through a lot of those stories, no matter where in the world they originated. You’re going to find some version of the Golden Rule in each and every one of them. Live a good life, do no harm, do unto others…

    I can’t make myself believe, as some faiths insist, that if you don’t believe in my brand of religion, you’re fucked. That there’s only one way to act, believe, pray, and if you do it wrong, eternal damnation awaits. If God (the Christian God) made us all, and loves us all, why would He hold Himself back from huge chunks of the world? Why let some people worship the sun, or Coyote, or Shiva, and forever damn them if they don’t convert because missionaries come along and say they have to?

    One response to that, I know, is that it’s their choice not to convert, but I don’t buy it. It seems so wrong, so antithetical to the loving, forgiving, all-embracing God I’m supposed to believe in. If that’s what I’m supposed to believe then, well, I might go to hell for saying this, but I’m going to anyway: God’s kind of a dick, if he’s setting billions of people up to fail just because he can. Just because he wants us to affirm his superiority.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    Does that mean I don’t believe in God? No. Though I don’t know if I believe in the white-bearded robed guy living in the sky (who occasionally comes down and slums it with us in the guise of a burning bush, or a dove, or his own son).

    I love the ritual of religion, even if the patterns and motions are mostly there to put you in a calm frame of mind where you can, I don’t know, be in touch with yourself, to take time to sit quietly and listen. But ritual doesn’t have to be going to Mass and receiving communion. It can be spending an hour in your garden or having a cup of tea while the kids are at the table doing their homework. It can be lighting a candle and remembering someone, or pausing in the middle of a hectic day to take a few breaths and imagine yourself somewhere peaceful.

    I think there’s something bigger than us. I can’t define it; I don’t understand it, and honestly I don’t need to. It might be some kind of supreme being, or it might just be the collective good that human beings are capable of doing.

    I believe that most people are inherently good. There are exceptions, ohyes, but for the most part, I believe people want the best for one another.

    I believe that as long as we are good to one another, as long as we care about the well-being of others and try to leave the world a better place than we found it, then we are doing the right thing.

    I believe it all does mean something, and that I might never understand what that something is, but it’s something good. It’s something worthwhile.

    I believe there is something after this, for all of us, and I have no reason to believe that, no proof of it, and no idea what it might be. But whether it’s heaven, or reincarnation, or simply a part of us remaining behind to lift up those who mourn our passing, this existence is not the end.

  3. I was tempted to write something flippant or amusing here, or to simply write nothing at all, but the earnestness of Lauren’s and Jewben’s answers have dissuaded me.
    I have been called many things, by others and myself. Atheist, agnostic, seeker, hellbound, cynic, nihilist, secularist, realist and skeptic. Of all these, the one that likely best suits me is skeptic.
    I was born into a marginally Methodist household, and I have distinct memories of going to church and Sunday school, of praying to Jesus, of being in some general sense religious. I remember believing, the sensation of certainty. It just didn’t occur to me to question any part of what I’d been told.
    Then, when I was six, I read a book. It wasn’t some atheist screed, or theological tome. It was some old, old book that my dad had when he was a kid. I think the title of it was “The Real Book of Mythology,” and it talked about the Greek, Egyptian and Roman gods. I think it struck me because I had never even considered the idea that there were alternatives to what I had been raised into.
    How could they worship something else? Didn’t they KNOW?
    Didn’t I know?
    Critically, at this age my family moved. Away from our old church, we settled into life in Illinois, and never really found a place of worship. I have always wondered, what if we had, and my youthful faith had been more rigorously reinforced. Would I have walked out of 1st grade as an atheist?
    That speculation aside, it was too late. In recognizing the weakness in the arguments for believing in Zeus, I had recognized the weakness for the reasons I believed. So I stopped.
    It’s important to realize that I didn’t stop because I was taught to, but because I suddenly had enough information about the world that my natural tendency to demand compelling objective proof kicked in. Hence my personal image as a skeptic. Most any statement possible can provoke me to squint my eyes and mutter, “Yeah? Prove it!”
    As for my family and friends, I literally didn’t talk about it for years, as I can remember. At least not until I hit junior high and started talking to other people who seemed to not believe. Of course, a number of them were just rebelling, but that didn’t make it any less fun to identify with them. If anything, it made it more fun. And then came high school, which is kinda a blur. We’ll just say that no great strides in self-improvement we’re made during that time. For embarrassing stories, you can ask Marty. He knows some.
    On second thought, don’t ask him.
    I have a memory of talking to my parents sometime as an adult, and my father refferred to me as an Atheist. My mother, shocked, reacted by telling my father not to call me that, as though it were a dirty word.
    Awkward. I never really knew about Mom’s faith before then. I know even less now. I don’t think she ever plans to debate her faith or mine, which I guess I can understand.
    Since finally and belatedly growing up, I’ve become a lot more accepting of faith. I even got married in a Catholic ceremony, to a (marginal) Catholic! I spent a lot of time in central Illinois and Texas, and have made some very dear conservative Christian friends.
    With that said, though, I tend to conceal my beliefs, especially in public and professional situations. It’s easy to say that those discussions don’t belong in the workplace, or in public settings, but the stark reality is that what that really means is that it is really okay to be publicly christian, and kinda okay to have another faith, but in these here United States? Saying you’re an Atheist is the equivalent of picking a fight in which you’re outnumbered.
    Don’t get me wrong. There are other, more potent and evil prejudices out there. I can only imagine most of them as a white male. But it is still dispiriting for others to regard you as offensive or broken when they realize you have rejected their God.
    So, yeah. Skeptic. I think Humans can be great, noble and good. They can also be base, selfish, and evil. Most of them are both, and how they act is situational.
    I think the soul is basically your personality and a product of the interaction between your personal history, brain, and environment.
    I think that love and relationships are fragile and require conscious nurturing to survive.
    I think the greatest thing in the world is being alive and free, and I am incredibly priveleged to be both.
    I am terrified of Death, just like anyone else. (And for any theists who just thought, “I’m not afraid of death,” that’s not what I mean. I don’t mean going to heaven, or hell, or any sort of afterlife. I’m scared to stop existing. I’m scared of oblivion. The physical suffering part isn’t nearly as bad as the cessation.)
    If the gift of certain knowledge of God’s love is called Grace, what do we name the gift of the certainty of God’s absence? It can’t be despair. Because, skeptic or not:
    I’m happy. I’ve got it made.
    Life? It’s good.

