My personal path with faith and that of organized faith beliefs (or religion if you choose to categorize it) is a fractured one. I can honestly say that I have a belief in a creator, but hold no patience for creationism theory, nor a monotheistic version of what that creator may be. On my best days, I tend to only be ‘searching’ and feel that putting out good should beget it in return. My worst days find me instantly dismissive of those who hold their faith as an integral part of self, and no comment is made without reference to their being an “example” of that faith. Those days usually appear strongest when I see the blather and judgment passed by people against those who believe differently.
I have several friends (and I use this term as a collective – they are people I enjoy but may not have met) who also have as many different levels of adherence to their faith as there are colors in a Crayola box. Which I think is wonderful, most are open to questions about their beliefs, and all give respect to those who don’t believe.
There is one person who puts her faith out there, quietly and not so quietly, but serves as my ‘example’ of living the faith, not just paying it lip service. And I adore her for it. What she is capable of doing; collecting and moderating a large group of people with their own beliefs and attitudes about their faith, and every other issue under the sun, and keeping the discussion balanced and a great learning experience. That is the good side of the ‘faithful’ I encounter.
I should explain that I have a long and storied history, personal and ancestral, with organized Christianity. My family has ancestors who were founders and leaders in varying protestant religions for hundreds of years. One side danced with the Anglicans, another with the Episcopalians. I have cousins who are currently ministers, including the first woman minister in the UCC church in her province. My mother taught Sunday school, my father sang in the choir. I was a regular attendee at services as a child. But I was also taught by my grandmother that there were other ‘ways’ of seeing the world and the beauty of creation.
When my daughter was small, perhaps 3 or 4, the family pressures to have her baptized in the church were weighty and prevailing. As a single mum, without a sense of the ‘need’, I made an effort to please the family, and went to speak with the local minister of the church I had sporadically attended for years. He refused. Rudely and dismissively: citing as his reason my daughter was born to a single mother, without ‘benefit of marriage’. If he had told me that I needed to attend services, or make an effort – I would have understood. But, I also knew his family – a daughter on drugs, a son in jail, another was a drop out from the high school – and I let him know. Not kindly.
That was the second strike that organized religion had given me in my life. I shan’t discuss the first beyond explaining that one does NOT tell a child that a god – any god – will protect and shelter them in this life. Children do not grasp the fine distinctions between a physical force of protection and a spiritual comfort. You ALL fail on that count. I don’t care what religion you practice.
Oh but I do envy those who are able to maintain their faith, when done in a thoughtful manner and not explained with parroting of some quote to be the ‘final answer’ to any situation. But I’ve never been wired to hand over my thoughts without finding the facts behind it all. And as wonderful the books are that I have read: the Bible, the Torah, the Qur’an: they are books, written to encourage and enlighten. They aren’t a science text, or grammar or maths: they require faith. And while all have very key statements and beliefs in common, they differ in the facts they lay out. Enough of a difference to make my logical brain hurt.
So I search, and pick and choose the best ways I have found to be a good person without the onus of a label of faith. I don’t believe that only one way is the path to the answers I seek. I do know that I don’t use my belief, or lack thereof, to justify my actions or statements. If I am sharp or dismissive of you, I behaved badly. I may have felt it warranted – but there are always better ways.
But what I am seeing more frequently is exactly that behavior: being a complete and utter asshat, then saying “I’m a ____ and it tells me to”. EXCUSE ME? I don’t think I have ever seen – in ANY text that I have read, any information about faith beliefs anywhere that ALLOWS you to be an asshat. That expects you will not use the brains and the free will you are given, and see that your behaviour is WRONG. If you believe that ___ is wrong because you are taught and hold faith: that’s perfectly fine. I don’t hold that against you, I can even understand it. But to go out of your way, to be nasty and dismissive of another person’s ability and attempts to live their life, as they choose –
what happened to judge not lest you be judged?
Is my questioning of faith so detrimental to your faith that you need dismiss and condemn? Does what your neighbor believe so threaten your life, health and happiness that you must condemn them and find others to do the same? If you must – than I can only see that you have questions about what you are “taught to believe” that shake you to the very core.
Oh- and while we are at it: please don’t preface or end each comment you make with the standard “as a Christian” or “because I’m a Christian”. Shouldn’t your words and kindness be your calling card? Too much of your explaining to me that you are a Christian when you pop up to demean and degrade those who don’t hold your views just shows me that you aren’t sure what you are. Think about it.
When you make an inane statement, full of inaccuracies and hearsay, with little evidence of investigating to find your own conclusion – please do everyone a favor and leave your religion OUT of it. Let your actions speak for you, if you truly hold your faith close to your heart – even I, a non-believer, will see it.