Discussing Faith and Religion (Caution: Contents May Offend You)

WARNING: May possibly offend you and disagree with your particular views of faith and religion. Despite my request you read with an open mind and in the spirit of open exchange,  you choose to read on after this point at your own risk.

This post has gone through a fair number of revisions as I try and make more sense of my own beliefs and explain my own walk down the path to the Divine, the Creator, God, the Powers that Be. I debated whether or not to post this and decided that, for better or worse, I am gonna post this and pray it was the right choice. I worked hard to make it less inflammatory, less in-your-face, and more… I don’t really have the best word for it… kind? General? Polite? Uhm… tactful? I really don’t know. Nicer, I guess. No matter what I say or how I say it, this is a difficult and touchy topic.

I don’t try to offend you and am not offended that you may have a different point of view. Let’s give and take and learn together when our beliefs clash, when our paths cross, and as we continue down the road to our faiths.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear right now. — I respect that other people have different points of view. I understand that there are people in the world are “close-minded” (some by their own admission) and only believe what they believe. I know that there are people that believe there is nothing divine. I know there are those who believe everything is divine.  That is okay with me.

I actually enjoy debates and discussions on points of view, it helps me learn and come to understanding the divine. Perhaps I learn how my understanding is flawed, or not quite what I thought it was.

HOWEVER, I do not pick on a person’s beliefs, tell them they are completely wrong, or make fun of them. I may ask difficult questions and pose my beliefs to them, but that does not mean that I am dissing them or tearing them down. Our points of view may be completely different, or exactly the same. If I disagree, it is just a reflection of a difference in beliefs.

I come into a conversation knowing that it is okay to disagree. Open Exchange is what I am aiming for in those discussions. I am sorry it makes people uncomfortable, but if you are not comfortable with open, possibly debate-like, deep discussion that may call your beliefs into question it is not my fault.

I am still young, still forming my opinions on religion and faith, and will tell you my opinion in what is ALWAYS open exchange of ideas and beliefs. We may disagree, but it is all part of learning and growing. My parents have been very encouraging, the know it is important for me to try new things and come into my own understanding of God and my own religion. I think they would prefer I return to the Roman Catholic church in the end, but would even more prefer that I am faithful.

It is a long walk with many different points of views influencing me. Balancing what I learned in theology classes, religion courses, and history classes, and what I learned in my catechism in its various forms is very difficult.  I was raised Roman Catholic, have been introduced to the Native American belief systems of different tribes, and have listened to people discuss Paganism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, and all sorts of “isms” along my road. Many of these conversations have left a mark on me… Probably one of the strongest marks was left by my childhood, but my education has left another strong one.

As I said, it is a touchy topic for most anybody, and point of view can be annoying and clashes with a number of people’s ideals.

Below are a few things that I think about when thinking about Religion and Faiths. Most of this is based on Christianity, though, since that is what I have the most interaction and experience with.

The first thing I think about is definition. Here are the definitions I will be working with in this post.

Faith is the belief in something or someone (or nothing) that does not require proof to exist. This can include all sorts of elements that are spiritual and ritualistic without being associated with a particular religion. Or it can be the core tenant of a person’s religion.

Religion is the organized structure of a group of people with a particular set of shared beliefs, rituals (some of which are repetitive), rites, ceremonies, and taboos. Despite the fact many religions do have it, religion can exist without faith.

One of the other things I think of when discussing Christianity is that the Bible has been altered. I have read this in multiple Religion classes in my Christian-founded schools, and heard it from a number of religious scholars, so I am leaning toward it being true. “Books” have been added and removed throughout time (this is where we get the apocrypha, books that were taken out of the Bible at some point in time or considered “unfit” for certain versions). That is my only issue with living a life where you are taking every word as black and white, it is hard for me to wrap my brain around or do when it has been altered by human hands. Perhaps by divine inspiration or intercession God told people that it needed altered, but I really can’t tell if that is how it happened or not.

