Friday, April 20, 2007

overwhelming participation

I was really surprised and pleased to see that so many people were interested enough in the topic of the last post to put in their two-cents. It is such a big topic and can be really weighted and that's one of the reasons I wanted to bring it up.

Being raised in the South by fundamentalist Christians, it was pounded into me that everything outside their narrow belief system was evil. If anyone reads Rob Brezny's horoscopes, there was a great example of that in one of his horoscopes this week. He told a story about a fundamentalist Christian woman who had gone blind. When her son found a Buddhist monk who was able to heal her, she was at first excited. But once she realized her healing had not come from a Christian, she decided it must have been evil. She didn't want to be cured by anything evil, so she experienced a relapse and returned again to a world of blindness.

It's a great story and could be many of my family members. My point here isn't to vilify fundamentalist Christians, it's to point out that not only was I raised in this atmosphere, a lot of people are, and for us to question anything for even a moment is really taboo. I think it's so important for those of us who escaped the clutches of such a narrow, paranoid worldview to talk openly about the path we follow. Everyone should feel the freedom to examine her own beliefs without the fear that to simply wonder will doom her to hell.

For me, my realization doesn't imply such a huge leap and doesn't signify an identity crisis, as SCG suggests. I am not suddenly free from worrying about ethics, as if ethics had anything to with god. Morality might be linked to god, but I've always thought of ethics as purely secular, to do with behaving fairly and humanely because you care about people and community, not because you fear the wrath of a vengeful god.

I made my biggest leap when I realized I didn't believe in Christianity anymore, that occurred years ago. I let go of that whole, well-ordered worldview. I struggled with the meaning of life, I still do, and I reoriented myself around a lot of other spiritual ideas. The only thing that lingered was the idea that there was some sentient being out there who was watching me and who would help me if I needed him. This vestige of my earlier religious indoctrination wasn't about judging or punishing me, it was all about scooping me up and saving me from things.

What I finally realized last week was that, even though that belief lingered a long time, it is finally gone. And even though habit causes me to sometimes offer the kind of beseeching prayers I once offered when I was really young, at my heart I haven't in awhile believed there was anyone or anything actually listening to those prayers.

If I wasn't me and I was reading this for the first time, I would expect that feeling to be lonely and depressing, but it's not. I can't explain it. All I can say is that I feel more free and I feel closer to my real self now. I am being honest with myself.

How do you order a life without god? How do you make meaning in this deity-vacuum? For me it's about people. We have to look out for each other, care for each other, tend to communities, etc. I believe in what the buddhists say, that life is suffering. And I believe we should help, even in very small ways, to alleviate the suffering of others. And if we really do die and fade into nothingness (which, by the way, I'm not even going to speculate on), then we should probably try and have as much joy and love in our lives as possible. Otherwise, we will have only had a lonely, miserable experience and we'll have nothing but the dust of our decaying bodies to show for it.


Anonymous south carolina girl said...

i didn't mean to insinuate that you have to acknowledge a deity to be ethical. it's just that for me, the idea of God+Goddess specifically creating each individual uniquely (though they do it through genetics) is what makes me make all my ethical decisions about how i feel about these fertility treatments, and why i feel so uncomfortable about them. that's all i meant, was if i personally woke up and realised there wasn't a god, that would be the biggest liberation for me, is that i wouldn't have to question whether it's supposed to be or not supposed to be, does that make any sense? i can tell you are a very ethical person from reading your blog, and i wasn't trying to put you down at all.

i think it's fortunate for you that you don't consider this an identity crisis, i think i would if it were me, just because everything i think is built on the hope that somebody is out there. i'm happy for you that you feel liberated by your new outlook on the universe. there is nothing more comfortable than knowing what you believe for yourself.

1:54 PM  
Blogger reasonably prudent poet said...

scg -- thanks for what you write here. i worried that the way i mentioned your comment in this post was kind of harsh and i wanted to make sure it didn't feel too nasty to read. i hear what you're saying. and the fact that you mention goddess along with god (certainly not something i was taught back in the day) let's me know that you're on your own journey which also strays somewhat from the path you've probably been taught. good for you. it's all so deeply, deeply personal anyway. thanks for contributing to this dialogue.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous south carolina girl said...

thanks, thank you for this reply. i was worried i hurt your feelings.

you bet i was not taught about the goddess, i found her on my own. my dear parents would go CRAZY if they knew i give her half the credit for inventing the universe!

oh, and i didn't mind you mentioning my comment in your post. I felt honored. I just wanted you to know that i wasn't putting you down in any way.

2:51 PM  

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