I’ve not blogged for a long time about my spiritual beliefs. I used to write quite a bit about them but I haven’t done so specifically for almost a year now, because, frankly, my beliefs have been all over the place lately. I did have a Quaker post, I’ll admit and very enjoyable it was too. However, even though being hard to pin down to a religious viewpoint makes some people nervous, I find that it doesn’t bother me all that much. Not being able to write down a journey that seems to coincide with some kind of road map of faith that others have drawn up bothers me not at all. It tells me that I’m on the right track, because more than anything, I hate following paths that are so well worn nobody steps off them any longer. I was on a path like that once, and I felt like a lemming heading toward the proverbial cliff!
The reason I started blogging was to explore my beliefs and process my university experience, along with just jotting down life’s quirks and foibles. It certainly has been a circuitous journey and I didn’t even realize I’d been writing it for so long until I looked back in the archive. Wow. I sure can bloviate! I’ve been sad, gotten mad, lost and found faith, moved in and moved out of places, and just meandered on and off the blog for a little over two years. But my main goal has always been to just lay all my thoughts out there in the hopes that others could relate to what I was saying, to kind of demystify that which others claim is so mysterious and unknowable to the average person, because that’s all I am, an average person who makes mistakes, who does good deeds occasionally for no other reason but because it’s needed, who occasionally treats other people like shit when angry, and who lives each day as best she can despite being such a moron most of the time. That’s it. Sometimes you get slammed to the ground and sometimes life seems incredibly beautiful. It’s all a spiraling journey that repeats and repeats until we can get it right. Or is it? Either way, it’s a mixed bag and the one thing keeping me on an even keel is connecting to something larger than myself, or as some call it, spirituality.
Notice I didn’t say “religion.” I’ve gone through religions believe me. I’ve been a fundamentalist non-denominational Christian, a scrupulous Roman Catholic (some would say I still am), Greek Orthodox, a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, American Baptist, and have been an eclectic spiritual dilettante in the Goddess religions and all of it suits me just fine. I’ve dispensed with the hateful God of fundamentalism which fuels so much hatred and replaced him with a more loving version; one (or many) who most resembles my idea of a loving merciful parent, if that’s the metaphor that fits at the moment. She/He/It contains all aspects of Supreme Love and Mercy to me and without my meanderings into those fertile religious areas, I would have given up on religion/spirituality completely. But I am convinced that some people need religion and/or spirituality. We are just wired that way, just as some people aren’t wired that way. I also feel that our upbringing, our “nurture” along with our “nature” contribute to this wiring and that some things are too ingrained to give up completely. I’ve made no bones about the fact that since I was a small child others have tried to pin me down and have made my life infinitely harder than a child’s should be. They’ve exerted psychological and physical force in order to make me conform to their ways, but something, something always kept me from giving in. Call it a scrappy spirit or downright stubbornness. If physically coerced, I would merely bide my time until such time as I could free myself again to follow my own way. That was pretty much my life during that period.
As I got older, I collected experiences that would form me and mold me into the person I am now. Some were good, some were not so good. But we all go through them and we learn. Hopefully, we learn. At a crucial point in my life I had a spiritual experience that I can’t deny. I don’t know whether I caused it myself or it came from outside me. It doesn’t matter. I know only that I needed it and it was there. It changed my life forever, and if I erase everything in my life that formed me for good or for ill, this experience I cannot forget. I’ve been processing it ever since. I’ve kept this experience with me pretty much inviolate, but looking back, going to church to sort it out was probably a bad move. I should have processed it on my own and in my own time before listening to what others told me it should mean. But, that’s all water under the bridge now. I went to church anyway and absorbed a lot of nonsense about my experience. But I also learned much more. I read the bible quite thoroughly, learned the art of setting aside time for meditation and reading, and garnered some good habits about thinking before speaking (yes, believe it or not, I did learn this in church!) I also wouldn’t trade my times at church simply because it’s made me better at being who I want to be . I’ve met some wonderful people there, probably more wonderful than screwy. However, it has also shown me what I do not want to tolerate in my life.
So, to end where I began, I can’t honestly say what my beliefs are because I fully embrace all of them and fully embrace none of them. I find good things in all spiritualities. And, I find bad things in them. No one religion defines me. God worship doesn’t totally define me. Goddess worship doesn’t either. However, I find much good in both spiritual streams. Faith in one’s ability to lack faith certainly doesn’t define me and has it’s own peculiar fundamentalist traits. I’m one of those who is hardwired for faith I think and I’m really tired of resisting it. I think, over the years, I’ve found that my only wish is that Grace defines me. Divine Love defines me. The whole world is a Sacrament when you see it this way. Love itself is a sacrament. Nothing is inherently this or abjectly that. We can all have good moments and bad moments and we can all help as well as hurt. Not a one of us is exempt. I have faith in that. I have faith in my Jesus experience as true for me, as a channel of grace for me. I have faith that others’ experiences are true for them as well. I have faith that those who hate, maim, kill, or do anything, even if it’s in the name of some God, will eventually be “rewarded” fully for it. It may not be the reward they are looking for or even the reward I’m looking for, but I have faith that things will even out in the end. Whatever the metaphor, I am open to the possibilities. It may make other people nervous, but it suits me just fine.
