I originally wrote this in August of 2011. Most of it still holds true, except for the first line – over the last year I’ve been much more open about religion (or lack thereof). I’ve also learned a lot about Humanism and Atheism, because (as I mention at the end) I’ve been stepping back, looking around, asking a lot of questions, and trying to sort out what I really do believe. I don’t fit 100% into the Humanism bucket because I do still believe in the human soul as something divine and “supernatural”, but it makes more sense to me than any other religion. I did find my bucket though – I’m a “None”, as in “None of the above”. And until further notice, I’m totally comfortable with that categorization.
I usually avoid discussing religion and spirituality with many folks because, understandably, it tends to be an emotional topic. And I really don’t do well with emotional arguments. Either I’m the emotional one and can go from passionately defending my position, to stark-raving-furious in a heartbeat. Or I’m not the emotional one and I just end up getting frustrated trying to use logic to reason with someone who is clearly basing all their opinions on feelings. It’s really a no-win situation. And I’m sure I’m not alone on either side of the fence.
But, for some reason, I currently feel compelled to share both my logically and emotionally based opinions on My God. Now, when you read this, you may feel the need to pray for my soul. By all means, go right ahead! But if you really read this, you’ll see that if you do feel that prayers are needed, I don’t actually want to hear about it. Keep it to yourself, pray it your god, whatever. Just don’t leave me a note telling me how much you’ll be praying for me, because honestly, both My God and I have more important things to worry about.
First and foremost, I believe in the existence of God because I believe in the existence of Souls. I have no even remotely objective reason-based explanation for this one; I have only my children and others I love (but mostly my children). Because when I look into the eyes of my daughter or my son, I know with absolute certainty that there is more to them than just chemical reactions in their brains. There is something that breathes life into their perfect individuality and humanity that transcends neurons. This point is not debatable and I readily admit that I am firmly on the unable-to-reason-with side of the line. Nobody will ever convince me otherwise. Period. In fact, don’t even bother trying to start the conversation because I will absolutely (and infuriatingly) not even listen to your arguments. I’d say sorry for that, but I’m really not!
But I do also have a slightly more reasonable support of a divine existence. My philosophy professor proved it to me my freshman year of college (probably they only do that in Catholic schools). I don’t remember the exact proof, but it was something along the lines of:
- Assuming Good and Evil exist (totally down with that – and being a mathematician, I’m also very comfortable with building any proof on an assumption)
- And assuming that Good and Evil exist within a range – for example, Hitler is more evil than a woman who killed her ex-husband, who is more evil than the cranky old man who lives down the street and keeps all the balls that go over his fence (yep, on board with the evil/good spectrum)
- Then logically (probably loosely used verbiage), the spectrum of Good and Evil has some sort of endpoint, or an “as you approach infinity” concept of the Ultimate Evil and the Ultimate Good, which of course would be represented by Satan and God
Now, there are probably some key steps in the proof missing, and I vaguely remember the color purple somehow incorporated, but you get the gist. If you can wrap your head around the existence of Good and Evil, then God follows. And I’m sure there are plenty of scientists and philosophers who could poke huge holes in the argument, or spend hours debating the first assumption about Good and Evil themselves, but I’m not interested. I know plenty of genuinely good people and (unfortunately) a few absolutely evil people as well. So I’m completely comfortable with my emotionally based first assumption leading to my general belief in God (or at least My God).
Now, you might be thinking: You keep saying “My God” – do you mean that somehow you have a different God than the rest of us?
Not exactly. Really when I say My God, it boils down to this:
I’m good with the notion that mankind was created in the image of God. But then I take a step back and look at mankind. With billions of us on the planet today, and billions who have come before us, it’s really hard (quite arguably, impossible) to find two people who are exactly the same. We come in all shapes, sizes, and colors – and that’s just the outside. Our personalities, our abilities and inabilities, the way we think, the way we feel… we are a complex people! If each complicated individual was created in God’s image, and there are billions upon billions of individuals, wouldn’t it stand to reason that God is complex a bazillion times over? So it seems to me that God can be a lot of things to a lot of people. This feeds into some of my other thoughts later, but the point I want to make at this time is that I would never, ever presume to have knowledge about THE God. Nor would I ever, ever be so bold as to advise you or anyone else on what your beliefs should be. These are really just my thoughts, my ideas, and my beliefs about what God is and means to me.
But that’s really long to write each time, so I’m just going to keep saying, “My God”.
My God is not tied to a religion.
Maybe it stems from my upbringing as a Catholic with the Holy Trinity. I mean, really, when you’re able to recognize the notion that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one yet separate…why stop at three? And if God is all-powerful and can do literally anything, why is it so hard to conceive of the possibility that God appeared to different people and cultures in a form or forms that would be most meaningful to them?
