Friday, June 01, 2007

THE ABSENCE OF FAITH

Lakeiya and I just had a conversation about faith. She has a lot of faith. I have none. We’re still friends though. She told me that it is impossible for someone to truly have no faith; that someone has to have faith in something be it God, themselves, or other people. I disagreed. I think that in some way you will always fail yourself, others will always fail you, and there is no proof of a God to lean on so there is nothing to have faith in. I don’t say there is no God because in all honesty, I don’t know if there is or not. I do know that it doesn’t matter either way because I’m not able to put my faith in the unknown.

The ability to put your faith in something unknown is something I admire and respect. I was telling Lakeiya that I think it would be easier to be able to have faith. Not that I am saying that being truly faithful is an easy task, I’ve seen people try and it obviously is a struggle. However, to be able to believe in something untouchable involves, as she said, a commitment and surrender that requires extreme dedication. I get that. Even so, faith gives you meaning and purpose. If I could live a life where I would get meaning and purpose shown to me I gladly would. It just doesn’t work that way.

There was a time when I thought very seriously about getting into religion. I thought it was something that might help me get direction and answers in life. I examined different religious groups and none of them showed me any real truth although they all had aspects I liked and respected. They all had hints of truth. However, I’m the kind of person who needs the truth to come up and smack me in the face. I like scientific fact. No religion could do that for me. I can’t just accept something as truth unless I really believe it with everything I have. In all honesty, there is nothing worse than someone who says they have religion and yet isn’t completely sure. I wasn’t going to be that person.

Could you imagine waking up every day doubting your beliefs? You would spend the morning thinking about things and eventually convince yourself yet again that your faith was reasonable and correct and be happy until the next morning when you are unsure all over again? That isn’t the kind of life I would want to live. I have to instead be content to believe that all I have to rely on is me and those around me. At the same time I know that we are not infallible and mistakes will be made and people will be hurt.

I have to be comfortable with the idea that things might utterly and completely fall apart and that nothing but me and those I love will be there to help me get back on my feet. I know that if everything falls apart that I will eventually put something back together again that works because I am a rational and intelligent person. I have to be able to examine my sadness and my failures and love and cherish them until they become such a part of me that I can let them go and leave them behind. Nothing will help me do that other than me. If I can’t embrace my pain and suffering I know that it will consume me and ultimately bring about my demise. I am ok with that. It’s all on me. It’s no one else’s responsibility than my own and if I fail it is my fault. In a way, I find that comforting.

Lakeiya mentioned that it would be hard for her to live without the faith that there was some purpose to it all. I find it rather easy. To me, you just enjoy yourself and try to be a good person because your actions will inspire others to enjoy themselves and be good people and that is all we can expect. When I am gone, maybe the little bit of goodness and happiness I put out into the cosmos will do some good for someone else. To me, that is enough. I don’t need some mystical reason for me to be here nor do I see why some mystical being would want me around. I don’t need life to have some grand purpose because the creation of life was all a matter of chance so why would there be a greater purpose to it? I don’t need or expect eternal rewards for being the only way I can be, which is as good as possible but full of mistakes. Then again, I wouldn’t eternal reward down if it was offered. To some people that kind of life without real purpose seems empty and meaningless. To me it seems like something to keep living for.

She Makes Me Wanna Die, Tricky- I think this is such a romantic and wonderful song. It doesn’t hurt that it also sounds incredibly hot.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Crosby Stills Nash and Young- This is one of my favorite songs of all time. It speaks truth, it speaks love, and it speaks pain. It also has a great beat and you can dance to it.

ABC, The Jackson Five- What a nice group of songs for today! This one just makes me smile because there is something so wonderful and hopeful about an adorable child singing about things they obviously don’t know about. We’ll ignore the fact that the adorable child grew up to be insane.

27 comments:

Jeff Roberts said...

From my perspective that's disappointing, but it's your choice to make after all. Doesn't mean I can't pray for you, though :-)

Kiyotoe said...

i knew my man KJ would respond that way. It's not "easy" for people with an enormous amount of faith and spirituality to hear your kind of testimony.

Me? I think people are going to believe what they believe and what helps them to bring meaning to their lives (kind of like you said).

Like i said in my last post, I have faith but I'm well aware that it isn't where it should be. I pray, but do I find all the answers to my questions and problems in prayer? Absolutely not.

