Proof of a Negative

Was out walking the dog this evening, having a perfectly respectable time meeting all the neighborhood dogs, when I was once again waylayed by the “God Girls.”   That’s what we call the Mormon missionaries that live in the apartment across the parking lot.  A new “batch” seems to rotate in and out of the apartment every six months or so.  I have been fairly successful in fending them of by simply telling them I am an atheist (which is completely true.)  The word “atheist” seems to be to them like garlic to a vampire.

But tonight, despite pulling out the atheist card, I ended up standing there for about half an hour, trying to talk to them like people instead of automatons, getting eaten up by mosquitoes while my dog alternately hopped around and whined, and gave up and sat down.   During the course of our chat, I told them my best friend was Christian and we have many good theoretical discussions.  One of the girls told me, My best friend is like you…  Like she couldn’t even say the word “atheist”, or maybe couldn’t bear to admit her best friend was…atheist.

Anyway, I almost made it away with minimal small talk when the weirder one got me with a question.  Sometimes I just am too damn friendly and like to talk too damn much, and she found my weakness and suckered me in…

She asked me, If you did believe and you could ask Jesus one thing, what would it be?   I actually had a hard time coming up with something, partly because I didn’t want them to just pick the answer to whatever I might ask out of their book. (At one point, one actually tried to read me a passage, and I said, trying not to be testy, “I can read it for myself, I just don’t believe it.”)   I think when I finally did manage to articulate it, my answer almost stumped them.   I told them about my cousin, who had been shot in the head and was brain dead until my uncle finally told the doctors to pull the plug.  I told them I’d want to know, if his soul was separate from his body, did him being brain dead mean his soul was in Heaven or that was it trapped in his body until life support was removed?  I told them I believed the soul resided in the brain, where our personality is.  In fact, maybe I did stump them because they told me they “know” God has an answer, but they never got around to telling me exactly what it was.

We spoke of many things while they tried to convince me that the happiness, the good feelings in my life, were God speaking to me.  I asked why God was always credited with the good while not responsible for the bad.

I tried to explain how I had been raised Catholic but simply couldn’t internalize it

But nothing I said really seemed to get through.  In the end they just kept going back to “testifying that they knew [this] to be true” because they could “feel” it.  It was weird, like they only had so many lines on the script before they’d recycle and start over. I’m not trying to be mean.  It’s not just because they are religious either.  I know plenty of people of faith.  But talking to these girls, it genuinely makes me a bit uncomfortable.  Part of it is because I don’t really want to give them the time and attention to “convert” me.  But it’s also because talking to them almost feels like I am talking to pod people…or Stepford wives.  I try to connect with them on a “human” level and it’s like they’re vacant behind the rhetoric. There have to be normal girls in there somewhere, right? Girls that watch TV and joke and do things besides try to peddle their God?  But when I try to draw them out, by asking their first names, (because they go by “sister- whatever- their- last- names are,”) they actually seem hesitant to tell me.  I’m not calling them sister anything.

Anyway, they are probably pretty proud of themselves because I took one of their books.  But I usually only read stuff like that so I can know what I am talking about when I wanna argue with someone.   They asked if they could come by and talk some more sometime.  I told them they were welcome to come and watch a movie with me. 🙂  Somehow I doubt they’d like my taste in films though.

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“Death is a Door…”

“… we all acted alone, we were caught alone, and every one of us will have to die alone. But that doesn’t mean that we are alone.”  (Hans Fallada, 1947)

“Every living creature on earth dies alone.”  (Donnie Darko, 2001)

Donnie Darko and Roberta Sparrow

Donnie Darko and Roberta Sparrow

“Everybody dies alone.”  (Firefly, 2002)

“Son. Everyone dies alone. That’s what it is. It’s a door. It’s one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone.”  (Dead Beat, 2005)

Are you afraid to die?  It seems like a simple question, but it requires you to be brutally honest with yourself.  What are your beliefs?  Are you religious?  Do you actually believe your religion’s tenants on death and afterlife?  

I suppose it could make a difference to you if you genuinely felt God will be with you when you shuffle off the mortal coil.   But I imagine some people clutch to their ideas of an afterlife specifically to keep at bay the terrors of death.  What happens when we die?  Do we just cease to exist?  I for one can’t conceive of not being aware, not being able to think.  

