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Faith without Religion


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Faith without Religion

I have faith.  We all do.  In something.
But in what, exactly, I am not sure.  A 'god as I understand him,' (or it)?
Something holds me back from this, perhaps the pain of pride and embarrassment, that I was wrong, am wrong, could be wrong again, perhaps a feeling of betrayal at the deepest level.  Fear that it all will be an elaborate fraud and deception again.  Unwillingness?  Selfishness?  These are the usual answers.
So, what if I just try to let go, set them down so to speak, and choose to believe, on faith, right now, that there is something, someone out there, in here, who ultimately makes has a purpose for all things?
Can I live it?  Does it matter?  Will it help?  Do I have to--can I--give up that assurance, too?
What to have faith in, and how?
Does it require fidelity to believing the Bible again (Church?).
My must I complicate things so?
Are these just elaborate ruses to try to maintain control?  What could it possibly mean to really give up control (and then still go on and do the next right thing, exercising free choice and agency)?
Is this the source of my insanity?
This is kind of a stream of consciousness, but also follows the usual pattern.
It all feels very damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don't.

I want to just place this sacred relationship above all else, put all hope, and faith and trust in it, wrong or right, put all the chips on one number and let them fall where they will.
Something resists.  Something hedges.


I grew up and until about age 33, I was--to label it for shorthand--a protestant evangelical Christian who believed Christ Jesus saved by faith, through grace, as a free gift to those who believed and sought to make him master of their lives.  And I was taught and embraced that it was all about a 'relationship' with God.
 

Finally, and as a direct result of sui cidal depression, I gave it up.  I couldn't handle the self-loathing, flagellation, guilt, feeling and conviction that no matter what or how hard I tried, I could no longer 'make it work.'  There was no peace, no hope, no reality to any of it any more.  I was already sui cidally depressed all the time, for the longest time (years), and nothing I did spiritually or otherwise, put any dent in it.  So, I guess I finally let go and decided to try not hanging on so tight to it.  That precipitated a long and equally painful journey.

The problem was that my worldview, my philosophy, and everything I believe about life, only left two options - nihilism and hedonism, both of which come up empty in pretty short order, and certainly don't provide any answer, let alone antidote to death and hopeless despair.  No meaning lies that way.

Enter an attempt at spirituality, which I have been trying and working at for 10 years or so.  This has ranged from militant atheism to agnosticism, deism, spirituality, and still always wrestling with the need and possibility of a personal god as I understand him or her or it.  "God as I understand it" is a phrase I take directly from the 18 months or so I spent in a couple 12-step programs...which do provide I think a fairly good, workable spirituality for many who struggle--as I do--with the emotional pain and difficulty believing in a personal god, such as from Biblical or other religious traditions.

I am so eternally jealous of those who seem to have found equipoise in a more liberal, progressivel, figurative, symbolic, or less-literalist version of Christianity than I could ever reconcile.

Some wise patrons of the faith, and very learned family and friends I am blessed to know, remind me from time to time, that it is possible to set aside for a moment the truth and belief in God, but for me (and I contend for anyone who treats the inquiry with as much seriousness as it deserves), it is not plausible to question the desperate need for God.  We're dying.  We're suffering.  Then we're gone.  Either there is some meaning, some purpose, some reason, something worth the suffering, some redemption of all things, and for me--some permanence--or there is not.   If there is not, nihilism is right, reason disappears, and the emotional logic of ending pain prevails.  Or the same, and one should eat drink and be merry for tomorrow e die (hedonism).  Either way, sense and intelligibility themselves break down very quickly indeed.

Anyway, I realize how daft and over-analyzed this probably sounds.

 

To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That's what faith must be

When the universe fell from His fingertips
He decided He wanted some fellowship
But the man and the woman would not submit
So He made a better way

When the moment was right, He sent His own son
And He opened the way so that everyone
Could have hope and believe that when time was done
He'd be able to make us one

*Chorus*
To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That's what faith must be

Now I understand that there is a key
It's Jesus in me, a reality
That God is in Christ, and that Christ's in me
That with faith I see what is unseen

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idk that I'm even qualified to comment, but your OP certainly is NOT daft or over-analyzed.  On the contrary, it's one of the most eloquent DF posts I've read on any religious subject.