Do I go to church every week or at all? Nope, but I do believe that things happen according to God's will. So i guess I might be one of those people that straddle the line that you mentioned. And that's my responsibility to either pick a side or keep on straddling.

different strokes for different folks. In the end, we're all the same..........

.....bloggers ;)

Great post

Mrs. Loquacious said...

I think everyone has faith in something. Like, for instance, gravity. We have never seen it or touched it but we see evidence of it in the fact that we sit on a chair and don't fall off. Likewise we don't see oxygen as a gas but we have faith that it's in the air and we breathe it in. I guess to me, it's not so hard to have faith in these things because you have experienced the effects of oxygen and gravity on your life.

Perhaps you have not experienced as tangible a moment with God, and this is why having a supernatural faith is so foreign to you. I can honestly say that I *have* experienced God the same way (but more effectively and powerfully) than I've even experienced gravity and oxygen, so I believe with all my heart and it is not a challenge in the least for me.

Hopefully one day you will get such an experience, that shakes you from the inside out, and it will make faith not such a leap. :)

Zhu said...

I totally agree with you and also times in my life where I had wished I had guidance and badly wanted to believe in something. But I just DO NOT believe. I can't convince myself. I just don't have faith.

I have faith in humanity though, I have faith in a lot of thing. Just not in an old guy up there.

Mom said...

Personally, I think there are lots of problems with the word "faith." For a lot of people, it stands in for particular religious beliefs.

And I have no use for faith in the unknown. I have a lot of use for deep beliefs that are based on one's experience.

I consider you to be a deeply spiritual person, even from early childhood. But not in the "conventionally religious" sense. (Probably some of that comes from the fact that we did not send you for conventional religious training, which to me often seems too much like indoctrination anyhow.)

I see you as having deep beliefs in love and life, based on your experience. (Some people would call that "God," some wouldn't.) I also see room for compassion and forgiveness in your beliefs, as shown by the understanding that letting oneself or others down happens as part of life.

I have to take issue with what you said about "it's all on me." I certainly do believe in personal responsibility and I know you do too. But I also know that you know that things often happen that a person has no control over (and thus are not reponsibile for). And that people, individually and collectively, are responsible to help others and to work on righting wrongs in the world. I think interdependence is a very important part of being human and being in the world.

Some of what you wrote reminds me of things I've heard my Buddhist friends say. Some also reminds me of Jewish beliefs -- particularly the part about putting a little bit of goodness and happiness into the cosmos, or tikkun olam (healing the world).

Sling said...

"When I am gone, maybe the little bit of goodness and happiness I put out into the cosmos will do some good for someone else."..
I have faith that it will natalie.

Phil said...

That's pretty much how I feel too. Well put.

CSG said...

great. totally agree and identify myself with all.

I also think you are very brave to say that in public. Many religious people would reject you just because a non believer is basically a sinner in their eyes.

Natalie said...

Jeff- You can if you want.

Kiyotoe- I'm pretty good with how I believe. I live life as a good person and that's more than a lot of people. I think straddling works for some people, it's part of the larger process to deciding where you are comfortable. It's great you can articulate that comfortably.

Mrs. L- I don't think gravity and oxygen are things that need faith behind them because they are easily seen. You see gravity when you don't fly off the earth and in the winter you can see breath. I think people who have great faith are people to respect because it is something more than I can imagine.

Zhu- Having faith in humanity would be a real comfort. Unfortunately, looking at the world right now, I don't have too much.

Mom- I don't think people are responsible for everything that happens, I think they are responsible for dealing with those things in a healthy and productive way. Some of that of course involves relying on others but ultimately the responsibility is on the individual.

Sling- Thanks. I can only hope that it will.

Phil- It's nice to be validated.

CSG- The interesting thing is that all the truly religious people (the ones that both speak and act that way) I have met are ok with me and we often have excellent discussions and are good friends. They disagree with me and hope I will come to see things differently but, maybe because I obviously am somewhat spiritual and well meaning although not specifically religious, we don't have a problem. People who claim to be religious and but don't live in an open and forgiving manner (which is part of most religions) do have a problem with me. But I wouldn't want to be their friends anyway.

Travis said...

I fall in line with you.

The thing that bothers me is when others who have faith and a belief in their God, suggest to me that I am somehow deficient. That I'm wrong. That I need to be saved.

I'm not wrong and I don't need to be saved. That's "their" world of belief, not mine. I don't subscribe to that world.

I respect others for the way they live and the choices they make. I feel that should be reciprocated without the need to "fix" me.