  4. I am terrified of Death, just like anyone else. (And for any theists who just thought, “I’m not afraid of death,” that’s not what I mean. I don’t mean going to heaven, or hell, or any sort of afterlife. I’m scared to stop existing. I’m scared of oblivion. The physical suffering part isn’t nearly as bad as the cessation.)
    Holy frak. I am not alone.

    I’m not even sure what exactly I believe in. At least not without rambling (literally) forever. If I can distill my philosophy and what my thoughts on “religion” are, I’ll sure post them. But I’m not overly optimistic.

  5. My current religious circumstance is this: The opposition of science and religion is a fallacy. These may be perpendicular ideas, but they are not opposites. Religion is not antithetical to rationalism, but a great many modern minds that I respect and admire want me to think it is. Let us not conflate religion and fundamentalism.

    I feel compelled to pick a side, science or religion, if I want to be respected or heard, but the very conflict is misbelief.

    What I know is that, as a boy, religion scared me with its strictures, and that, today, popular atheism does, too. I am afraid to admit that I am faithful for fear of being ostracized by peers.

    There is no place for me in science or religion anymore.

  6. I believe that there is a God, in three persons–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And no, I don’t quite understand it.

    I believe that the Bible, both Testaments, is the inspired Word of God, written by men at the direction of the Spirit. Note that I did NOT say that it was inerrant…the vessels that wrote the Bible, and have translated it dozens of times since, are fallible men.

    I believe that God created the universe. I don’t know how He did it. I don’t think it took six days, or maybe that’s the parable He gave Moses to get it through the skulls of folks who’d never heard of the Big Bang or quantum mechanics. Beats me.

    I believe that man is tainted by sin. God cannot abide sin. Because of that, the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was initiated, and that was only temporary. Good works cannot get you into Heaven. Sin has caused an unbreachable gulf between man and God…until Calvary.

    I believe that God the Father sent His Son in the person of Jesus Christ–fully man, fully divine–down to Earth to preach His Word.

    I believe that Jesus died, sinless, on the cross, abandoned by His Father, to pay the ultimate penalty for sin–total separation from God and His goodness, which is one widely-used definition of Hell. And that death, to those who accept Jesus as their Savior and determine to follow His will, pays for all of their sin, past, present, and future, and allows them entry into Heaven. And, it’s the only way to get there.

    I have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of my life and as my Savior. Does that mean I’m a particularly good example of a Christian? Nope. Far from it. But it means I’m praying, and striving, and trying, every day, to get a little tiny bit better–“more Christ-like,” as they say.

    I believe that God has a plan for each of us. I don’t know what my own plan is, much less anybody else’s. I don’t believe much in coincidences since I met Wife Unit; the chances of us meeting in the way we did were too crazy to be random chance. But I don’t pretend to be anywhere near smart enough to out-guess an infinitely good, infinitely powerful God. I just do the best I can with what I’ve got, ask His help and blessings every day, and live my life.

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