Full disclosure:  I'll briefly mention that I gave up religion because of those who used it as a cover to abuse me and because of those who use it as a way to continue to denigrate people like me. 

I think the most striking term you used is "workable spirituality."

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Just now, MarkintheDark said:

idk that I'm even qualified to comment, but your OP certainly is NOT daft or over-analyzed.  On the contrary, it's one of the most eloquent DF posts I've read on any religious subject.

Full disclosure:  I'll briefly mention that I gave up religion because of those who used it as a cover to abuse me and because of those who use it as a way to continue to denigrate people like me. 

I think the most striking term you used is "workable spirituality."

Thank you @MarkintheDark.

Wow, that's heavy.  And while I experienced NOTHING like that, I bet there is nonetheless overlap in our feelings/sense of betrayal, anger and maybe even confusion (at least for me) about god and religion.

I'm sorry for the abuse you suffered.

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@gandolfication Wow. What a fantastic  post. I have wrestled with similar issues over the decades but there's no way I could have put my musings/searchings/beliefs as eloquently as you just did.

I grew up as a "mainstream" Protestant (UCC & Lutheran). I loved certain aspects of the church experience--mainly the music (big old pipe organs!) and fellowship. But I always felt like an intruder because of my doubts. I tried very hard to become a true believer but could never pull it off.

At this point, I'm a "Beatitudes" kind of guy. To me, that's the essence of Christianity. Yeah, works supposedly don't save a person but I find the Sermon on the Mount to be a great basis for a philosophy of life.

Maybe I'm a Gnostic. I am certainly not an atheist.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

 

Edited by JD4010
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When Jacob became the leader of the Isralite people - he spent the night on the banks for the Jordan wrestling with what he thought was an angel. At the end of the night, he realized that it was God and God changed him name to Israel. I have always looked at faith (I do not like the term religion much at all - since a religion is institutional and not really personal at all) as a process of wrestling with God. Before the sermon some Sundays, my pastor says something that really resonates with me. He says, the sermon is intended to be a statement of one person's wrestling with the text. I take this to mean something like - "this is what I personally think about what God is saying right now. Fell free not to agree - to be honest - I may not believe this later this afternoon."
 
A while back one of the musicians at my church played a song he wrote that really resonated with me. Where it took me was to this thought - maybe all of the world's major religions have only a part of the truth. The problem is that they think that they have all of the truth. I post the lyrics below if you find them interesting.
 
My point it - anyone that says that they have it all figured out for all time is either lying to you or lying to themselves. Or, they may have come to a termporary conclusion. Faith is not a destination - it is a journey.
 
Mirror
The truth was a mirror in the hands of god
It fell and broke into a million tiny shards
Everybody took a piece
Like it was a priceless masterpiece
Everybody thought they had it all 
 
The truth is weapon in the hands of men
It’s sharper than swords and cuts between the soul
Everybody starts to bleed
Because they have a different creed
Everybody thought they had it all 
 
The truth is broken at the edge of trust
It’s harder than hell to pick up and try to build it back
No one understands the “Why”
And we never really say good-bye
Everybody thought they had it all
 
Everybody thought they had it all
Everybody thought they had it all
Everybody thought they had it all
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2 hours ago, JD4010 said:

@gandolfication Wow. What a fantastic  post. I have wrestled with similar issues over the decades but there's no way I could have put my musings/searchings/beliefs as eloquently as you just did.

I grew up as a "mainstream" Protestant (UCC & Lutheran). I loved certain aspects of the church experience--mainly the music (big old pipe organs!) and fellowship. But I always felt like an intruder because of my doubts. I tried very hard to become a true believer but could never pull it off.

