For a lot of my adult life, I've professed to be an agnostic. I'm usually too lazy to take a stand, so this fit. But really, what I stood for was atheism. Most of the religious turned me off, regardless of their faith. Still do.
And don't get me started on biblical fantasies. Virgin births? Voluntary crucifixions? Resurrections? Eternal life? Indeed.
I admired Christopher Hitchens, not only for his superior writing skills, but for his steadfast belief in nothing...right up to the end. During the illness that took his life he said, "If anyone hears me retract my atheism, know that I'm delirious and don't mean it."
Then I discovered an uncomfortable truth (are there any other kind?).
It's easy to diss life after death when no one you love is dead.
When my mother died last year, her death was the first to have a real impact. Ours was an uneasy relationship. Complicated. But I loved her. A formidable presence in my life, her absence seemed (and still sometimes does) intolerable.
For the first time, I felt jealous of those with blind faith. I started wondering (hoping) I might see my mom again. Somewhere. But, where?
Then our seven year-old granddaughter Adelia got a crushing diagnosis. The odds are high we will all outlive her. If that doesn't turn your absent theology on its thorny crowned head, I don't know what will.
So, I've had cause to re-examine what I believe.
Not long after my mother's death I found myself on a plane. For reasons I can't remember now, hubby was taking a flight later in the week, so I flew alone.
I'm a nervous flyer, even though I've done it my whole life. Not the white knuckle, head in a bag kind, but I think about dying when I'm in the air in a giant tin can. Who knows what goes on in that cockpit? Why is the door always shut? Anyway...I'm superstitious. I always wear the same jewelry when I travel and I would never get on the same plane with a rock star - everyone knows that's a death sentence.
This particular flight was turbulent. Way more than normal - that stomach dropping, heart stopping turbulence that has everyone's lips moving in silent prayer. Except for mine, of course.
What sticks out in my mind about that trip is the calm. The first thing I thought, well the second after "oh shit" was that my mother had preceded me and would somehow pave the way should the plane go down. She would be there. A tremendous relief trickled down my arms. I spent the rest of the rough flight in peace.
Before anyone gets weepy over my religious conversion...it wasn't exactly that. The hyper religious still pretty much get on my last nerve. Bible stories, to me, are just that. And, I don't believe some guy in a white beard and a toga is orchestrating all of our lives. Who has that kind of time?
I believe that random shit happens.
I believe we sometimes get more heartbreak than we can bear and what doesn't kill us often doesn't make us stronger.
I believe the human condition is frail, terribly flawed, and glorious.
I believe we all have a responsibility to each other and our place in the world.
I believe we don't understand how it all works, what the origins of man really are, or whether or not our behavior impacts the weather.
I believe we make our own hell, here on earth.
I believe our spirits are separate from our bodies and somewhere in the universe they abide.
I believe if we're open to it, the presence of those we loved that have gone before us, can be felt.
Some would say my way of thinking is convenient. I've changed what I believe to fit my circumstances. I'm okay with that.
If faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," then I have it.
I believe I haven't lost my mother, nor will I lose my granddaughter. I am assured by this hope and convinced of its truth.
We will meet again...on this side or the other.