Wednesday, September 19, 2007

religion, part two

I guess that last entry was just my religious background, in the form of some disjointed rambling. But I felt I needed to talk about my background before I could really get into where I am right now.

So, as I said in my last post... I believe there is a very big difference between questioning and doubting. I've questioned things before, both intentionally and unintentionally. I've even had moments where I've just fallen away from God and felt far from Him for no real reason I can determine. But in any case- questioning and doubting are not at all equal.

Right now, I am doubting in a way I've never done before.

I feel like I'm very much in the middle of believing and not, and it's a very frightening sensation to realize that you doubt some of the very things in which you've believed most strongly.

I don't know exactly what has brought this on; it's certainly not some big traumatic event in my life, or anything like that. I would guess that it's because I've been in college for about two years now, and while here I've really only gone to church when I've gone home. Christians would probably say that I haven't spent enough time with God, and that's why I've fallen away from him so much. Atheists would probably say I've just had enough distance from the church to realize everything that's wrong with it. I don't know what the truth is, but in any case, everything is different in my head.

I do know that I'm not just disheartened with the church. There will be people in any group who are radical or misguided or just plain bad, and because religion is so closely linked to emotion and values, I think it's a far more common phenomenon.

I think part of what's going on is that I've been thinking a lot about my dad's death lately. It's been over nine years now, which seems like such a long time-- and, really, it is. I'm now teaching kids who are just as old as I was when my dad died. But I'm distanced enough from it now that I think some of my thoughts regarding the whole event are getting a bit more rational. I still get sad and cry on a fairly regular basis, but I'm also realizing that I think part of the reason I clung so tightly to religion after that point was because I fiercely wanted to believe there is a Heaven.

I was eleven years old, and my dad died suddenly. It certainly makes sense.

If I did believe mostly because I wanted to, I didn't even know I was doing it. And again, that might not be the case... but I see it as a possibility that I'd prefer to believe in the hopes of Heaven and seeing my daddy again rather than the near-certainty that he's just gone from my life forever. I mean, I'd still very much prefer that, but I'm seeing that maybe this was an influence to my faith that I didn't even realize.

I wonder, too, if some of the feelings I hold as evidence of my faith are really all in my head, or somehow misinterpreted. Sometimes during hymns or songs at church, I'd get this fantastic goosebumpy feeling- but sometimes I get a similar feeling from a particularly moving piece in band, or from music I'm listening to. I love music-- who's to say that my goosebumps aren't just from the beauty of a room full of people singing together? Or even from the sense of community and unity I feel among those people?

I don't know that I'd ever be able to completely disbelieve in God. It's something that's hard for me to even doubt, because it's so firmly ingrained in my thoughts and feelings and beliefs. Maybe I'm not so much doubting my religion as not fitting in the religion I currently have. Maybe another denomination or religion altogether fits my own beliefs better. But I do think it's possible that I could fall away from religion, or at least organized religion, completely.

To some people, this might not seem difficult, but it's like someone making you doubt gravity, or something you've really, truly, thought to be true for a very, very long time. Even if they're wrong, it can really shake your foundation. It's daunting to even think about completely disbelieving.

What's worse is that most of my friends who know me well and care at all about religion are very much on one end or the other of the religious spectrum-- they either believe strongly in God, or they believe strongly that there is no God.

I don't feel like I can probably talk to them about it, because I don't want anyone trying to convince me. No one would be malicious in their intent, but the Christians (or Jews, I suppose) naturally think that believing in God is what's best for me, and the Atheists think that my life would be better off without religion, I'm sure. And people get so vehement about religion... I don't want to offend anyone, but I also don't want anyone's personal beliefs pushing me. I don't know what direction I want to go with this, but I very much know that I will not let my religious beliefs or lack thereof be anyone's victory. There is no one who I'll blame, and no one who will get credit. This is a me decision, and while talking it out with people might help, I'm not going to let someone's personal quest to 'save' people or someone's personal vendetta with Christianity come down to me. I refuse.

I'm not sure what to do with this doubt. A part of me thinks I should take the opportunity to study the Bible and religion in depth, and really develop my own viewpoint. Or even to go to church for a few weeks, or to different churches, and try to worship my way back into believing or hope that some pastor hits the nail on the head for me. But, honestly, I don't feel like it. Delving into this just makes me think more, and I really don't want to deal with that at the moment. I don't even know if there are any other options for action... I feel like I'm destined to be indecisive for who knows how long, and I may just have to deal with that.

Peace said something yesterday that made me think. He said that he hopes no matter what I end up believing, that I don't lose my faith. I think what he meant was that whether or not I end up believing in God, he hopes I can keep my optimism and hope about life and the world. (Correct me if I'm wrong, Peace.) I guess that's what I'm going to shoot for, for now, because I don't really know what other goal I can make but to follow my heart and figure out what I believe (and I have no idea, at this point, how to really do that).


The Drewcifer said...

You're pretty darn close to what I mean. I just mean that you shouldn't allow dogma and fear to influence your decision. I've been directly in the middle of the Faith Spectrum (between Atheism and Theism) occasionally straying a bit one way or another for about two years or so now. It's working out great for me, except for this frequent sense of vertigo I get whenever I try and consider something beyond the immediate future or past (ha ha only serious).

It's kinda like what Rufus says in Dogma. That Christ intended for people to have ideas instead of beliefs. Because "You can change an idea."

So just whatever you end up choosing as your personal belief structure, have faith in yourself. Believe in something, whether it be a Higher power, the Universe, the absolute conviction that Quantum Immortality is gonna work out for you, whatever. Have faith in it. Live it. But don't feel like you have to think that forever. Don't be afraid to build your faith on ideas instead of beliefs.

That was longer than I meant it to be.

Good luck, Jenny.

Bradley G said...

Even Buddha has his moment, where he went into the mountain and his moment of disbelief in what he was doing.

I can't say what's right or wrong, but I can say that the institution of a church (any church) has have a positive impact on society. Churches do good, and I think it's important to attach yourself with others who do good. In fact, it's something I wish I was brought up with:

but it looks to me like you've got some soul searching to do: but God or not, be happy.