Besides, while you can argue endlessly about whether God created Man or Man created God, there’s really no arguing that man created religion. All the books, all the rules, were man-generated. Sure, most of them claim to be taken directly from the mouth of God, but honestly, I think it’s fair to assume a relative margin of error. Have you ever sent a man to the grocery store for more than, say, 5 items? How often did you actually get the exact 5 items, and only those 5 items?? I mean, really! I suppose I can agree to the Ten Commandments since those were written in stone (albeit by a man, but…) it’s as if God said: Here, write it down now so you have a list for the store! Don’t mess it up, forget anything, or bring home that other crap that nobody likes but you!
But everything else is just man’s interpretation of the events or teachings of their holy person. And as long as we’re on the topic of man’s interpretation, it would be a good time to point out that I do literally mean man. If the ladies would have written any of the holy books, I’d bet my soul the world today would be quite a bit different!
My God is busy.
I think it’s great when athletes or entertainers express their thanks to God for their talents in general. It’s sweet, really. But when one points up to the sky after a touchdown, or thanks God for this Oscar, it crosses the line for me. I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t have time to guide that football into your hands, or to convince The Academy that your performance was the most worthy.
Also, don’t pray to God when you have a cold or the stomach flu. I know, I know, it’s almost impossible in the throes of 104-degree fever to not cry out, “Please, God, just make it stop!” And that’s totally fine and understandable. But reserve your earnest healing prayers for those who truly need healing: someone undergoing life-threatening surgery or with a terminal illness. You know, things like that. Things that prevent children from growing up with a mother, or from growing up at all – those are the illnesses worthy of God’s attention! I shouldn’t even have to say it to you Christians out there – Jesus healed lepers before he was nailed to the cross! You really want to ask that guy to muster up a miracle cure for your sniffles?
Lastly, but especially, please do not waste My God’s time with requests for stuff. I’ll make an exception if that stuff is food and shelter and clothes for your children. Then you can pray, but you should also visit your local charities and government aid offices. You can pray that other people get stuff – provided it is food and shelter and clothes – but then you, too, should go visit a charity or government aid office to make a donation. Any stuff not on that list is not worth a request. I don’t care how important you think it is to some other benevolent purpose you may have, praying for stuff pisses me off. God already gave you a brain and on a body – use it (ok, be careful about the using your body part) to go get your own damn stuff! God has better things to do!
Although the more I rant it about, the more I think that if God is spending time on that piddly shit, it would certainly explain why children are starving; why innocent people are killed for no reason; why lying, cheating, amoral, unethical, dishonorable sons-of-bitches continue to be in power across the world and erode any sense of true civilization that we have. All the more reason to stop and consider what you’re about to ask before you start asking. Even the time spent filtering through all the prayers is taking away from truly valuable work.
My God loves homosexuals.
Yeah, that’s right – I said it. And even though I said I wouldn’t tell other people how they should think, this should be true for anybody who believes that we are created in the image of God. When you call a homosexual an “abomination”, you’re calling God an abomination. And that’s really not very nice.
Oh, wait, what’s that you say? You think homosexuality is a choice? So, when exactly was it that you chose to be attracted to the opposite sex? Go ahead and think about it a minute…. I’ll wait…. Oh, maybe you were too young when you made that important, conscious decision, so it seems like you’ve just always been attracted to the opposite sex. Ok, how about when you decided to be attracted to your spouse/significant other. I’m sure when you first saw them you saw nothing more than a bump on a log, or maybe they were even appalling. But with so many other great qualities, you consciously decided that you would find them attractive, fall in love, and eventually enjoy having sex with them!
Or maybe you don’t think sex is important as part of your life-long relationship, and so feeling attracted to someone is not part of the overall equation. If that’s true, you have my deepest sympathies.
And I’m not saying that attraction can’t grow as you get to know someone. Oftentimes personalities and other qualities overshadow any physical traits, and we can find ourselves attracted to someone we didn’t expect to be attracted to on the first meeting. Not all loves are love-at-first-sight. But you still can’t choose to be attracted to someone. You either are or aren’t. I mean, at least that’s the way it works for me.
So, yeah, I think attraction is out of our hands. My God knows that and treasures all of us for the person that we are and the person that we choose to share our life with. My God doesn’t get all wrapped up in genders or this so-called “traditional” family. Look at Jesus, for Christ’s Sake! He didn’t have the most traditional family around!
Besides, like I said before, My God has bigger things to worry about! If people are happy together, and treat each other with love, dignity, and respect, more power to them! My God has to go see what he can do about the war, and poverty, and abuse running rampant in the world.
My God (and heaven) isn’t in the clouds.
We watched this show once where an atheist had to live with an uber Christian family. Her most frequent argument against the existence of God (at least as far as I remember the show) was the stupidity of believing there’s a man living on top of the clouds. She was right – it is really stupid to think there’s a physical being living on top of an earthly cloud. You know what else is stupid? Basing one’s belief or disbelief on a kindergartner’s pictorial depiction of their impression of a higher power. I’ve never been taller than a house, but I have drawings that could prove otherwise….
