A matter of faith

I try to avoid writing about religion and politics. I’m like a genteel hostess who attempts to keep the conversation on  non-controversial topics. And I read somewhere in Blogging Tips 101, or some such thing, that this was a good code to blog by. So when I woke up at 4:00 with faith on my mind, I looked at the clock and rolled over again thinking, I’m not getting up at 4:00 am to write about religion.

When I woke up at 5:00 am, I thought, If I really want to write about this I will remember all these nagging little thoughts when I get up at a reasonable hour.

Here I sit at 6:30 am.

Growing up as a Catholic Christian I had a certain perspective that if you lived a good life and did well by other people, God would look out for you. Your good acts would be rewarded. There was a sense of fairness or justice about the religion I was raised on. Ours was a loving, caring father. A just God.

Growing up beside my disabled sister Annie, I didn’t question God’s judgement or justice. In fact, I justified it all by my view that Annie was a gift. And truthfully, I still think of her that way. But other people who witnessed my parents caring for her would sometimes say, “Your parents are saints. They have a special place in Heaven.” My parents always disavowed this kind of talk. They knew they were not alone in their responsibility for caring for a disabled child. Many people lived a similar life. They never thought of themselves as special.

But the point is, I was still okay with God. Annie was a gift. We had what we needed to take care of her. She seemed happy.

It wasn’t until I had to watch Annie suffer as she was dying a fairly prolonged death that I got mad. I wanted to know, after the life she had to live, why did she have to die in such a difficult way? Why couldn’t she just have a heart attack in her sleep? Other people do.

My dad’s Alzheimer’s was icing on the cake of disillusionment I was baking. A friend of mine said, “It doesn’t seem fair, after your parents spent their life taking care of Annie, for this to happen to them now.” No. It doesn’t seem fair.

But as the dean of the school of Engineering at the University of Dayton once told me when I was complaining about an awful, inept teacher there, “Life isn’t fair.”

And apparently, neither is God.

It reminded me of studying Robert Browning’s poem Caliban Upon Setebos in Jack Hettinger’s Literature class at the College of Mount St. Joseph. In the poem, Browning portrays a view of an ambivalent almighty creature who has no regard for the smaller beings and randomly inflicts death and suffering on them.

“Let twenty pass, and stone the twenty-first,
Loving not, hating not, just choosing so.”

I also realized that there was nothing special about Christianity. If I had been born in another non-Christian country it’s very likely I would be a Muslim or Buddist or share some other faith. My religion is, in many ways, an accident of my geographic location. How can it be the “One true church”?

If you look at them closely, most religions contain similar ideas about how to behave kindly to other people.

You will not win an intellectual debate over whether there is a benevolent God. You may not lose, but you will not win. It cannot be proven scientifically either way. It is a matter of faith.

The closest anyone ever came to proving the existence of a God was my philosophy teacher at the Mount. She explained how Aristotle justifies the existence of a creator with his Unmoved Mover theory. This theory made sense to me at the time I was first introduced to it, although the above link is rather weighty.

I think it boils down to: Aristotle believed all existence was caused, like a series of dominoes falling one against the other. Someone, or an outside force, has to push the first domino. That is the unmoved mover. But according to Yahoo Answers which got its information from Wikipedia (so take it for what it is worth), “One can argue that this unmoved mover is a sort of God, however it is important to understand that it is not a God in the traditional sense we think of one. Ultimately this is a very limited function for a God, and constitutes a beginner, but not a God who is imbued in, or even aware of, the goings on of the universe past the original act of motion.”

Heavy thoughts for 4:00, 5:00 and now 7:00 in the morning.

In all fairness to Christianity, nowhere does it say the rewards will be on this earth. In fact, this religion is based on a God who gave up his own son to be crucified. See what we’re dealing with? The rewards will be in the next life. It’s all about the next  life.

Ultimately, I believe in a humanistic worldview—behaving as if each human life is equal and valuable, respecting all forms of life, “Do unto others . . .”

I still hope for an afterlife where I will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before. I don’t know what that looks like. And quite frankly, sometimes I get bogged down thinking about how that will work exactly. But I’m not willing to give up the hope.

It’s a matter of faith.

33 thoughts on “A matter of faith”

    1. I do believe life has meaning. I’ve read a lot about the Holocaust, but I’ve never read “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I’ll add it to my list.

  1. I believe in God and an afterlife. I’m not sure why there is human suffering in this world, or why he allows it. There might be something to the Deist point of view that there was a divine creator, but he sort of gave up control of anything that goes on down here. Maybe that’s tied into the idea of free will. (?)

    At any rate, I think there are a lot of people who have created God in their own image. That is, they want him to be a certain way, and expect him to be what they imagine him to be, so they have perverted him. Take, for instance, all the atrocities caused by mortals in his name—the Spanish Inquisition, the Witch Hunt, slaughtering of natives all over the world for land and gold. I can’t imagine why anyone would think these things were/are justified.