Have you ever had a serious illness or injury and felt that black stab of panic?  Am I going to die?  Maybe you’ve just been in a significant amount of pain and felt like you would die. (If you’ve ever had a migraine, you might sympathize with the thought of wishing for death, or at the very least, a long narcotic induced oblivion.)  I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks sometimes as well, which can make even a non-life-threatening situation feel exponentially worse. Suddenly, you think that migraine may actually kill you…just give you a stroke or something.

In these moments, that’s when our true feelings about death surface.

I’d like to think if my family was on a plane and it was going down, I’d be okay as long as my last moments were spent with those dearest to me, my husband and child.  But it’s been my experience that when you are in that moment of fear, panicked, you are completely alone.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Not every death is untimely or traumatic.  You may die of old age, going peacefully in your sleep, or surrounded by loved ones, but death is a door and it’s only one person wide.  We all walk through it alone.

Why Do We Seek God?

In bed the other night, I was thinking (as usual) about my search for God, or answers anyway.  And I stumbled upon an idea that seemed like a mini epiphany.  Before I get into the meat of it, this is a call to my followers and all who might happen up this post to perhaps help me answer a couple of questions and thus move myself further to finding my god.

My question is addressed to people who were raised in a secular or non-religious environment.  However, if you feel you have something to add to the conversation that does not involve the usual rhetoric involved in discussing religion or random and lengthy bible quotes, by all means please comment.

The idea I had, and what I want to ask you gentle readers is sort of a two part question:

What is the source for the desire to search for God or a higher meaning?

and

If we are raised in a completely secular or atheistic environment where it is never suggested, inferred, or taught to us that we need or should have a god, do we still inherently feel a need to seek one?

Perhaps now you can see why I specified readers raised in secular environments.  If as children, we are in any way introduced to the idea that religion should be a part of our lives, especially if the introduction comes by way our our parents, who have a heavy influence on our thoughts and feelings during our formative years, then that idea may always be a part of us, even if our intellect bucks it (like mine does.)

This is specifically my problem, by the way.  My brain tells me there is no way there is someone “watching over” us;  if there were, our world would not suck so much.  Yet  there is a part of me that likes the idea of a gentle father-figure who loves us unconditionally and keeps a place for us by his side.

Although I don’t relish the idea of him watching me while hubs and I have the “sexy time.”

I suppose this question could work in reverse, but I know the story of  disillusionment and lack of faith on a more personal level.

I have long considered myself someone who is reverent of nature, and even dabbled in Wicca for a while, but in the end, even ideologically pleasing  religions like Wicca, Hinduism, and Buddhism still incorporate deity worship, in many cases multiple deities.  Moreover, embracing nature alone means embracing the idea that  everything is essentially form and function, part of the circle of life, and there really is no higher meaning, aside from survival and continuation of the species.

So, as I said before, though this post may be another one of my introspective and theological ramblings, it is also a call for interaction.  Please feel free to (respectfully) share your thoughts.

RELATED: http://ayearandadaywicca.wordpress.com/what-is-wicca/

Are You There, God?

When I was fifteen, I told my dad I didn’t want to go to church anymore.  I very calmly explained to him that it wasn’t right for me at that time in my life.  I never wanted to believe just because I was afraid not to, or because I was afraid of death.  (And believe me, I am afraid of death.)  I told him maybe one day– when I was ready– I would come back to the Church.  I tried to explain my well-thought-out reasoning to him maturely…

And then I told him if he tried to make me go, I’d stop coming to his house for visits on weekends.

Needless to say, I didn’t have to go to church anymore.  Maybe he understood…maybe I broke his heart a little.  But since that time I have been searching, in my own way, for the answers.

For some people it’s simple.  Some people were  raised with a faith that they never felt the need or desire to question.

Some people are so immersed in their faith that they literally can not conceive of someone doubting God’s existence; they use rote faith as proof… ie. “How can you look around at this beautiful world and not see God everywhere?”  Sort of  solipsistic, isn’t it?

And then there are those who insist that faith is about believing in the absence of evidence.  In other words, if you want to believe, you just believe.

I am none of these people. I have issues with organized religion.  I’d love to believe there is a God, but I’m not sure I 100% like the Catholic God I was raised with.  Or rather, the representation of him.  Many, many Christians interpret sections of the bible in ways which suit them, latching on to certain ideas, rejecting or ignoring others.  And then there is the question of how literal the bible is to be taken, and then how to interpret the contradicting ideas–

-Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live… but…

-Thou shalt not kill.