And there are so many interpretations and translations from the Hebrew (and Aramaic, and Greek….) that I feel like perhaps things were lost or misunderstood. It reminds me of its own story – the Tower of Babel – where the meanings are lost because the words are scrambled.  Perhaps some stories are like faery tales – stories designed to impart a particular lesson though not every detail is exact (this is just a supposition for the sake of argument, I doubt it is a book of faery tales). Idioms and messages may not be as clear as they should be and may have been mistranslated or misinterpreted.  don’t read these older languages or understand them, but some words have different meanings depending on context, different nuances, and can have four completely different English words.

Here is something to ponder: there are two different versions of the creation of the world, one in which God creates Adam in “his” image, then Eve; and the second story wherein God creates man and woman in their image. Does the latter denote a second aspect of God? The possibility of more than one? Or that God is everything, and therefore is man and woman? Is this a translational error that has been perpetuated? Why are there two stories?

This is mostly an interpretation issue, but there is also a possible translation issue as well.

However: I do believe that The Good Book holds truths and messages that are important to living a good life. There are many, many things in the bible I agree with, and some things I do not.  It is a good book with a good message and I try to live by a good deal of it’s teachings… I just can’t live by a word-for-word idea of it.

Thinking of how the interpretations are used and Churches, it seems like the “rules” change depending on interpretation, location, and societal environment.

The “rules” and “way things should be” change even between different churches of the same religion. I have been to Catholic churches a lot. Some are much stricter than others and still only play the older styles of hymns and insist people wear certain, proscribed, “modest” attire. I have seen churches where they reach for the divine using modern music (which I have seen older ladies scoff at and exclaim over and call “Devil’s music”) and don’t care what you wear so long as you are, in fact, clothed.

When my mother went to church as a girl she pinned doilies and tissues in her hair (when she didn’t have any other head covering) because you did not go to church with your head uncovered if you were a girl. That may explain why my grandmother tended to wear hats to church… now that I think of it. I thought she just liked hats.

I remember fighting with my mother when I was a teenager, saying I didn’t want to wear dresses to church because I didn’t like dresses (and other girls at church didn’t have to)… she said we had to dress our best on God’s day.  I countered with “But isn’t every day God’s day? And why does he care what I am wearing?”

Still a thought I have today. God sees us all day, every day. With how many times the calendar has changed, how do we really know what God’s day really is? Perhaps it is really every other Wednesday. “On the seventh day, God rested.” Which calendar do we follow for that? Some people say Saturday is the Sabbath, others Sunday.

Perhaps it is perception and interpretation changing. But is that going down the path of the Devil? Or is it adapting religion for the here and now?

Speaking of the Devil… God created the devil. God knew when Lucifer was going to fall, it was all in the great plan…

Yeah, I don’t want to be branded “evil,” I don’t like the idea of going to a place where I will be eternally damned (though if to be damned is to be away from God, isn’t purgatory a branch of hell?), I don’t like the idea that I would be lumped in with people who murder, rape, and abuse. But I have to wonder… if you do believe in the Good Book… don’t you have to come face-to-face with the fact that the devil is a part of God?

My mother suggested I read Psalms 139 today… in more than one version I read it said that God loves me even if I “made my bed in hell” or “walk in hell.” That he still will love me, and that he will walk with me. God knows exactly what I am going to do (so doesn’t that mean he knows when person X will murder person Y and go to hell?), what I am thinking and going to say… Does that mean he needs a little evil in the world?  Perhaps like making cider, a few not-so-perfect apples make the sweetest mix? Or a touch of vinegar? Or like how you need just a bit of something sharp or bitter or sour to make a soup really tasty.

Another thing I think about? Religion. Yeah, it is broad. But here is the thought… religion was created by man to understand the divine. The Divine (God, The Creator, The Nothing, All the Faces of God, etc, etc) probably lent a huge hand to creating it. But there are so many. There is the structure, the set of beliefs held by the whole (or the majority), the one unified thought. There are rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, things that are evil and sacred items, prayers and mantras, things you say and don’t say. There are taboos and musts. But they are all very different.

Some people say there is only one God. Some say there is one God with many faces and names (frequently mistaken for multiple gods). Some say there are multiple different deities. Really, it is difficult to say. Are those all competing “gods”? Or does the divine just appear to different people differently? I would assume God speaks the language of the people that he talks to, or it would be very difficult to get your point across.