At this point, I'm a "Beatitudes" kind of guy. To me, that's the essence of Christianity. Yeah, works supposedly don't save a person but I find the Sermon on the Mount to be a great basis for a philosophy of life.

Maybe I'm a Gnostic. I am certainly not an atheist.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

 

You're always generous.

I'm with you on the works/actions as the real substance of faith.  And they do make for a compelling philosophy of living...I think all applications of the golden rule, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.  And perhaps also the law of sewing and reaping (or causation).  So they're beautiful.  They're how I've always wanted to live (even though I don't live up to them).


Do you believe the 'if-then' promises of the beatitudes?  Do you really believe, for example, that those who show mercy will be shown mercy, etc.?   
 

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32 minutes ago, gandolfication said:

You're always generous.

I'm with you on the works/actions as the real substance of faith.  And they do make for a compelling philosophy of living...I think all applications of the golden rule, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.  And perhaps also the law of sewing and reaping (or causation).  So they're beautiful.  They're how I've always wanted to live (even though I don't live up to them).


Do you believe the 'if-then' promises of the beatitudes?  Do you really believe, for example, that those who show mercy will be shown mercy, etc.?   
 

I don't live up to them either. Not by a longshot. I'm a very flawed human being.

I'm not sure of the "then" side of the Beatitude equations. Some days things seem to be randomly distributed. The "bad guys" generally "win" in the current existence and the good suffer. Supposedly our reward or punishment occurs in the afterlife. I ain't never been there (that I remember) so I can't say if it's true or not.

Edited by JD4010
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1 hour ago, JessiesMom said:
When Jacob became the leader of the Isralite people - he spent the night on the banks for the Jordan wrestling with what he thought was an angel. At the end of the night, he realized that it was God and God changed him name to Israel. I have always looked at faith (I do not like the term religion much at all - since a religion is institutional and not really personal at all) as a process of wrestling with God. Before the sermon some Sundays, my pastor says something that really resonates with me. He says, the sermon is intended to be a statement of one person's wrestling with the text. I take this to mean something like - "this is what I personally think about what God is saying right now. Fell free not to agree - to be honest - I may not believe this later this afternoon."
 
A while back one of the musicians at my church played a song he wrote that really resonated with me. Where it took me was to this thought - maybe all of the world's major religions have only a part of the truth. The problem is that they think that they have all of the truth. I post the lyrics below if you find them interesting.
 
My point it - anyone that says that they have it all figured out for all time is either lying to you or lying to themselves. Or, they may have come to a termporary conclusion. Faith is not a destination - it is a journey.
 
Mirror
The truth was a mirror in the hands of god
It fell and broke into a million tiny shards
Everybody took a piece
Like it was a priceless masterpiece
Everybody thought they had it all 
 
The truth is weapon in the hands of men
It’s sharper than swords and cuts between the soul
Everybody starts to bleed
Because they have a different creed
Everybody thought they had it all 
 
The truth is broken at the edge of trust
It’s harder than hell to pick up and try to build it back
No one understands the “Why”
And we never really say good-bye
Everybody thought they had it all
 
Everybody thought they had it all
Everybody thought they had it all
Everybody thought they had it all

@JessiesMom,

That's really profound and beautiful to me.

It resonates with exactly what I have been thinking...for a looong time...but can't ever seem to come to any peace with.  That in reality, everyone's understanding and experience of the divine must necessarily be uniquely their own.  Religious systemization, among other things, I think tries to impose an order, to categorize, to reduce to a formula of theology, what is irreducibly ineffable, and not even given to adequate description through language.

Re:  this is what I personally think about what God is saying right now. Fell free not to agree - to be honest - I may not believe this later this afternoon."

I think that is wondrous.  Difficult and challenging, but wonderful.  It violently conflicts with the idea of absolute truth and one narrow path and the binary believe-or-don't exclusivity of the predominant orthodox Christian message.  The tradition I was indoctrinated in, championed absolute truth and infallibility of God/God's word at least (even though not of humans) as integral to his security.  Lip service was given to the fact that no single person or church, etc., had any kind of monopoly on correct interpretation (although supposedly that's exactly what theology was supposed to be about and importantly so).