Thanks for sharing.

Blondie said...

This is lovely. It takes a lot of balls to throw your spiritual thoughts out in the world because it is such a hot-button topic. Well done, dear. I was raised Lutheran, but abandoned that long ago. Now I take elements of different spiritualities that I enjoy and have a buffet. :)

Dynamo360 said...

My friend MavT and I always talk about this. I am in your boat, hers in your friends. I don;t understand how she can have faith for sure in anything and she says in response... "Well that is what faith is."

I really love this post and am able to identify with it a lot.

For me I just try to be the best person I can be and hope that if there is a God that it's enough. But then again even if I thought it wasn't, I don't think I could bring myself to live any other way.

Dynamo360 said...

Oh yeah! And a lot of what you said reminds me of a lot of the basic postulates of Judaism... so I agree w/ your mom on that front. ;P

Mom said...

I agree with Travis. I see the urge to "fix," "save," or "convert" others as one of the worst things about organized religion, as well as one of the root causes for many of the troubles of the world throughout history. And while I can certainly understand Person A's desire to share something that makes them very happy, that desire should never eclipse Person B's rights to their own beliefs and way of living. In general, infringing on someone else (regardless of supposed "good intentions") is not OK.

Mom said...

Dynamo 360 got me thinking (and thanks, it's always nice to be agreed with)...

It's funny... I've never heard Jews talk much about "faith." But certainly Judaism is rooted in the worship of God (or G-d, for the orthodox).

Katrina said...

I'm like kiyotoe, I have faith but it's not where it should be. But as the years go on it gets stronger.

Many years before I believed I didn't believe if that makes sense. I used to argue with my 1st husband who was a true believer and before we were married he wasn't sure if he wanted to be. Because he wasn't sure if he wanted to marry someone that wouldn't be with him in the afterlife. Obviously we did marry.

He'd mainly argue that since I didn't accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior I was going to hell. I'd argue that that seemed pretty ridiculous considering I was a very good person and in many ways led a better life than many of those people who had done so and if God is such a just God how would/could he do that just because I didn't accept Jesus as such. But in his world that's how it works. Oh boy, I could go on and on about him and his hypocrisy.

But anyway, eventually, many years later I realized I always believed in God I just had many, many issues with organized religion.

CS said...

"nothing but me and those I love will be there to help me get back on my feet." That's a kind of faith, and maybe a far more important kind. I know many peole take comfort in a belief in God, and I'm glad they can take solace in it. But for me,I don't find it necessary. I trust in the laws of nature and the people around me. I believe in love and compassion and kindness. I don't need a supernatural explanation for any of that.

notfearingchange said...

I had a friend ask me once why I obsess over horoscopes in the morning. His words exactly were: "With all of your education - why do you read this crap." My response was: "Well if i don't believe in god I need to believe in something." He just looked at me stunned. we need to believe. We need to believe in something even if it is half-heartedly.....

ShadowFalcon said...

I think I'm with Lakeiya, I'd find it hard to live without faith. My husband on the other hand seems to get along fine without it.

Jeff Roberts said...

Travis and Mom, good discussion. I agree that we cannot and should not attempt to force our beliefs on anyone else. The Crusades and the Inquisition are sobering reminders of that.

And yet, as I think you also understand, a key part of some religions, Christianity among them, is a responsibility to share that religion with others. I can't derive my strength and peace from a belief that God is real, then ignore his clear command to pass the information along.

If you were convinced you knew of a cure for cancer, but you couldn't present hard science to prove why it worked, only that you had seen results, could you keep it to yourself?

Again, I'm not to force it down anyone's throat, but I do have a responsibility to humbly, respectfully pass it along. Because if the God I follow is real, then so is his assertion that (sorry to get preachy here, but...) there is a price for sin, an inability of ouselves to pay that price, a Christ whose death can pay it, a requirement for us to personally receive that gift, and eternal consequences of that decision.

That might be the cure for what ails us, something worse than cancer. But by the same analogy, you can choose to live with cancer, try a cure someone else suggested or convince yourself it's not there. All I can do is tell you what worked for me.

Natalie said...

Travis- I agree with that wholeheartedly. I know there are some people who have been convinced into religion but I think that for most they are either brought up with it or come to it on their own. I Trying so save someone from something they don’t see as a problem is generally a losing battle.

Blondie- It is something I actually enjoy talking about. Maybe because I like to see how others feel about it because so many people have interesting points. I like the idea of adopting from many spiritual stances. That seems very practical to me.