I think I have trouble with the structure. You must worship God by doing this, this and this. You can’t do that, that, or that because it is evil or unclean (to some people eating pork is unclean, seafood, beef, etc… because different things are sacred to different people). You cannot try X because there is nothing in the structure of the religion that says you can… but there is nothing that says you cannot. There are a billion different rules, different evils, different goods.

If you ask me, I think the structures have gotten rather controlling. Some structure is good, but too much makes it so you have people that are just going through the motions because they have to. Their hearts and minds are elsewhere, nowhere near focused on the divine. Not in the least. Having prayers is a good thing, having words to say, things to believe in, morals and strong values and ethics… those are all important. (Not that I agree with all values – there are some that I disagree with.)

I guess it comes down to purpose of that structure. The purpose of religion and faith is to align yourself with the perception of good, to not be evil, to feel a sense of support and community, and to interact with the divine. These are important things for us wee human animals. They give us something to relate to. They give us guideance and help us. They help us feel warm and surrounded by loving people who share you beliefs. But perhaps it is better to be faithful and place your heart and mind in the Creator than follow a particular religion and just follow the motions, as some people do. Or perhaps you need the structure of the religion to help you in your faith journey, to guide your feet and help you find your path.

Though sometimes I miss the community aspect, I choose to be faithful over religious.

Below are some of my opinions. There are some the things I don’t believe, and some of the things I do. You do not have to agree with these beliefs or believe them yourself. I will still love you even if you brand me heathen and say I am going to hell. ;P (That was a joke, by the way.) Or want to debate with me about it, that is cool, too.

I do not believe that there are foods that will send me to hell. Food is food, really. I do not believe that I have to avoid certain people because of the decisions that are made for them or situations they are born into. I do not believe that Christianity is the only path to God, that the divine relates to different people in different ways. I do not believe there is only one way to address, understand, or be linked to the Divine. I do not believe that only XXXX will go to heaven and all other religions and beliefs are damned.  I do not believe that Christ died just to save the Christians. I do not believe that God cares what you are wearing (God created you naked and said you were perfect as you were, he doesn’t care if you are wearing pants, a frilly dress, or your birthday suit. Shame was learned, not given by God). I do not believe you should be horrible to someone just because you disagree with them or dislike their ideas about God and the Divine. I do not believe that the Bible is perfectly word for word in any translation, and words and their nuances are difficult no matter what. I do not believe that God loves men more because they are created in his image and women are the after-product and thus are inherently evil. I do not believe that women draw men into sin because they are spawns of the devil (see the inherently-evil statement above). I do not believe the following things will send you to hell: enjoying the company of others that are not crystal-pure, sharing different points of view and religious beliefs (nor do I believe it taints them), that any one societal norm of clothing and gender is the one way to dress or live (sex is different than gender, by the way!). I do not believe that God hates the devil (see God creating the devil, that all will be one when all is said and done).  I do not believe that the Divine hates you or me. I do not believe that you reading this or my reading your responses will send anyone to hell. I do not believe I will go to hell for having an opinion.

