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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Let's discuss Faith


Since I read and reviewed Fear God by Mr. Pat, I've been thinking a lot about faith. The one thing that every religion appears to have in common is the expectation of faith. And I think I'm not really very good at that. Dictionary.com defines faith as:

1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
6. A set of principles or beliefs.

I was raised in the Mormon religion, and I'll be the first to admit, that even though I really wanted to fit in, I just didn't. There was always, for me, the overwhelming question of WHY? Why did God say I could never, as a female, hold the same positions of power as my brother? Why was I relegated to membership in the Relief Society instead of the Elders Quorum? If my intelligence and abilities were equal to the task, then why would God reject me out of hand, based solely on the fact that I was missing a Y chromosome? I asked this question, not because I had a burning desire to be part of the male hierarchy, but because I simply wanted to know why I couldn't be. I'm pretty sure it was akin to not wanting a cookie until someone tells you that you can't have one, then the damn cookie is all you can think about.

Over the years, I received a couple of answers, the women within the church pretty much stuck by the "Because that's what the Prophet says", and I was by struck their casual and blind acceptance of this. The men would attempt to answer me, but mostly the answer was "Because God said so." Again, not the answer I'm looking for. It just seemed illogical that God would create women with curiosity and intelligence equal to men and then relegate them to a lesser role. One well meaning home teacher in the church, thought long and hard about my question, and a couple of weeks later, stopped by my house with the perfect answer. He said, "It was God's way of paying men back because they couldn't have babies." Really? So would a woman, born sterile be a candidate for priesthood? Because it seems like her life must really be worthless in the eyes of God if not.

As you can imagine, I didn't make a good Mormon, and I moved on. For a solid year, all I read was books on Mormonism and books on Christianity. I delved into the theology of both, had some issues with Christian theology that made me stumble a bit, but figured out how I believed. After I left the Mormon Church, I was re-baptized into a Christian church, mostly as a statement to myself that I'd left the church of my childhood behind. On the day of my Baptism, a devout Christian lady, who I'd known all my life, came up to me and said, "The angels are dancing in heaven today, you're going to lead your family out of Mormonism and into the light of God".

Yikes...no pressure there. Right then, I realized that while I may know who and what I believe in, once again, my beliefs weren't necessarily shared by those around me. I had no intention of telling my 100 year old grandma that her religion was wrong. Heck, it was right for her, not me, its none of my business.

But I realized then, that every religion wants to convert you, Sure its because the members of the church have faith that their path to God is the proper one, and its only because they care about you that they want you to join them. But unless you're a Shaker, you want converts.

And its all a question of faith. I envy those with faith. I really want to have that simple faith that so many of my loved ones have. On my side of the family, the faith my brother and his wife have in the Mormon doctrine, or the simple pure and really beautiful faith of my mom-in-law in her Christian doctrine. A few years ago, I read an article that even Mother Teresa had problems with faith,
"Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.
— Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979"
.
And even though I was glad to see that a woman of faith like her had misgivings similar to mine, mostly it made her just seem more human to me. For Mother Teresa to keep on going, even when she too, must have sometimes wondered, "why?" is a remarkable thing.

Now I know I'm sounding like a screaming feminist here, and I'm not. I chose the most traditional path a woman can choose. I'm a stay at home mom, married 33 years. I wanted to be home with my kids, so I opened a daycare and have helped raise more kids than I can remember. I can potty train with the best of them, Barney really doesn't annoy me, (but Dora the Explorer does) and I just loved Maggie and the Ferocious Beast. Robert Munsch is my favorite author of childrens books, because Love you Forever is the best childrens book ever written. And I do a great Grover voice when I read The Monster at the End of the Book.

