My Belief in God

I consider myself a Christian.  I’m currently attending an Episcopal church about four weeks out of five.  My political views are a direct response of my religious beliefs.  I believe in God.

After reading that paragraph, most people would think that they know what I believe in.  Depending on the individual person, some would be right and others wrong.  That’s because when I talk about my beliefs, I don’t necessarily mean what others do.  So, I’m going to explain my beliefs below to make them clearer.  Note:  I am not apologizing for my beliefs.  I’m not trying to convert anyone else to my beliefs.  I am describing what I believe.

My interests for as long as I can remember, my academic training, and my current interests are that of a scientist, or at least an educated non-scientist.  I believe that reason, rationality, and logic are the best ways to understand the world around us, and the best ways to make decisions about the right thing to do.  I won’t deny a fascination with non-scientific topics, but overall I believe that the world works along rational, scientific lines.  That doesn’t mean we necessarily understand our universe–it’s big, complicated, and we’re still working on understanding the principles–but I believe that, ultimately, the explanation will hinge on reason and logic.

What does this mean for religious belief?  First, I believe in God; however, I am the first to acknowledge that I can give no logical, rational basis for that belief.  I was brought up to believe in God, it became part of my belief system, and I’ve never seen a reason to change it.  At the same time, I have never seen a logical argument for the belief in God that didn’t have at least one hole in the argument.

I do not believe that Christianity is the only path to a relationship with the Divine.  Although there are differences between different religions, I believe that most, if not all, of them point to the Divine.  Since I was raised as a Christian, that is the path that is most comfortable, but it isn’t the only path and there are others that I also find comfortable.

I do not believe that the Bible is the literal truth, at least, not in its entirety.  I believe it is filled with poetic, metaphorical, ethical and moral truths, but I do not consider it a primary source of literal truth.  If there is a story in the Bible that can be taken literally or metaphorically, and the metaphorical explanation accords with scientific research, I will believe that the story is not literal, but metaphorical.  The classic examples of this are the Creation story (Big Bang and Creationism) and Noah’s Ark .  This has major implications when we discuss Jesus.

I am not sure if Jesus the Christ existed as an historical person.  The New Testament, in and of itself, is not sufficient evidence that He existed, and the other documents typically used to “prove” His existence have issues with them.  The Reverend John Shelby Spong used the term the “Easter Event”; something happened in the middle of the first century of the Common Era.  We don’t know what it was, but Christianity grew from that event (or series of events).  The understanding of a personal relationship with the Divine, and the forgiving of sins to reunite with the Divine, and the social justice from the Old Testament, are the key features of Christianity that arose from then that I follow.

Add to all of this that my beloved spouse of thirty years is an agnostic, and has been one since about twelve.  At the same time, he is a very social person and is enjoying the church we’ve been attending; however, he won’t say what he doesn’t believe, so he doesn’t join in with the prayers, readings, and so forth.  Nor does he go up to the Communion rail, although when attendance is especially sparse and our priest calls us all up to the altar, he does go up and ask for a blessing.  To his mind, as a regular attendee, staying back is ruder than asking for a blessing is inappropriate.  Yes, he has thought all of that out carefully.  For those who ask why he attends in the first place, there are two reasons.  First, in addition to being a believer, I’m painfully shy and wind up in a corner in this kind of social situation where I don’t know anyone.  Second, he loves people in all of their many forms, loves me and wants to support me, and is growing to love the community we’re joining.  He also believes in many of the ethics and morals that the church is teaching; he just can’t say he believes in God or Jesus.

With all of the above in mind, I’m working on two separate projects.  The first one is going through the Bible and explaining, to myself and to anyone else who is interested, the meaning of the Bible, section by section.  The four Gospels have 91 chapters with 3,779 verses and that’s where I’m starting.  The second project is to take the standard things the congregant is expected to say in a typical church service and to try to understand them as a sympathetic non-believer, to try to find a way that someone like my spouse can say them without feeling that they are being dishonest.  I may get nowhere with it, but I suspect it will leave me understanding them better, which is at least all to the good.