I DO believe in one Divine Being, who appears as different sexes, genders, creatures, numbers, and ways to different people. The Divine approaches each person on a level he or she will understand. There are things the Divine knows that I do not. I believe animals, plants, and other parts of the earth have life and a soul. Yes, I think there is a doggie and kitty heaven. I believe that there is an agreement between our perception of animals/plants and ourselves for food and that the Divine is okay with the fact that we need to eat. She/He/They/It feeds the things we eat, too, in the various forms those nutritious bits need. I believe that prayer helps, that the Creator listens. I believe there is a greater plan. I say my rosary because it is comforting and the prayers are soothing and bring me closer to my idea of God. I smudge my house and myself because I think there are bad things and evil spirits in the world and the sage (and incense) help good thoughts and prayers to banish or deter said evil spirits and bad things and help deliver my prayers and thoughts to the Creator. I believe that there are people we can ask to help our prayers reach God’s ears, but that I do not bow down to or pray to those specific people (example, Mary Mother-of-God). I believe that one aspect of God died to show people their sins and how to atone. I believe that the Divine loves me for who and what I am. I believe that you should try to help people, even if said people hate you for any number of reasons. I believe it is okay to believe different things, that the Powers that Be will love you for who you are. I believe that real love is pure and the Good smiles on real love. I believe in Prayers, Good Thoughts and Best Wishes. I believe that caring for others is how things should be.  I believe that you should be able to openly exchange different points of view and religions and that is how it is intended to be. I believe your God is just as important as my God, and that I am not bowing to false Gods by saying that. I believe that the Divine created people as they were, and if he didn’t want them to be as they are, he would not have created them like that.  I believe that society influences religion, but should not dictate how religion behaves. I believe that everyone is allowed their societal norms (even if I disagree with them), and that the Divine will be the judge. I believe I should stop having unkind thoughts, stop thinking ill of other people, and that the Creator still loves me despite my shortcomings (though I am still working on things!). Being silly and light-hearted never killed anyone. I believe the Bible has good morals and lessons and is an excellent reference book for life. I believe God is serious about his care and love for his creations. *I believe that when God created the world he infused it with lightheartedness and humour, and if he doesn’t take everything so seriously, why should we? (Have you seen some of the animals that exist? Such creativity. See how God created us? God has quite the sense of humour!)

Prayers, Good Thoughts, and Best Wishes to you, whomever you are and whatever you believe.

Sincerely faithful and a blend of religions,
~Nikki

P.S. How do you categorize yourself?

*Edited: 2.27.10 – I realized that my last bit about God and his lightheartedness read wrong the way I wrote it… So I have edited it to better convey my meaning. The Creator is not laughing at us, he laughs with us and gives us things to laugh about, be lighthearted about, and love.

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About N B

Artist, critic, friend, and rambly-ponderer.
This entry was posted in Family, Friends, Life in General, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Discussing Faith and Religion (Caution: Contents May Offend You)

  1. Andrew says:

    Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
    What doe it matter if my neighbor says there is one God or one hundred, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
    Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
    ~ Thomas Jefferson

    I believe in my family motto “the lord helps those who help themselves.”
    I believe that God gave us free will, and his know-it-all son Lucifer is trying to disprove his father’s wisdom – he will fail, the Lord is allowing him to learn this.
    I believe that we are naked before our Lord at the end, that there will be no one to testify on our behalf and that God does not accept resume’s or references.
    I believe that the Lord was correct in his admonition “to all things in moderation” and that this nullifies the don’t-eat-that instruction.
    I do however believe that science is proving the wisdom of the scriptures every day, from the beer that cured the early diseases (contained tetracycline), to the new research into foods for each blood type (not one of the four blood types gains any benefit from pork).
    I believe that God is always with us and doesn’t interfere, he wants us to show him honest love and be as clever as we can be, for these things make a father proud.
    I believe that spirituality, founded on faith, is much more important than meeting each week at a building to compare clothes – God’s temple has appeared in vast mountain vistas, the empty horizon of the ocean, and refracted color through a prism.
    I believe that if you are honest, especially when no one is watching or will pat you on the back, that you are fulfilling God’s work – virtue is its own reward.
    Finally, I was visited by our Lord (through his Angel) when I was dead, he laid his hand upon me to send me back to my body – his promise has been true ever since; “it will not hurt for long, and you still have much to do in this world”.
    I hope you feel my sincerity here,
    Love and Peace,
    Andrew (aka Dad 2)

    • N B says:

      I could have sworn I typed a response to this comment as soon as I read it last night, but it appears that comment has disappeared into the ether…

      Anywho, I read your comment and am very excited to have someone share their beliefs sincerely in the spirit of open exchange. You definitely add your unique perspective.

      I have to say, I am also glad that you were sent back to continue on with life. You are an important person to so many people and play a pivotal role in the world around you. 😀 And you are loved!

      The quote kind of baffled me, though. It definitely resonates with me and strikes a cord. I know it is supposed to impart knowledge and challenge me to think. I have been thinking about it since I read it and pondering the meaning. The only thing I am uncertain of is if it is supposed to be some sort of agreement or disagreement with the message or spirit of the post. Perhaps you can help explain to this still-learning young lady…

      Thank you again for your comment!

      Prayers, good thoughts, and best wishes,
      ~Nikki

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