    1. Thanks for commenting. It is all the perversions of religions and atrocities caused by them, that you mention, that make me very nervous about religions in general. Although I still believe religions have value for the morality they can teach.

  2. I’m so glad you decided to write this, Christine, because it is a truly thoughtful piece that does not attack religion or other people’s beliefs, but merely raises questions. I , like you, believe in doing good for the life we live now. I don’t know what happens after death (despite the fact that I am completely fascinated by ghosts–but that’s a different issue), so I always wonder why the focus should be on the next life rather than the life we live now. I believe there is energy or spirit that connects all living things, and maybe that emanates from God or maybe from ourselves. The basic moral tenets of religions are important, and they are all similar. I will never understand war, hatred, and prejudice in the name of God or religion.Great post!

  3. Christine, did you ever notice when the dominos are pushed, sometimes it stops mid-stream and needs help from the mover again? When we pray we ask for help and he listens.
    Why God does things is not something we should try to understand. The greatest minds in the world have tried figuring it out and they can’t. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try learning the mysteries of the universe, but some things are meant to remain mysteries. The bible does say many things about the meek inheriting the Earth, for example. Many times I wonder why I would want to inherit the Earth when I am going to Heaven? This might be a clue that Heaven is here on Earth and for that reason, we need to take care of our planet and that starts with our home, our heart and our family.

    1. What a great analogy. I’m pretty sure my dominoes need a little push.

      I’m okay with acknowledging there are mysteries that we’ll never have the answers to. In fact, I think that we know very little compared to the complexity of what is occurring.

      I agree that regardless of what happens later, we need to take care of the here and now.

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  4. I think I have shared with you in the past how the death of my brother changed my “religious” views of afterlife. I absolutely do believe in God, but I also believe we are put here with lessons to learn and we take those with us when we leave…and yes I believe we reunite in another realm.

    1. I do believe in God. I just can’t describe what that means. The main reason is simply what I see when I look around. Call me naive, but I just can’t believe that all these varieties of beautiful, fragrant, delicate flowers, and plants and trees all happened by accident. You will never convince me of that.

      And I haven’t even scratched the surface. So many incredible designs in nature when you consider all of the creatures that inhabit this earth, and brilliant means of propagation and survival. It’s amazing, really.

  5. Lovely post, Christine. So funny you wrote about faith. I have a post coming up about faith too. And, like you, I worried about posting about that topic, and for the same reasons. If yu don’t mind I think I will save this link and link to this in my post.
    I also love all the thoughtful replies your readers have left. Each is special.
    I wish you and I could sit and discuss this over a cup of tea. Too bad you live so far away.

    1. I’d be honored.

      Yes. My readers are coming through with thoughtful, heart-felt ideas.

      I know. Who knows what the future holds? Maybe someday we’ll meet somewhere.

      I’m looking forward to your post.

  6. I admire your courage to tackle such a controversial topic with heartfelt reflections. I appreciate your honesty and personal insights. Having come from a similar background during my middle school through high school years, I can relate to much of what you described as the Catholic perspective. I think that your post reveals a very human side that others, including myself, feel closer to for having read your most private thoughts.

  7. “Do unto others” is my view on life too…All I can say Christine is that there is more to Life on Earth than we know.. And I dont presume to know everything, but if everyone lived by that single code alone through being loving and showing Light to each other then this world would be a brighter better place..
    But this Earth is a learning Ground where we learn to live in this material realm of ‘matter’.. Where by there has to be oposites of energy, of Positive and Negative.. therefore if there wasnt the Fear/darkness then we wouldnt know Love/light..
    I have long since disbelieved in there being One God who is judgmental who has a set of Rules whereby we are punished…. But I do believe in a Divine Creator, Yes, and we are all part of a higher plan in which we piece the jigsaw pieces together one by one along the way.. meeting other pieces who we slot into place with… Learning , Growing and progressing.. But we dont get to see the Huge picture box lid. Well at least not here, not yet.. 🙂 So thats why I like your post.. You have to travel the road with lots of Faith, I have done that trusting my instincts along the way, for they are built within each of us for a reason…
    Unfortunately in todays society we have got distracted with Material and have neglected our true Spiritual path of living in Harmony with our Brothers and Sisters and Animal Kingdom.. We have got entangled in a Selfish path of Greed and Power. Religion has in many ways been misued from a simple message of Loving Each Other, destorted for Mans own selfish paths ..

    There are Many Good People out there who have no religion ,.. But who have Lots of FAITH..

    Great Post … Dreamwalker

    1. I continue to be impressed with how closely your views seem to align with my sister Carol’s—at least with her views as I understand them.

      It makes me feel better just reading your post. I agree that every single person could change the color of the earth by being loving and showing Light.

      Annie was such a bright light. Maybe I’m just stumbling in darkness here for a while until I can generate my own.

      1. Arrgh Remember this post… interesting you picked as your most controversial.. Hope the Light is at last filtering away through lol.. Much love sent your way Christine as you travel the road of life. 🙂

  8. I sense in the tone of your post that you respectfully want God to answer your questions. You aren’t a person with an unspoken agenda, moved by it to look for a reason to turn from your faith. You aren’t trying to prove the nonexistence of God; nor do you hope to prove that God is not good. You just want to know how an all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present God could allow pain and suffering.