My belief in a heaven is really based on my belief in souls (as previously mentioned…you know, the part where I’ll be unreasonably defiant against any argument to the contrary). And if souls exist, well they have to go somewhere once the body is no more (duh). And that place can be called heaven (or hell for a few select baddies). But I don’t know where or what heaven is. The universe is a big, freaking place and I don’t necessarily think either heaven or My God are limited to the proximity of Earth. For all I know, heaven and hell could be on the other side of a black hole (maybe that’s why the gravity gets all crazy – so that anything with mass gets stopped at the door, but souls can fly right on through!).
When I was in high school, I remember having a conversation with my best friend about how maybe heaven isn’t really so much a place where angels live and walk around, but maybe it’s just a big collection of positive energy. Maybe when you die, your soul, everything that’s good and divine about you as a human being, becomes part of this collection of energy somewhere out there in the universe. It’s an interesting thought at the very least (and basing one’s belief on the philosophical musings of a high-schooler is only moderately stupid).
My God is an evolutionist.
Honestly, I just don’t see why creation and evolution have to be so violently mutually exclusive.
My God is totally capable of creating life forms that adapt to their environment over time. And maybe My God has a little hand in selecting some of those adaptations, “Ahh, yes, if I allow the jaw muscles to weaken slightly, it will not put so much pressure on the skull. Then the skull can grow and the brain itself can grow and this complex primate can become an even more complex human! Eureka! This draft is WAY cooler than the first! Of course, it will ultimately destroy all my other creations…. Ah, c’est la vie!”
Also, “survival of the fittest” has a big, fat question mark at the end for me. After thousands of years of adaptation, we have Snookie writing a book and Michelle Bachman running for president? Really? Really?! Now, that’s not really forward progress, is it?
I don’t actually have anything else to say on this topic other than: can’t we all just get along? I don’t see any real reason we can’t have our cake and eat it too.
Last, but not least, My God knows that we humans live in the gray area.
Let’s go back to the scale of good and evil. If we use that to prove the existence of My God and his counterpart (not)My Devil (ownership there just seems icky), then there is only one ultimate good and one ultimate evil. Everything else is somewhere on the scale, somewhere in the gray area.
This also speaks a little to humanity. One thing that drives me crazy is when a person or group of people thinks they have the one right answer. Not just about which religion is “The One”, but also about right and wrong in general. As a society, we’ve agreed on same basic rights and wrongs, but within even the most basic, there are accepted exceptions.
Killing is wrong. Except when you kill bad guys. And it can be so hard to know who the bad guys are sometimes! Is it the army that opposes whatever your army supports? Is it the kid with the gun who believes he is the good guy and you are the bad guy? Is it the woman so out of her mind with depression that she killed her own kids?
There’s an awful lot of gray area there… So how can one person, organization, religion, or country determine the absolute on right and wrong? How can any human being condemn another for exhibiting shades of gray, without emitting shades of gray of their own? Hmmm… seems like there’s a good Bible story along these lines…
We’re all going to do things in the gray area in our life – somtimes intentionally, but not always. Our own understanding of right and wrong and shades of gray might also change over time. Doing what’s “right” at 19 years old may be completely different than you think is “right” at 55 years old. My God understands this and keeps his eye on the big picture. Not to say that one good deed will reverse a lifetime of bad (I’m pretty sure that Bin Laden reading bedtime stories to orphans wouldn’t get him off the hook – not that he ever did anything like that, it’s purely an illustrative comment). But neither will one bad deed erase a lifetime of trying to do the right thing.
One more note on right and wrong – if someone else is hurt by your “right”, it might not be as right as you think it is.
Now, some of you might wonder where all this is coming from. Truth be told, it’s been bubbling around in my head for quite some time. In the past couple of years, a number of events have caused me to take a step back, have a look around, and really give some thought to what I believe and why. It can be hard to believe there’s a benevolent being with a master plan when so many bad things happen across the globe. It can be hard to subscribe to religion when so many people who claim to be spreading God’s word instead preach intolerance, discrimination, and (in the most extreme cases) violence.
But this isn’t my first time questioning faith, and (My) God knows it won’t be my last! And I’m ok with that. I know that each time I stop and ask myself the difficult questions and struggle to find an answer that satisfies both my brain and my heart, my faith actually grows stronger.
So, like I said in the beginning, after reading this you may feel I’m in need of prayers to your god. That’s fine, but know that My God and I are secure in our relationship. I know there’s something bigger than humankind, than all of us. I know that our bodies don’t tell the whole story, and that our souls are the divinity within each one of us. I know that nobody on this planet has all the right answers, but as long as we keep asking the questions, we’re going to be ok.