7 thoughts on “The Art of Making People Nervous”
This is a fantastic post. I feel very similarly to you. And yes, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
MOI you have clearly outlined your own position, while attacking nobody else’s. To me, that should make no-one nervous.
In a recent BBC Lent Talk, I heard the speaker saying that the transcendant must always be absent from humanity by virtue of its transcendance. For this reason, he could only believe in the absence of God, but that this very absence could sometimes feel like a presence.
However one reacts to that, obviously more fully worked out in the talk, it serves to describe yet another of the multiplicity of approaches to belief and faith (not the same thing).
All such approaches should be respected, if we wish others to respect our own.
My wish to be universally accepting is limited only by a personal feeling that I can’t open my mind successfully to those who have faith or a belief system which would limit the creator’s intelligence to resigning particular groups to damnation and destruction simply because, poor fallible human beings that we all are, they might have got it wrong. This seems to me to be so radically far from anything which I associate with the Divine, that I can have no truck with it. If that renders me disrespectful of others’ faith, then I admit my limitations.
Blessings MOI; you make me not at all nervous.
Hi Sarah! Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog! I’m glad you liked the post. It was fun to write and it helped me so much to clarify my own feelings. 🙂
You wrote quite eloquently about religion there and I might like to hear that Lenten talk. God’s absence as “presence.” Sounds intriguing to say the least. It would explain a lot.
You wrote: “All such approaches should be respected, if we wish others to respect our own.”
I think this is a very good attitude to take about religion and spirituality. I wonder though whether hateful religions and spiritualities should be respected or not? Of course, we can call them hateful all we want but it doesn’t make it so. I would say it would have to be obvious that a religion actively encourages its member to kill or maim. That would be considered hateful. Anyway, I digress.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, as always.
You are right. I would include – should have included – religions which encourage their adherents to slaughter others to those who ascribe vengeful characteristics to their god.
Oh dear, I so desperately want to be nice and inclusive, while my list of exclusions begins to grow longer.
“Thou shalt not kill unless God tells you to~” would definitely not be the command of a God who would appeal to me, any more than does the God who can’t quite manage the unconditional love to which the rest of us are supposed to aspire, in destroying those human souls who don’t believe in him/her/it.
This is a basically irrational position of course, but so is faith irrational, and, when reason fails us, we have only our consciences and such religious experience as we have personally had on which to fall back. But give a paranoid schizophrenic a Bible or a Koran, and stand well clear!
Trusting our inner voices is a risky business, but if it speaks to us of what we instinctively feel to be right, we will probably follow, while others will or will not recognise a kindred spirit equally instinctively.
Wanton destruction is wrong to me simply because I know it is. “Love endureth all things” and God is not spiteful.
I have a similar path as your, MoI, in that ever since I left the church I’ve been marching at the beat of my of drum, and throughout, I’ve been booed by both the atheist and the religious camp.
What I like about your position is that you are doing what feels right for you, and that brings a smile to my face.
Religion, I think, is not bad for everyone. It is only bad for people who take it at face value, follow what others say, and are unwilling to examine the teachings with a critical eye.
I think it is great that you’ve created your own spirituality. I kind of envy you, actually. As long as you’re doing what feels right for you, it seems to me you will be fine.
Because you are “feeling.” Many religious have shut their senses in order to follow what others think is right for them, but that isn’t the case with you.
You are moving. You are changing as needed. You’re in touch with your inner feelings, and I think that’s wonderful.
You go woman!
My path is different from yours in that we seem to be heading in different directions. But we are being true to ourselves, following what we feel is right. And in that sense we’re very similar.
Thanks for the encouragement!! I love what you wrote: “Religion, I think, is not bad for everyone. It is only bad for people who take it at face value, follow what others say, and are unwilling to examine the teachings with a critical eye.” That is so true, isn’t it? I find this inability to examine what others tell us the primary reason for staying in systems that hurt us, which could include anything: politics, relationships, etc. Self-reflection and comparing our deepest feelings and needs to what others say we should feel and need is the mark of wholeness I think.
Congratulations on your journey to wholeness as well, whatever your outcome. 🙂
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