You know, although I am atheist I feel that the Jewish cultural education I got on "God" was about right on. In my particular experience of religious education, God is this unpredictable and often childish character in some rather bizarre stories. Nonetheless, you learn to keep mentioning him in the prayers that come before every meal, in the morning, on Friday nights, when you go to synagogue, and so on - so the term "God" eventually loses all meaning as referring to a particular entity, because it just doesn't make any sense that you would actually pray literally to the weirdo God of the Old Testament. Instead, the word "God" just becomes just the marker of communal experience. Before doing something with the religious community, you pray together. You watch the kids jumping around and the old people creakily getting up and down. You watch the teenagers all huddled up together. You see people dressed up for one another, if it's a holiday. "God" is the way that you talk about your community; "God's" standards are your community's standards, celebrating "God" is celebrating the fact that you're all in the room together, or that you're part of a group of people larger than yourself. Even praying alone is a way to imaginatively tap into that, I think.
When people try to reach out to God because bad things are happening to them, I think they really are trying to reach out to the comfort of other people. And we love you, Ruth, and we're sorry things are so hard right now. Internet hugs aren't real hugs, but even an electronic community is a real community and I know I've gotten much-needed comfort here.
On that theme, http://www.asofterworld.com/index.php?id=483.
I don't mean it in a derogatory way. I mostly just like the word. I could have just as easily used something else I suppose. But woo is fun to say.
But to clarify what I meant by respecting that other people experience the world differently than I do, I mean that I respect those people who believe that stuff and I'll be polite to them and respectful in that I won't make fun of them or whatever to their face or behind their back to other people and I'll behave appropriately if I find myself inside a church or a temple or whatever. And I'll keep my mouth shut unless I'm in a discussion about specifically those issues and I'm asked what I believe. And I'll teach my children to do the same. But that's just basic good manners.
But I don't necessarily respect those beliefs. I don't think that religion/spirituality deserves any more respect or regard than political belief or any thing else, really. And that if respect for that belief is warranted, then somebody better be able to back it up with some actual evidence and good sense. But people do deserve respect and good manners.
I'm probably saying this all wrong, but I really don't mean to be offensive.
I actually find a lot of comfort in that feeling of insignificance as well.
My feelings/thoughts/ideas on religion are so mashed up in my mind that's it's hard for me to arcticulate. I do believe in energy, and believe in God as kind of the collective energy of everyone. I don't believe that our energy ceases to exist after we die, I think it somehow transforms or moves to a different place. Or maybe it stays and we who are "alive" just can't see/sense it (I believe in ghosts too). I don't believe in the power of prayer as a means to an end, but more as a meditation and source of comfort. My prayers are always about taking time to feel grateful ("giving thanks" although not necessarily to anyone/anything) or about seeking peace for myself or others. And I believe in the possible transfer of that peaceful energy.
Some of you may remember my swift departure from that about 18 months ago when Meredith was in the worst of her kidney disease crisis and the specter of dialysis/kidney transplant was looming large and I *completely* reverted to my more traditional upbringing. I begged God, Allah, Vishnu - whoever - to make my baby well. But I recognize that as the emotional response borne out of my fear and desperation and don't think that her progress since then is a result of my desperate prayers.
I do wish sometimes that I could go back to my former beliefs. It was easier to feel certain that my Grammie was in Heaven looking down on me and that God was watching over me to keep me from harm. Isn't that really the genesis of all religion? To help humans understand the inexplicable and to lessen their fear? That's why bad things happening to good people is ultimate contradiction with religion.
Ruth, I'm really sorry that things are so bad for you right now. I will pray for you to find peace.
Mamawho said:I think that as individuals, we're kind of insignificant, but that is a really comforting thought to me.