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.
Well done, once again. I wouldn't say your thinking is "convenient." It's honest, true, and (thankfully) lacks the hypocrisy of so many organized religions. To me there is often a huge gap between being religious and being spiritual and the spiritual often find their own way.
6/24/2014 03:27:21 am
It is ironic that so often religion has nothing to do with spirituality. Or, even kindness. Thanks for reading, William and leaving such a nice comment.
6/24/2014 02:31:25 am
It took me years to come to my own beliefs and faith, too. I never bought the Biblical tales, either, but ended up with my own set of beliefs that bring me peace. Glad you have yours, too.
6/24/2014 03:28:21 am
That's one upside of getting older. We live and learn. And we're okay with our own beliefs. The wrinkles still suck though.
6/24/2014 02:43:40 am
I'm with you. I'm an agnostic, raised heavily Catholic, but don't believe in any of the mumbo jumbo about virgin births and all the intolerance, but I DO believe in some great universal energy out there. I still (in my very pragmatic, Germanic way) feel that we all just die and go into the ground, but think that the soul or energy that keeps us alive, will go back out into the universe and find its way into some great energy force so in a way we are going to be recirculated. The ultimate recycling approach :) Great post, as always.
6/24/2014 03:29:45 am
LOL! Recycling for sure! We're all destined for the giant compost heap. But, I wholeheartedly agree...our energy somehow survives.
6/24/2014 03:07:09 am
I think faith and religion can be two separate things - your faith is beautiful. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.
6/24/2014 03:31:02 am
Thank you, Susan! It's so nice to get such nice comments. I was (and still am) expecting a few reprimands so it's wonderful to read such kind words. I really appreciate it.
6/24/2014 05:59:29 am
Yes, I've discovered faith can mean many things and if it doesn't make you feel hopeful something is wrong. Thank you so much for reading.
6/29/2014 03:04:24 am
You're welcome...I know so many Catholics...sort of Catholics! They feel the same way you do. Huh?
6/24/2014 12:45:46 pm
I'm not a religious person, I don't go to church but I like to believe I'm spiritual. I have a set of beliefs that feels good to me and really isn't that what it's all about. Having the freedom to explore and choose your own set of beliefs. Hope your grandaughter is doing well.
6/29/2014 03:05:18 am
She is doing pretty well. She's the happiest can do kid ever. Thank you for asking and for reading!
6/24/2014 12:52:47 pm
I feel the same way. I've thought of myself as an agnostic as well believing that "god" is more of a life force in everything and everywhere. Not an old dude, sitting on a cloud, running things. When I hear that I just roll my eyes. Both my daughters professed to be atheists and I have to admit at first that really bothered me. We have had many conversations on this topic and I've come to accept it. If I learned anything, they will probably change their minds as I have on a great many things over these past 52 years. Loved the blog Kathleen. Thanks for writing it.
6/29/2014 03:06:59 am
I think our kids never tire of trying to shock us. But you are right. Life has a way. My son is pretty much an atheist but my daughter is more traditional Christian. But her life is harder, so I'm glad she leans on that. I say, whatever floats your boat! Thanks for reading and commenting Suzie!
Kathleen, I love the honesty of your writing! And I love hearing you express your own faith. I am definitely not threatened when someone shares an opinion that differs from mine. Rather, I appreciate the new, often refreshing and insightful glimpse into another's life and thoughts. My mother, too has 'crossed the veil'. I get great comfort from the belief that I will see her again.
6/29/2014 03:08:51 am
I think when our parents die it totally changes our perspective. You really start to wonder. I think my "faith" is not an original concept. It seems many believe in the same way. And even if they believe in a different way, I don't think one is right or wrong. Just different.
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