A convocation speaker I had heard at my pentecostal university once said something I loved:  wouldn't it be great if we could let everyone else's experience of god be as unique as our own?  Yes.  Why can't I seem to do this, myself?  Are my old tapes just that strong?  (Maybe there's some false comfort in thinking I can somehow know I'm 'doing faith right' or something).  Maybe it's supposed to be scary.  Embracing the unknowable seemed exciting as a kid, but always seems out of reach to me.

I've often been troubled by the fact that those who 'hear god's voice' as religious believers are indistinguishable from those who 'hear voices' as people with schizoaffective disorder.  (And as someone with bipolar II and probably certain elements of what we currently call borderline personality disorder, it hits a little too close for comfort).  I don't know if agreed-to fixed reference points from dogma, diminishes or increases this fear.

Maybe it's just me, and I'm such a contorted hot mess that I won't settle down long enough to breathe and just trust, for a moment.

Also, what kind of church to you go to?  I want one.

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2 minutes ago, JD4010 said:

I don't live up to them either. Not by a longshot. I'm a very flawed human being.

I'm not sure of the "then" side of the Beatitude equations. Some days things seem to be randomly distributed. The "bad guys" generally "win" in the current existence and the good suffer. Supposedly our reward or punishment occurs in the afterlife. I ain't never been there so I can't say if it's true or not.

Oh, okay, so your main emphasis in interpreting them is that the rewards are in the afterlife.  If so, that makes sense.  The 'shall inherit the earth" stuff could even mean the 'new earth.'  
 

I guess I tend to be overly literal when it comes to these texts...stupid upbringing never lets go.

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2 hours ago, gandolfication said:

Religious systemization, among other things, I think tries to impose an order, to categorize, to reduce to a formula of theology, what is irreducibly ineffable, and not even given to adequate description through language.

Yes. Another way of seeing it is that God does not live within the same constraints we do - so how can we really hope to understand God.

2 hours ago, gandolfication said:

Also, what kind of church to you go to?  I want one.

The short answer is an urban millenial church (that pastor is in his thirties.) The longer answer is that I actually belong to two faith communities. One is a Methodist church plant. The other calls itself a holistic missional christian community. It was founded by a former Baptist youth minister (Doug Paggit) and a few of his friends about 20 years ago as an attempt to reimagine church. All of the decisions are made by the whole community. As a matter of fact - the worship service was getting stale a while back - so they stopped having services altogether for 5 months and completely re-did the service. (this coincided with the Pastor going on a pre 2018 election nationwide tour with a political action committee he founded called Vote Common Good and the music director heading off to New York to do a play 😉 )

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9 minutes ago, JessiesMom said:

Yes. Another way of seeing it is that God does not live within the same constraints we do - so how can we really hope to understand God.

The short answer is an urban millenial church (that pastor is in his thirties.) The longer answer is that I actually belong to two faith communities. One is a Methodist church plant. The other calls itself a holistic missional christian community. It was founded by a former Baptist youth minister (Doug Paggit) and a few of his friends about 20 years ago as an attempt to reimagine church. All of the decisions are made by the whole community. As a matter of fact - the worship service was getting stale a while back - so they stopped having services altogether for 5 months and completely re-did the service. (this coincided with the Pastor going on a pre 2018 election nationwide tour with a political action committee he founded called Vote Common Good and the music director heading off to New York to do a play 😉 )

church-by-referendum.  Love it.  thanks.

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2 hours ago, gandolfication said:

You're always generous.

I'm with you on the works/actions as the real substance of faith.  And they do make for a compelling philosophy of living...I think all applications of the golden rule, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.  And perhaps also the law of sewing and reaping (or causation).  So they're beautiful.  They're how I've always wanted to live (even though I don't live up to them).