    When I was young, I became a believer, wholeheartedly so. I was certain of one thing. Nothing bad was going to happen to me, because I was doing my best to please God and to love others. Bad things did happen, but still, I went on trusting, and still believing that nothing REALLY bad would ever happen to one of God’s almost-always-obedient children.

    Then something really bad, worse than I thought I could bear, happened to me. I was not only brokenhearted; I was furious! I felt, actually felt God trying to comfort me. I smacked my pillow around and dared God to come down and duke it out. I didn’t want comfort. I wanted everything to be okay again.

    I’d had a close relationship with the LORD before this happened, so it couldn’t cause me to turn away from Him. But it hurt me and, like you, I wanted to understand. God spent years helping me understand. God’s never in a hurry. Have you ever noticed that?

    Putting what I’ve learned in a nutshell may not answer your questions, but for basics, here is what I learned. God created a good world. Sin came through Adam’s choice. God did not cause sin. God took action against sin. Sin brought deterioration, death, all the negative elements of life. God’s plan to counteract sin also includes redemption through Christ.

    God is good. He is always good. The world is in a mess from sin, not from God. We hate suffering and pain. God hates sin because it causes suffering and pain. We love comfort. God loves us. God is good. It hurts me to hear that people suspect that God is uncaring, yet I understand. I was there. No one cares like God. He’s the best there is in life. In case you are interested in a very long book that will help answer your question, here is the name of it — If God Is Good, by Randy Alcorn. Blessings to you…

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your views and your concern. I suppose, in my own defense, the only thing I can say is that I continue to pray through it all. If you read my memoir about Annie once I manage to get it published, you will find evidence of my faith there.

      I never believed in a “Caliban” type of God. I choose to believe in a good God who gives mothers an instinct to protect their offspring. I view this in nature continually. My view of the goodness of God comes through his creations on this earth. I don’t understand, you’re right about that. But as sad as my parents’ situation has been and still is, I can point to many other people now and through history who dealt with more heartbreak and more difficult circumstances.

      I can’t rely completely on the Bible for my beliefs. I understand the history of the time and the likelihood that the Bible presents predominantly or perhaps only, a male perspective. I have too many gender issues with the Bible and with most mainstream religions. It doesn’t mean I discount everything. I just don’t blindly accept it all.

      If I had to boil my beliefs into a nutshell, as you have done, I’d say that I believe in a brilliant creator who has a basic hands-off policy. This creator may be able to monitor what goes on here, but chooses not to act. Sometimes I wonder if this God created all these beautiful sights, sounds and scents and then needed someone with senses who could appreciate them all and through a spiritual connection with God, relay this joy in creation back. If that is the case, then God would also, by necessity, feel our pain. So maybe you’re right. Don’t know. I’m just here slogging along.

  9. I’m glad you listened to your heart and wrote the blog post. Praying you will find the answers you seek. The Bible tells us to ask, and it will be given; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you. I, too, recognize God’s fingerprints in the things of nature. I’ve always been amazed at how much detail went into bird’s feather patterns, and how different they all are.

    1. I just had to add this about how amazing the design of nature is. Flowers are so delicate and fragile, yet they withstand the tremendous force of winds and pelting rains. One day I cut some flowers, I think they might have been daisies. They had been splashed with dirt, so I wanted to wash the petals off. When I held them under the light faucet flow upside down, all the petals immediately fell off. I could wash them right side up, but not upside down. Isn’t that amazing?

      1. I had no idea daisy petals would do that! There’s always something new to see and learn, isn’t there? I enjoy your nature blog posts. You live in a lovely area.

  10. Early, and I mean early, morning hours seems to be when my post thoughts begin roiling around in my brain. Try as I might to ignore them and get more of my allotted 40 winks, I can’t until I drag myself to my laptop and pour those niggling, little peskies out onto the screen, and into the blogosphere. But religion, especially Catholicism and God’s relationship with your sister and all humankind…well, that goes deeper than some random thought about this and that.

    good for you for tackling the topic…in the wee hours…hugmamma.

  11. Hi Christine — I’ve been thinking about this post of yours for days now.

    The thing that jumped out at me was the fact that you viewed your sister Annie as a gift, but not your father’s Alzheimer’s. I think we learn more about God and our faith in God through suffering than any other way. It’s when we pour ourselves out for another that we can see God.

    That’s the whole basis of Christianity, a God who left the comforts of heaven to get blisters on his feet as he walked from town to town healing people and giving them hope, and then finally getting nails in his hands as suffered tremendously at the end. It wasn’t fair. But it was love.

    My mother’s Alzheimer’s is a gift. It is in caring for her that I better understand the sacredness of life. I think you would say the same about Annie.

    Even though I have waited days to respond, I still have a hard time putting words to my faith. It’s my core. It’s my rock. It’s my hope.

    Love to you — Sally


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