Dynamo- Thanks for commenting! I agree with you. I feel that if there is a God that simply being good should be something that a reasonable God would understand and appreciate. I really like a lot about Judaism, Passover is totally my favorite holiday!

Mom- I haven’t heard Jews talk much about faith either, more about tradition. Or maybe that is just Fiddler…. I agree that it makes sense to share things that make you happy, it is also important to know when to stop sharing.

Katrina- I agree so much with that if God is there and is just then why would good people be damned sentiment. I understand people who say because that is just the way it works but I would have to disagree with that way of thinking. I think there are many people who believe in God but have issues with organized religion, it makes sense. If I were someone who wanted to worship, it would be a very private thing. I would feel strange doing it in an organized setting.

CS- Sadly, I think the only thing I really trust in is that the world will be a messed up and sad place and that people will try to do their best to help it and most will fail. Simply living as best you can in a bad situation is the only thing I can truly put my trust in.

Not Fearing- I don’t think there is anything I believe in half-heartedly. I like to live with things as absolute as possible. Obviously I know there are gray areas in everything but I find decisions easier to make when it comes to my life if I can fully believe in something. If I don’t have the full belief then I don’t act. This is probably why I can’t decide what to be when I grow up and I am turning 28 tomorrow (which is relatively grown)

Shadow- I find it so nice when people with different beliefs can love each other and trust each other enough that it doesn’t become a problem. If the world could do that it would be a much safer and happier place.

Jeff- I understand the need to pass the information along. I also feel that people need to know when the information has been received and, in some cases rejected, and know when to move on to someone else. All you can do is to try and spread the word and realize that no everyone will want to receive it. And that is ok.

Dynamo360 said...

I think the reason many Jews don't talk about "faith" in the traditional (ie: Christian) sense is because the focus is often on bringing heaven to earth and the here and now. It was in my house at least. :P

[ CSMC ]

I changed my moniker but am still reading Natalie! :D Thanks again for the AWESOME post. ;)

Monica said...

if you needed proof of something to believe in it, no one would ever have an independent thought.

Natalie said...

Dynamo- I never would have recognized you! Bringing heaven down is an interesting way to look at it. I like that.

Monica- I think most independent thoughts are just that, thought. They are hypotheses and then proof comes later. You can believe your hypothesis is most likely true but you need some kind of supporting facts to convince others.

Monica said...

personal faith isn't about convincing others. technically it isn't even about convincing yourself. you either have faith in shit or you don't. i think conversations like this are both insane and pointless and will drive all participants crazy... and here i am on my 2nd comment. shoot me.

Mom said...

Monica's most recent comment got me thinking (again)...

"faith in shit"... well, shit is a fact, so I can believe my own senses to know about shit. Which got me thinking about what does "faith" mean anyhow (in my opinion, anyway), which brought me to the phrase, "take it on faith," which usually means that someone told you something and you believe it because you trust the person who told you. This approach to "faith" would make sense for kids who hear about religion from parents or other trusted adults, for example. A similar line of reasoning could work for adults who are brought to a religion through people they know/like/love/trust.

For those of us who have had spiritual experiences, we often base our beliefs on knowledge from our own personal experience. This may or may not include "faith."

Like Monica said, it can make you crazy. But I still think it's interesting. As long as no one tries to force their beliefs on me, that is.

Johnny Yen said...

I do not have a religious faith. I do, however, feel spiritual connections at times. There are things that have happened in my life-- coincidences-- that are remarkable.

I do believe in a higher truth, but I don't think that there is someone in a place sitting, like a principal in his or her office, ready to pronounce judgement and ultimately reward or punishment. I think that we are accountable to those higher truths that exist-- a responsbility to be kind, generous, loving, and to help others find the path to those things and behaviors-- but I think that it's all within this lifetime. I think that we're done the day we die, but that our good deeds are eternal. There is an eternal good in creating good, but for its own sake, not just to merit a reward.

With the awful death of my friend last year, it would be comforting to know that I'll see him again, but I don't believe that. I do believe, though, that he spent his time alive living a very spirtual and moral life.

This weekend, at his life celebration, I was thinking about something he said about faith in something after this. He said that he empircally didn't believe it, but he also believed that if he were wrong, the greater being that ran the program afterward would understand that he/she/it hadn't given him enough evidence to believe. In otherwords, if there's a god, it's not a spiteful, petty god. I liked that.