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.