Do you believe the 'if-then' promises of the beatitudes?  Do you really believe, for example, that those who show mercy will be shown mercy, etc.?   
 

Ok - I may not remember this correctly - but we did the beatitudes a while back. If I remember correctly - the spin that we put on it was that they were not really "if-then" kinds of statements - but rather statements intended to flip the existing system on it's head. In other words, in ancient Israel - there was a strong belief that if good things happened to you - it was evidence of your being right with God. So, if you were rich - it was seen as evidence of your holiness. What Jesus said was that God was with the poor, the sad, the downtrodden, the people without power, the prisioners, etc - and that the people who were rich and powerful actually had to work harder to get into God's favor. This agrees with the whole - "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven."

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2 hours ago, JessiesMom said:

Ok - I may not remember this correctly - but we did the beatitudes a while back. If I remember correctly - the spin that we put on it was that they were not really "if-then" kinds of statements - but rather statements intended to flip the existing system on it's head. In other words, in ancient Israel - there was a strong belief that if good things happened to you - it was evidence of your being right with God. So, if you were rich - it was seen as evidence of your holiness. What Jesus said was that God was with the poor, the sad, the downtrodden, the people without power, the prisioners, etc - and that the people who were rich and powerful actually had to work harder to get into God's favor. This agrees with the whole - "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven."

Yes! Another very important part of my world view. Did you ever read the book titled The Upside Down Kingdom? It talked about this very thing.

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3 hours ago, JD4010 said:

Yes! Another very important part of my world view. Did you ever read the book titled The Upside Down Kingdom? It talked about this very thing.

Okay, I swear to God it was somebody else who you must have been talking to.

But what a revolutionary topic and conversation.!!!!!!

 

Anyhow I'm buzzex stoned but.. . I love what you're saying.

I think it's a deeper level of truth than a more profound message to be sure.

Love you brother.

Nope I have not read

The Upside Down Kingdom?

Edited by gandolfication
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 I have this strange experience that keeps happening to me.

For a long time I have had a great affection for animals.  I remember that as a young boy I found a butterfly with a damaged wing and took it to a veterinarian I knew so that he would "fix" it and make it all better again.  And I was sad when he told me that he didn't have either the knowledge or the capability of fixing it.  I always would try to walk without stepping on ants that were walking below me on the sidewalk.  If I saw an animal in trouble, I would try to help it even if it was a beetle or spider. 

But the weird thing is this.  When I am feeling really bad, an animal will come up to me.  One Christmas I was very low and sitting outside in the dark and a frog jumped up and sat beside me.  Once a lizard came up and sat beside me when I was feeling awful.  This happens so often that I cannot force myself to regard it as a mere coincidence although of course that is very possible.  I have always thought that someone created all this.  And so it seems to me as if someone out there is giving me a little kiss, so to speak when these animals show up and sit down next to me.  Maybe I am wrong.  I have been wrong many times in my life.   But it seems odd to me that prey animals would approach me and just sit or stand next to me for the longest time.

Truth is very important.  I mean that not only in the philosophical sense, but in the ordinary sense that getting things wrong can jeopardize our survival.  And I think a lot of people, in their better moments, have a kind of overt or covert respect for truth.  I have met many people of different faiths and many people who are agnostics, atheists and even anti-theists.  But what they all seem to have in common, at least in their best moments, are a passion for the truth.  They are all united in a conviction that Truth is important and so it seems that no matter in what form they seek it or see it, they are all seeking the same thing.  I also have noticed that a lot of religions identify a Supreme Being with Truth.

I was doing some research on bugs and I learned that a lot of bugs have a kind of anti-freeze in their cellular fluids that enable them to survive the winter.  But some bugs don't have this.  When winter comes, that's it for these bugs.  Sometimes I will find a cricket or lady bug in my house.  These bugs probably come inside to get out of the cold or because they can sense food inside.  This year I have made little enclosures for them.  They have all survived the winter and I plan on releasing them soon.  I feel a deep bond with living things as though I am really connected to them, rooted in them, so to speak.

