Monday, November 26

Faith

The other day while on the phone with my dad, he ventured into the treacherous territory of religion and asked me if I even had a Bible in my possession anymore. "I dunno. Maybe? ..." I replied sheepishly. If there is one thing in the world I am loath to do, it is disappoint my father.

I could tell he was unnerved by the thought. He acknowledged that my faith isn't what it used to be or what he wished it was. He told me that I was now old enough to fend for my own spiritual self, and that were I to die, I'd not have the benefit of youthful ignorance to shield me from eternal damnation.

I didn't know what to say. It wasn't a good time to get into one of those discussions. There is, I've learned, never a good time to get into those discussions. So I try to let them pass. I don't protest. I acknowledge that I am testing fate by being quietly agnostic.

My parents want me back in church. They want me reading the Bible and giving praise and thanks to God at all times for everything I have. They want me to regard unfortunate things that happen as, depending on the situation, the work of the devil or the work of God, who works in mysterious ways. They want me to believe that Jesus was literally born of a virgin and Noah literally had a big boat with two of each animal on it through forty days and nights of flooding. They want a lot of things that I can't give them.

I've never told them that these are things I can't give anymore, but I imagine they've been able to sense it. My MySpace page (which my mom has seen) lists me as agnostic, and if either of them has ever read this blog, they've probably sensed a marked irreverence to authority, especially the Ultimate Authority of a Vengeful God.

And yet, I am terrified to tell them what I really believe. Above all, I don't want to hurt them or make them feel that they failed in any way. They are devout, and their faith has helped them heal wounds and move forward in life. They can't see why anyone would see the world differently, other than sheer stubbornness and arrogance. I want them to know that my beliefs — or lack of them — are not borne out of any of that. I'm not an atheist, even though more often than not I identify with atheist sentiment more than I do Christian sentiment. I am not a disbeliever. And I am not one of those believers who conveniently adopts whatever beliefs suit her lifestyle (think Madonna). I am not someone who is "spiritual but not religious." I am neither. I am human.

I am curious. I am reverent of the things I can know and intrigued by the things I cannot know. I am amazed by the mechanics of life and do not wish to hurry through my time on this earth so I can get to some gaudy prize on the other side. I am confused. I have conflicting ideas about everything. I know that my human brain cannot possibly calculate the concept of an omniscient God. I value love and acceptance and life and laughter and goodwill above rigid doctrines of belief. I am superstitious, but absentmindedly so. I do not take books literally. I am hopeful.

I know some devout religious folks might look at my belief system(s) and dub them convenient and easy and meaningless: the nebulous beliefs of a naive and young woman who has yet to really face her mortality. But what could be less convenient than acknowledging that you know nothing and, beyond that, will have the physiological capacity to know nothing until — and possibly beyond — the day you die?

This post over at Lost in the Underground does a wonderful job of summing up my take on God, The Divine, Nature. That thing we think we feel but that we can never really know or define without assuming too much. Whatever you'd like to call it.

My parents may fear for my mortal soul, but I don't. And that's truly knowing peace, isn't it?

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4 Comments:

Blogger La C. said...

Ug, I can relate completely. My mom waited until I moved out of the city to start in on me and is already questioning how I plan to handle my unborn children's faith. ("Laura, you're pregnant" you might think. No, I am not and not even talking about it, thank you very much.) She gave me a bible a few years ago just in case I had any questions that I needed answering. Using a bible for that never crossed my mind really. I'm an anthropologist for christ sake. But I can't tell her what I believe because based on what she believes, my belief system would crush her, and I just can't do that to her. I really blame being raised in the church and going to private schools for most of my life for my strong distrust of most organized religions (I don't discriminate.) I imagine the breaking point will be when we have kids because she is offering to raise them in the church for us and that just isn't going to fly.

Mon Nov 26, 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Lighthouse Pilot said...

Once my dad was sitting on the couch watching MTV. I believe it was a Brittney Spears (sp?) video and a black dude was kissing a white girl. My mother has since worked my father over to make him more PC...and he is...but at the time he started complaining about it. I said I didn't see what the big deal was and that "news flash" I go to an art school and have lots of gay friends so I actually not only see interacial couples kissing a lot...I see dudes kissing dudes!" Dad began to say something about tribes not mixing or some stupid shit like that from the bible that his dad had pounded in his head and he just never bothered to question. He spat it at me as if it were truth and I told him the bible was horse shit. I said I wouldn't trust my soul to contradictory bed-time stories written by assholes who, I don't know how many centuries ago, said "GOD TOLD THEM TO WRITE IT." The arguement escalated quickly, but we ended up apologizing and hugging at some point. My dad, who enjoys entertaining conspiracy theories of aliens and cover-ups and what not, still fears this vengeful god that his parents passed down to him. This is a man who doesn't actually go to church and when we were children and our mother made us go...still didn't go. He sat on the couch in a bathrobe. We don't really talk about it much anymore, but I think he has a good idea where I stand...which is pretty much exactly where you stand. My mother has been open to listening to many of my points of view and while she can't quite let go of her antiquaited beliefs, she has no problem accepting mine or anyone elses. She refers to my non-specific acknowledgement that there might be something else out there as "my god". Close enough I guess.

Mon Nov 26, 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger TVonthefritz said...

I don't fear a vengeful god necessarily. I probably have more in common with a humanistic and/or agnostic worldview than a Protestant worldview. I just feel as if our lives are bounded toward a greater purpose that even we can not concieve. From the stories you've shared about your parents on this blog previously, I find them to be proud individuals of the kind-hearted daughter they have raised. It's tough for parents to accept the truth about their sons and daughters. But my experience with bringing my boyfriend home for Thanksgiving, is that most parents love their children unconditionally regardless of creed or sexual preference.

Tue Nov 27, 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger sarah saint said...

This is a touchy subject in my family as well. My parents are both Christian. Despite their own sporadic attendance, they hound me weekly about goiong to church. I identify my faith as loosely Christian-based due more to my upbringing than any real decision-making on my part, but I have a lot of questions and I often wonder if I identify myself with that faith mainly out of fear of some cosmic smackdown I've got comin' in the hereafter. Gotcher Pascal's wager right here.

Tue Nov 27, 12:13:00 PM  

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