Only God is allowed to judge, yet we make judgments on our fellow man all the time, often based on our interpretation of “God’s word.”

Then there is the question of whose God is the “right” God.

Also, I have a very analytic mind.  My majors in school were Psychology and Sociology, so I tend to approach the idea of religion and faith in the context of those disciplines.

But all of that’s academic.  In other words, it’s not the real point of this post.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I went through a period of many losses.  Jobs, family members, a miscarriage, our home…  At four and a half months pregnant, hubby and I uprooted and moved 800 miles on three hours’ notice.  We were going through a very financially and emotionally stressing time, my husband’s unemployment at one point being held for three months (three months with NO income and a baby on the way,) and my mother and I were in the worst fight of our lives.  I actually worried the stress would harm my unborn baby.

My best friend, who is pretty much “born again,” only not in the annoying, bible-thumping way, urged me to come to church with her, and to put my trust in God and ask for his help.  So I tried.  I really did.  I prayed, although my praying was stunted because I constantly over-thought everything even AS I prayed.  I would tell God about my day, and then say, “But I guess you already knew all that…”  and then chide myself for presuming to guess what God may or may not know.  (Weird, I know, but I’m Obsessive-Compulsive, so what do you expect?) I found it hard to concentrate, and my mind would wander so I actually started keeping a prayer journal.  I also did go to church with my best friend.  My husband went once or twice, more to support me than out of any feelings of faith.

And the funny thing is…I actually did start to feel a measure of peace.

Fast-forward to after my daughter’s birth.  Like most new mothers probably, I was overwhelmed with emotions, chiefly deep love and deep, deep fear.  Becoming a mom changed me in many ways, some expected, some not…  One key difference is that I became infinitely more sensitive to media reports of violence against children.  Especially violence perpetrated by people the children are supposed to be able trust.  Like their parents.  The number of family annihilators, mothers murdering their infants, and children abused in horrific ways is staggering.  And it was weighing very heavily on my soul.

The point is, at that important juncture of my life, when I should have been the most thankful to God, when I should have looked to God the most for guidance and peace, I could not– can not– reconcile myself with the idea that a “loving god” would allow such horrors to happen to innocent children.  All the “God’s plan, mysterious ways, devil’s influence, sins of humans” platitudes in the world are not enough to make me alright with this.

It has been told to me more than once by people of faith that people in general tend to blame God when something bad happens, but often don’t give Him credit when things go their way.  My question is this; conversely, then, why is it okay to give Him credit for the good, but not look to Him for a damn good reason for the bad (especially something as bad a the murder of a child?)

I know it may sound like I am preaching here, but really I am just trying to sort out my thoughts, and please forgive me if this blog entry is very stream-of-consciousness or seems to ramble.

These are the things I think about when I lay awake in bed at night.

I would love to believe we are not alone in the universe, and when I try to pray at night I can almost feel like I might be talking to someone…  But when I step away from that isolated moment, I feel the sterile and empirical “alone-ness” of the human condition– that all life on this planet is the result of a coincidental series of optimal conditions.  That when we die, we cease to exist.  That there is no judgment for the wicked people who would harm their own babies, aside from that which we mete out here on earth (our “justice” could never be enough for these people, and some escape the law entirely.) That no amount of praying can protect my child.

eye of God

I keep telling myself– hoping to myself– that by the time my death approaches, hopefully after a long life filled with love, that I will have found the answers.  That I won’t be afraid anymore.  Now, as any good mother would, I care more for my child’s health, life, and happiness than my own anyway.  So I will continue to seek the answers, however passively, and hope that one day I will be at peace with whatever those answers are.

Maybe there is a God, but He is unlike anything written in the Quran, the Bible, or ancient mythologies.  Maybe he is an observer.  Maybe He is Love, or maybe He is completely ambivalent.  Maybe He is infinitely more complex and inscrutable than we could ever conceive with our piddly human minds.

The only thing I can know for sure is that I have to do the best I can with this life, and the best way I know to combat the fear I feel is to fight it with love.  I’ll make sure those dearest to me know how much I love them.

*This is an intensely personal entry for me.  In some way I can’t define, I am uncomfortable with it, and even now hesitate to click the “publish” button.  Maybe for that reason more than any other, I have to post this entry.