I have a hope that in some way, some part of me will survive my own mortality.  But even if that is not to be, I am happy to have been here on the earth.  My life has been expensive to the animal kingdom and to the kingdom of microbes.  So many creatures have perished so that I might live and they have not perished voluntarily.  Someday it will be my turn. 

Civil laws do not permit this, but if I could, after I am gone I would like my body to be thrown out into the desert so that animals and microbes could finally get their calories from me . . . kind of my way of saying "thanks" to the universe.  Since I can't do that, I am thinking of giving my body to the university medical school or be an organ donor.  Not sure what organs of an old man could be usefully harvested from me.  lol. 

Probably none of this makes any sense.

 

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@Epictetus - you should look into green burial. I think that there is also some kind of thing where you can have a tree planted where you are buried. There are many options out there. 

I totally believe that the animals could be someone out in the universe giving you some comfort when you need it most. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 😉

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18 hours ago, JessiesMom said:

Ok - I may not remember this correctly - but we did the beatitudes a while back. If I remember correctly - the spin that we put on it was that they were not really "if-then" kinds of statements - but rather statements intended to flip the existing system on it's head. In other words, in ancient Israel - there was a strong belief that if good things happened to you - it was evidence of your being right with God. So, if you were rich - it was seen as evidence of your holiness. What Jesus said was that God was with the poor, the sad, the downtrodden, the people without power, the prisioners, etc - and that the people who were rich and powerful actually had to work harder to get into God's favor. This agrees with the whole - "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven."

I think I do remember this now. (sorry my memory is not as reliable as I'd like it to be these days).

So Jesus was upending another paradigm of shallow and false religiosity of the day, with deeper meaning.

But don't you still then find the beatitudes, the way they're written to be--at least to sound--misleading?
The ones promising to 'see god,' and 'inherit the kingdom of heaven,' are one thing, but I look around and observe and I guess I don't see those who mourn, being comforted, or the meek inheriting the earth in any way, or those who love righteousness, being satisfied, or the merciful obtaining mercy themselves.  Unfortunately, I see mostly the opposite.  I do not see justice or grace in the world.  If the meaning is limited to a cosmic afterlife (which I don't think it is, since the other verses make that clear in contrast), then it doesn't have much relevance to this life to me.  It's cheap and easy to promise rewards in a hypothetical afterlife.

I have this nagging, gnawing suspicion and belief really, that I probably view this as cynically as I do, due to my attitudes, experience, and the negative worldview I have developed over time.  I don't want to.  I hate it.  I try to be different.  Its hard.  And at the same time, I think I'm reflecting the real evidence I see all around in the world.  Just visit a news website to see that lack of justice, grace, mercy, benevolence, etc. is the order of the day.

Anyhow, I'm kind of venting as therapy here.  

I just ordered this book called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

It has a section focused on cultivating and trusting faith, (and letting go of anxiety and perfectionism).  Should be a good read.

I hope everyone has a good Friday and weekend!

 

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

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12 hours ago, Epictetus said:

 I have this strange experience that keeps happening to me.

For a long time I have had a great affection for animals.  I remember that as a young boy I found a butterfly with a damaged wing and took it to a veterinarian I knew so that he would "fix" it and make it all better again.  And I was sad when he told me that he didn't have either the knowledge or the capability of fixing it.  I always would try to walk without stepping on ants that were walking below me on the sidewalk.  If I saw an animal in trouble, I would try to help it even if it was a beetle or spider. 

But the weird thing is this.  When I am feeling really bad, an animal will come up to me.  One Christmas I was very low and sitting outside in the dark and a frog jumped up and sat beside me.  Once a lizard came up and sat beside me when I was feeling awful.  This happens so often that I cannot force myself to regard it as a mere coincidence although of course that is very possible.  I have always thought that someone created all this.  And so it seems to me as if someone out there is giving me a little kiss, so to speak when these animals show up and sit down next to me.  Maybe I am wrong.  I have been wrong many times in my life.   But it seems odd to me that prey animals would approach me and just sit or stand next to me for the longest time.