So, there you have it.  I know I’m too serious, too academic, overly precise, and more than a little abnormal as a Christian for many of you out there.  But that’s okay.  The Bible tells me, literally, poetically, metaphorically, that I’m a beloved daughter of God/dess, and I’m doing the best that I can.

Blessings to you all.

Religion – Where I’m Coming From and Where I’m Going

My faith journey has been a long and winding one.  Although I don’t know if this will become my permanent home, I have found a place where I fit with no uncomfortable gaps or “stuff” hanging over the edges.  Funny enough, it’s almost back to where I started.

My parents were both Presbyterians, but when they moved to Oakland, Maryland, when I was two, the nearest Presbyterian church was over half an hour away.  Instead, they chose to attend St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Oakland.  Since this is what I was brought up in, it was a good fit for me.  I participated in the life of the church, believed in what I was taught, and was comfortable.  At the same time, I was fascinated by everything surrounding religion; I began a life-time study of the history and doctrines of the Christian religion, and of other religions.

Life happened.  My parents separated and then divorced; I went to college, fell in love, and moved away.  The man I fell in love with (and have been married to now for thirty years) is an agnostic (raised Catholic).  Somewhere, in the midst of all the change and growth, the faith I’d always held no longer fit.  I didn’t belong anywhere and, when I did attend church, at least half the time, my teeth were set on edge by sermons that assumed that only those who believed as “we” did were saved.  The smugness angered me and drove me away.

None of this stopped my need to connect with God, my desire to learn more about the Divine, or to understand about the different ways He is understood and worshiped.  In the process, the more I read, the more I found that the historical basis for the existence of Jesus as he is described in the New Testament of the Bible is much thinner than I had realized.  At the same time, I began to believe that the only way to call myself a Christian was to believe in a specific and literal understanding of the Bible, to be “born again”, to “accept Jesus as my personal Savior.”  None of this fit any longer, and I no longer called myself Christian.

I spent over a decade focusing my studies on non-Christian religions, especially the Neo-Pagan reconstructions.  There was much that resonated with me as true:  the emphasis on the Divine as multi-faceted, as rich, complex, diverse, and ultimately unknowable seemed right to me.  The emphasis on the Divine as female also struck a chord in me.  I grew up during the Women’s Liberation movement in the 1970’s, and the harsh rejection of women as equal that we often see just under the surface in our society meant that the ability to worship Goddess as well as, or even instead of, God was very attractive.  Unfortunately, I am someone who is a little obsessive when it comes to details, and the Neo-Pagan/Wiccan emphasis on magic finally led me away again from this group of religions.

Through all of this, I had continued to look for a place where I would “fit” in.  The fact that, the older I become, the less I am willing to be anything other than honest about what I believe means that wherever I landed, it had to be willing to accept someone who had a non-orthodox view of the Divine, made things more difficult.  So did the fact that my shyness made entering a group social situation more difficult, and my usual help with this, my husband Edward, as an agnostic was even less likely than I was to “play nice” to belong.  I hadn’t figured out the solution; I just knew I needed to find one.

Then came November 8, 2016, and Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency of the United States.  In addition to everything else, I got angry.  As I started articulating my political beliefs, more publicly than I had before, I realized that those beliefs are almost entirely based on my Christian upbringing.  When describing why I thought we should be doing something politically, I found myself quoting the Bible.  So, I reclaimed the label of Christian, with my definition, as one who follows His teaching.

Edward and I had reconnected with some old friends of ours, who are very active in their church.  They invited us and we began to attend, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.  It’s a small congregation, but very welcoming.  Edward can be himself.  He sings the hymns, but doesn’t say the prayers or go to the communion rail, and–wait for it!–he’s left alone to do so.  I’m still getting used to the more liturgical services, but the political emphasis is much closer to who I am.

Which gives a broad overview of where I am now and how I got here.  I plan on writing more posts describing my beliefs in more detail, and analyzing the prayers, creeds, Bible passages, and other things that attract my attention.  Yes, I know this I welcome discussion on any and all, but I insist on good manners.