As you might guess, I’ve been contemplating the BIG QUESTIONS quite often of late.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I believe.
I’m not a “believer” in the traditional sense, I don’t “know” anything, but deep down I “feel” something. Indeed, I “feel” that the answers are unknowable. That said I think there is more to this existence than what meets the eye.
There is a difference between religion and belief. Religion is an institution. Belief is personal.
I think religion has something to offer many people. It offers community, support, and best of all, hope. Unfortunately most of the religions I’ve come across also offer exclusion. There is a belief that “We” have it right, therefore by extension “They” have it wrong. Fundamentalist religions allow for no dissent at all. The orthodoxy is “truth” therefore any questioning is an affront to the Divine.
I am a born questioner. I will always have doubts, its how my mind works.
I was raised a Roman Catholic. When I was in seventh or eighth grade I was in CCD class and Confession was the topic of the day. I laid out this scenario to my teacher. A man, who has been a good selfless man for the most part, but, like anyone, has a committed a few minor sins and who has never been involved with organized religion is hit by an out of control bus in front of a church and killed. The same bus hits a man who has been a church going Catholic all his life, but who also earned a living as a hit man for the Mafia. This hit man who was leaving the church after confession had just been granted absolution.
Who goes to heaven?
The teacher told me that if the hit man had performed his penance in good faith and vowed not to sin again he’d be with Jesus and the good man, who had not accepted Jesus was going to Hell.
I can’t accept this contradiction. I can’t believe that a benevolent God would condemn good people to eternal torment due to an accident of birth. It makes no sense, in truth, it feels perverse.
Religions have rules. Many of the rules make no sense to me. I don’t think I’ll ever be a “religious” man. That does not mean I lack Belief, or hope.
I have had experiences, and heard first hand stories, that convince me that our essence does not blink out of existence when our bodies cease functioning. I start with that. I believe he’s somewhere. I believe he can still “touch” us in subtle ways. I believe when my time comes I’ll be in the same place. I suppose you can call that place “heaven”. I prefer “the afterlife” because “heaven” seems to have a specific creedal association.
I believe there exists what I think of as a transcendent reality. I don’t think we have any way of adequately describing this reality. God is not the wrong word, but to me it’s not entirely the right word. Maybe it was once, but that word has taken on a personality over human history. To me this higher thing is utterly indescribable to us. It is neither “He” nor “She”. It has no personhood. I don’t think I can have a personal relationship with it. It doesn’t talk to me.
If you are a believer in the traditional sense I don’t see this as a challenge to your beliefs. I respect your right to believe what you will; all I ask is that you offer me the same courtesy. If I do “challenge” you it’s in this way only…don’t be too sure your beliefs are objective fact. That to me is a form of hubris. I suspect all creeds have some truth. I suspect that none has a monopoly.
I don’t expect to ever find “the answer”. Nor do I expect to ever stop contemplating “the questions”. I am, after all, human.