Truth is very important.  I mean that not only in the philosophical sense, but in the ordinary sense that getting things wrong can jeopardize our survival.  And I think a lot of people, in their better moments, have a kind of overt or covert respect for truth.  I have met many people of different faiths and many people who are agnostics, atheists and even anti-theists.  But what they all seem to have in common, at least in their best moments, are a passion for the truth.  They are all united in a conviction that Truth is important and so it seems that no matter in what form they seek it or see it, they are all seeking the same thing.  I also have noticed that a lot of religions identify a Supreme Being with Truth.

I was doing some research on bugs and I learned that a lot of bugs have a kind of anti-freeze in their cellular fluids that enable them to survive the winter.  But some bugs don't have this.  When winter comes, that's it for these bugs.  Sometimes I will find a cricket or lady bug in my house.  These bugs probably come inside to get out of the cold or because they can sense food inside.  This year I have made little enclosures for them.  They have all survived the winter and I plan on releasing them soon.  I feel a deep bond with living things as though I am really connected to them, rooted in them, so to speak.

I have a hope that in some way, some part of me will survive my own mortality.  But even if that is not to be, I am happy to have been here on the earth.  My life has been expensive to the animal kingdom and to the kingdom of microbes.  So many creatures have perished so that I might live and they have not perished voluntarily.  Someday it will be my turn. 

Civil laws do not permit this, but if I could, after I am gone I would like my body to be thrown out into the desert so that animals and microbes could finally get their calories from me . . . kind of my way of saying "thanks" to the universe.  Since I can't do that, I am thinking of giving my body to the university medical school or be an organ donor.  Not sure what organs of an old man could be usefully harvested from me.  lol. 

Probably none of this makes any sense.

 

The bond and communion you have with animals is beautiful.  (I'll pretend I understand it even with bugs).  I used to have cats that would do this, but that's normal.  Some of my pet theories I've read about relating to quantum connectedness and information theory, and a few other ways, do strongly suggest there are ways we are connected and can communicate beyond the 5 senses.  (There are a couple very good Invisibilia NPR podcast episodes on this). Animals undeniably do this.  It's the way a school of fish moves in unison, a flock of birds too.  There are other senses we don't fully understand.  People have some of this too.  It's the phenomena displayed in things like phantom pains and tricks where a carnival performer (or someone) can pretend to smash someone's finger which ends up being on a fake hand, but the person has a physiological reaction.  These are weak examples.  I believe in the fullness of time, we will find many more and deeper connections throughout all things.  We are all stardust.

 

People do have a strong--what seems unavoidable--penchant for truth-seeking.  Even if they also have an impulse to want to hide or shrink from, distort, or deny certain truths, we are drawn to it inexorably.  There is a belief in christendom, that Truth is at some level, self-authenticating, meaning I suppose that it actually seeks us out.  It does in the end, doesn't it?  Reality prevails, regardless.  I studied a bit of natural law in my academic and early practicing days, and wrote a law review article applying it.  One of the authors I studied under, titled one of his books, What You Can't Not Know, a reference to the fact that there are certain truths--moral truths in this case--written onto our minds (or 'hearts' if one likes).  We all know it is wrong to do gratuitous harm such as to take innocent life without justification.  We don't even need to be told or shown it.  The tabula, is not in fact truly rasa.  And these main natural law truths are universal everywhere, in all times and places.  No anthropological oddity dislodges them.  I opened the paper, quoting Confucius, Analects II. 16, "The Master said, he who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric."  For me, it meant, that there is only 1 truth.  It is definitional.  Truth, knowledge, all of reality, is a seamless web.  In the end, there are no contradictions.  Many times, I wish I did not believe it.  But non-contradiction is a very stubborn thing.  Even more so than something like the law of causation or gravity, it seems everywhere and impermeable.  And as soon as you try to contradict it, you fold in on yourself and can't move forward any more.  People run from it, but it overtakes them.