I think I just don't like being told what to do. (My husband, when I'm asking for an opinion or advice, points out that I'm going to do what I want anyway. He's right, but I just like his input....) Especially by men claiming to speak for God. That's a pretty big claim and in my mind, you'd better be able to back it up. And backing it up with a convenient new prophecy, what can I say, I get suspicious of your motives. Any religion in its most fundamental form seems to become problematic for me, but the fundamentalist of all religions are insistent that theirs is the only true path. Fundamentalist Christians, who insist the Bible is correct and exact, but don't take into consideration that it is a translation, be it King James or New International. And really, how do we know? Isn't it a little vain on our part to assume that God's day is 24 hours, like ours? After all, the day's are different on other planets. Couldn't Gods day in Genesis be one hundred thousand of ours? And if that is possible, then doesn't the possibility exist that the Book is a more subjective discussion than some of us want to believe? The Book of Mormon, translated from Golden Plates that Joseph Smith received from and subsequently returned to the Angel Moroni. Smith translated them by putting a "seer stone" called the Urim and Thummim into a hat, looking into the hat and dictating what he saw. It is a matter of faith to believe this in the Mormon church. Fundamentalist Islam, which dictates Sharia law and abominable treatment of women.

So, how does one find faith in all this? I absolutely think its a wondrous thing, and I've always envied the simple faith of others. Faith in the existence of God is easy for me, but faith in religion is almost impossible for me to maintain. Does one need religion to understand God? Must we follow a specific creed to see Him after our death? For that matter, is there an after? Are there unborn souls in heaven waiting to be born, as some religions believe? Or do our souls come into being at our birth/conception? (Not gonna touch that birth/conception argument....totally un-winnable on either side.) Why do we fight each other in the name of God? Is it because one belief system really trumps all, or is it because our frail human egos insist it must be so? Do you find faith difficult or easy to maintain? How do you find and keep faith?

5 comments:

Marie Burton said...

I just finished Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant~ About a Convent of Nuns~ And of course it all makes you think. I was raised catholic but I do not have that 'zeal' as a believer or a preacher.. I feel faith is private and sometimes see others as hypocritical when they try to push their thoughts on me.
But the book I just read also made me feel better just by reading some of the short quotes within the book and I have no idea what I am trying to say here. I just wish everyone could get along regardless of what their religious denomination is, and that everyone should have the right to feel what they want to feel about their God.

claire said...

I was born Catholic, converted to Baptist in late childhood, now I do not have a religion, but I still have faith, even stronger than before. I maintain and keep my faith by always seeking God, and looking towards the hope of His coming kingdom. I admit I am weary and wary of others trying to convert others. We all have different ideas of religion/church/faith, but it's because we are in the time when the prince of this world isn't Christ. Yet. Until then, we will always be divided in our beliefs. Which is why I don't judge others by the differences of their beliefs from my own. We will never really know what is right until Christ becomes our ruler in this world. As for now, the most important thing for me is to seek Him, and study the Bible, and bear fruits (kindness, patience, meekness, etc). It is not my duty to force others to believe the same as I, but I should always be ready to provide guidance to those seeking answers out of their own free will.

PopinFresh said...

I believe that humans want to believe in something, whether it's a higher being or someone we love. We depend on someone to hold on to and if it fails us, then it sucks (to put it frankly lol)

I think that you'd know if your religion is right if you can ask questions, get your answers, and there is justice. Not equality, but justice. I love my God and religion, but it's a huge blessing not to pray during my period and if God said that men pray all the time therefore women do, even on your period, I'd have a hard time with that and probably scream at someone lol.

There were times, when I was younger, that I did feel a bit confused and wondered if I was on the right path. So I prayed that God would guide me and I feel He has. I don't think I'm the best Muslim, but I definitely feel a lot better than I did a few years back.

If I feel spiritual contentment, then I know that I've found the right religion. And with Islam, I feel that I have. ^_^

~ Popin

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

This is an excellent essay on your feelings about, and grapplings with, faith. I don't have any answers or much of substance to add in comments, but you've given me a lot to think about. I'm impressed that you shared your feelings on faith so eloquently, when many of us can't put it into words inside our own heads!

Cindy said...

I am Catholic. Even though my faith and my church is very important to me, I think that faith is a personal thing between a person and God. I don't think that it matters what religion/denomination you belong to, or if you even belong to an organized religion/church. I think that your faith and belief in God is what is most important to you and to God.