Been bumping heads with so many Christians lately.
I find this odd, because I consider myself a Christian, and, even if Man invented religion and splintered it into so many sects that it bears no resemblance to its first and oldest emergence, the basic tenets should remain as touchstones for all.
In the trauma that is the Trump administration and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, however, a different kind of light is beginning to shine on my personal beliefs. This is of no interest to anyone other than myself. Still, I feel compelled to write it out.
Because that’s what I do when I feel the need for comfort or clarity or a clarion call.
There is a sense of entitlement that pervades all major religions; a conviction that yours is the best of all possible paths to reach the highest spiritual destiny. It takes a certain amount of enlightenment to acknowledge that your private path is really only ‘right’ for you. It takes a certain amount of tolerance to understand that all the divergent paths that bolster millions of people and are dissimilar to yours, are still and always viable, valuable means of spiritual direction.
Many intellectually grasp this. Few practice it.
For most, the strictures of their religion are the guiding principles by which they try to live. No one succeeds completely, but, when faced with conflict or a major juncture of your life, you try to apply these principles. They form the part of you where honor and dignity and compassion intersect. How much effort you put into living according to these precepts when the chips are down is a defining aspect of your character.
There’s a lot of bad out there. It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to know there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s hard to know that the only recourse you have is to set an example by holding yourself to your personal standards. It’s hard to realize you’re not the best example. All you can do is try.
The catch is, the people you see as reprehensible think they’re doing exactly what you are: setting an example of how they wish others would live.
I’ve been angry and confused and upset about the things people have said to me and posted on social media to me. These are people who think they represent the highest and best that faith has to offer: God’s law. They blast me with their Christianity and make it clear how sad they are that I don’t fall in line behind them and support their beliefs so they can be that much surer of those beliefs themselves.
It took a headline from the Associated Press in the wake of a hurricane to break through and shed a little light on my troubled musings. The oversized type caught my eye.
Black, white, rich, poor: Storm Harvey didn’t discriminate
And I understood.
I wish for a society that would treat people the way Nature does. Indiscriminate. Colorless. Shorn of faith and creeds. Equal. In a way that says all the outer trappings…the accents, manners, ethnicity, positions and possessions are ultimately unimportant.
That’s not necessarily the way God does things, nor Jesus. Not if you listen to the Christians who’ve been haranguing me. To them, there is…and SHOULD be…preferential treatment for those gathered around the cross at church every Sunday.
So maybe I’m not a Christian after all. Maybe I’m merely a person of conscience and spirit.
I hope so.
I think I like that better.
One thought on “Faithless”
I want to stand and shout, “Amen,” to this piece. Not to make light of it, which is the way I fear such an utterance could be construed given its subject, but rather as the time-honored response acknowledging the truth of the words.
I feel as if your piece echoes my thoughts (should this surprise me?😉) in a very well-written and considered way. Trauma and tragedy tend to bring religion to the fore…and yet the list of things we humans have done throughout history in the name of our Gods has some pretty horrific entries. So sure are so many that theirs is the one true way that they fail to grasp that others, whether they’re halfway around the world or a next-door neighbor, hold beliefs that are just as fervent. Faith should not, in my opinion, equal entitlement.
During a long ago summer, I opted to stay on campus during the break between my junior and senior years. I was given the opportunity to continue my resident assistant position during the summer session and had an off-campus job that I enjoyed…and figured I could take a class or two as well, thus lightening my load for my final two semesters. I had no idea that that decision would fundamentally change my beliefs.
To fulfill a remaining requirement in general education, I signed up for the “Religions of the World” course, thinking it would be an interesting (and relatively painless) way to garner three credit hours. My suppositions ended up being pretty much on the mark…but what I didn’t expect was to have a revelation (which, in retrospect, seems kind of fitting.) Listening to the professor talk about so many seemingly dissimilar beliefs, I came to the conclusion that the core beliefs were, in fact, identical: that there exists someone or something greater than man and that religions were created as a way to explain that which was otherwise unexplainable. Somehow, though, that core belief was lost in the trappings of how various peoples opted to worship their Gods and the methods became more important…and divisive.
There is no “right” belief, beyond the belief that works for each individual. Organized religion provides a context, a set of (hopefully) well-intentioned values and a sense of belonging, and that’s fine. What *isn’t* fine is the idea that what is different is, therefore, wrong.
This is an incredibly thoughtful work, Cat. Thank you for shining your light on something that’s difficult for many to see.
Sent from my iPad
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