I am saying this with a sigh, some part of me knowing that trauma almost certainly led to my repressing and suppressing certain truths I would probably be healthier if I could identify, accept, and embrace.  I am not sure if I know how to disentangle the lines of what truths are important properly basic beliefs versus those that aren't and are unimportant distractions.  But I suspect this is a deliberate distraction.  I try to figure out and confront what it is I must be so afraid of accepting.  It inevitably breaks down into a torturous vicious cycle I don't understand or can't overcome.  And I don't see any good coming from it.

Hence, the book above I'll read.

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14 hours ago, Epictetus said:

Civil laws do not permit this, but if I could, after I am gone I would like my body to be thrown out into the desert so that animals and microbes could finally get their calories from me . . . kind of my way of saying "thanks" to the universe.  Since I can't do that, I am thinking of giving my body to the university medical school or be an organ donor.  Not sure what organs of an old man could be usefully harvested from me.  lol. 

@Epictetus

The FBI has a body farm where they study forensic science. Corpses are placed in various ecosystems - sand, woods, in the sun, not in the sun, and allowed to decompose. You can donate your body there, too. You might contribute to the little bugs and help save lives at the same time. 🙂 

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I don't know why, but I experience religion and spirituality much different than most. You're all so eloquent with words to describe these ideas. I'm a feeler. I'm nonverbal most of the time, a quiet person. I force myself to talk more than I want to because life is easier that way. I like the community the church provides, but in practice, I prefer to experience God, which is why I like meditation so much. I also struggle with the blood and guts part of Christianity, although I am Christian. I gravitate toward the positive and comforting parts.

I'm reading Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado, and today's reading describes my experience of God perfectly.

"She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which means, 'God is with me.' (Matthew 1:23)

The white space between Bible verses is fertile soil for questions. One can hardly read Scripture without whispering, 'I wonder...'

'I wonder if Eve ever ate any more fruit.'

'I wonder if Noah slept well during storms.'"

🙂

I like to think God is fun and has a sense of humor. I love the way the Bible repeats over and over, God is with you. God is with us...

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15 hours ago, Epictetus said:

 

I have a hope that in some way, some part of me will survive my own mortality.  But even if that is not to be, I am happy to have been here on the earth.  My life has been expensive to the animal kingdom and to the kingdom of microbes.  So many creatures have perished so that I might live and they have not perished voluntarily.  Someday it will be my turn.  

Probably none of this makes any sense.

 

Actually, it makes perfect sense. I edited paragraphs out of your post here (obviously). But I feel the very same way. My stay on this planet has been very expensive to other living organisms. I used to raise beef cattle and hogs. It's astounding how wasteful "raising meat" is. And then you have to k i ll the animal in order to eat it. In the usual way of doing things here in the US, it's an assembly line process. The animals get raised in a confined area then get shipped off to a slaughter house. They often have terrorizing deaths there.

At one time, our ancestors killed wild game to eat. In those days, we gave thanks to the spirits of the animals for allowing us to eat them. Now, animal flesh is merely a package that you pick up at the grocery store.

I was a part of this process for years. It makes me feel sick to think about it. I want to become a vegetarian but haven't managed to quite kick the meat habit altogether.

Edited by JD4010
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@gandolfication - the way I see it, Jesus was foreshadowing how things would be when the Kingdom of Heaven was here. I have heard the Kingdom of Heaven be described not as some kind of afterlife, but rather as a way that life could be lived in the here and now. Jesus wants us to work to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the here and not by being his hands in the world. So, it is our job not to worry about what happens after we die - but to live by these rules now. From this perspective, these are not things that will happen without human action. We are to comfort the mourning, give food to the hungry, give water to the thirsty...etc. This fits with what he said about when we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, and so on - it is him that we are helping.

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