just me?

I desperately wish I knew more. I am learning everything I can about physics and evolution and natural selection, and I love it. It’s fascinating when I have time to plow through it. But philosophy? Gag me with spoon. It is quite a conundrum to be exploring my questions about gods and faiths and the universe, and I am avoiding philosophical arguments like the freaking plague. I just really don’t like philosophy. I never have. 

Also- side note, could some please organize the internet better. I am having trouble finding the good information.

religion vs. faith

Whenever I talk about my belief questions with a select few people, I am reminded to separate those two things: religion and faith. Faith is personal, it is the quiet interior of your belief practice. While religion is the man-made structure or organization that creates the rules, gathers the money, and declares the wars. I get the difference. I understand why people want to separate the two. As a believer I was very outspoken about how religion was not my cup of tea. I preferred faith and the personal, self-defined system of beliefs that I had decided on. Ah but there’s the rub.

I may have had my own faith, my own system, and my own personalized structure of beliefs while I was attending church. But I was still in the church. I worked for the church! I was a part of the organization. I was clearly in the religion. As much as I did not want to call myself a Christian, (because of the way people would perceive me) I was still a Christian! What about people who believe but don’t go to church? Well, do they believe in God, the God of Abraham? Do they identify as Christians? Even a weird, vague, watered-down version? Then they are in the religion.

I think aversion to being part of the system is partly due to our American individuality coming out. We all want to be individuals, originals, unlike anything else, special. And we are in many ways. And in many ways we aren’t. And when someone decides that they believe even part of a system of beliefs, that has been decided on by a group, and called Christianity, then they are part of the religion.

Some Christians seem to think that if they are odd or different or outcast enough, then they are no longer part of the system. They have the impression that by not “being religious” they are not participating in the system. I thought the same thing. And I was wrong. Being a believer, even if you are a different kind of believer, automatically puts you into that club. Whether you like it or not. People might chafe at being in the “in crowd”, but that doesn’t make it less true. And rest assured, if you are in, someone else is out.

I am not sure why this bothered my suddenly. Maybe the fact that I saw myself buying into this disordered thought process. Maybe it’s the prevalence of it. But when I am trying to be bluntly honest with myself, learn more about the world and how it works, and put names to things that I have never bothered with before- I really want to see other people taking a more rigorous look at what they are saying. I don’t want others to buy into comforting half-truths, or self-delusion- I want them to be thinking critically about who they are and what they believe. And if it is still Christianity- okay. But just be honest about it. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you are a rebel when you are part of a hugely powerful organization.

love

I know it’s been a while since I posted. Life is crazy.

I told my best friend (who is a pastor) that I was questioning my faith. Her response was a bit better than the one I got last time. She asked me a question that has had me thinking. She asked why I love my children. At first I thought she was looking for a biological explanation, so I gave her the reason why we have emotions, etc. That wasn’t what she was looking for. So I described their character and habits and all the things that make them fabulous individuals. That wasn’t what she was looking for either.

She wanted to talk about the gut feeling- the compelling, mother-y, indescribable bond that we feel towards our children or loved ones. Once I understood that was what we were talking about I said I couldn’t really explain it outside of the biological explanation I had given before. She didn’t seem to find the mechanics of how to be a good enough origin for what she feels. She told me that she feels that the depth of those emotions are evidence of God.

I am still chewing on it. I have never, even as a believer, ascribed my emotions to God or anything other than biology. I wonder if people have the impression that their love will be made smaller without God in it? I wonder if I think that? No. I don’t. Because I have been questioning God for months now, and I am still fiercely in love with my kids. I am fully committed and in love with my husband. I treasure my friends and family.

Doesn’t the lack of a deity make it all more precious? I still feel compelled to help people better their lives, even though I might not name this feeling as a “calling.” I do not think the emotional richness of my life has suffered since I began to question faith. Am I wrong? Is God in disguise? I don’t know.

In the end, she was very sweet. She said that life is a journey and that she knew God would be on it with me no matter where I went. Which is nice. 🙂 I think that if there is a God, he will be fine with me reading Dawkins and critically examining my beliefs. And if he’s not, then he’s probably not worth believing in anyway.

Shrinking Women Vid

This is amazing. She beautifully depicts the way that women pass down their coping mechanisms. The way we pass down our criticisms. The way we pass down our critical image of ourselves, our insecurities. The way we pass down family roles and rules and societal expectation. Amazing.

It makes me wonder what was passed down to me. And what I am passing down to my children.

my de-conversion and marriage

That title is not nearly as catchy as the famous ‘Love and marriage” but I couldn’t think of a better one. I have been binge listening to The Thinking Atheist podcast again. You can find them here or on itunes, http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/podcast/index. 

I am listening to one now that is hitting me hard and I am going to seek out more blogs and podcasts on this topic soon. I have mentioned my family situation rather non-specifically before I think, but just to be clear: I have had a hard time believing all my life. I have believed out of fear, I have barely believed in anything at all, and I have brushed this aside thinking it was my fault for questioning something that other people found so easy and obvious. Finally, a few months ago I had some realizations that are causing me to question the faith I held, but more importantly to research the things I had based my faith on. I have started to form some conclusions about what I not believe to be true. In a few days my beloved husband of almost 11 years will be home from a year long deployment in Afghanistan. And he will be coming home to a wife who no longer believes in God. To put the icing on the uh-oh cake, he is working towards becoming a pastor/chaplain. Yeah.

I have not told anyone besides one family member about this blog. I have only discussed my changing views in vague ways with a couple of people (one of whom tried to save my soul, awkward, short story in a previous post). Due to our family situation I have not shared these questions and this process I am going through with my husband. But when he comes home, there will need to be a conversation. I am not worried that it will cause an irreparable riff… not usually anyway. But I am worried about how it will affect him and us and our family and how we raise our children. 

I hear atheists talking about “coming out” to their families and spouses a lot. At first, I was bothered by the language since I was accustomed to it being used by the LGBTQ community. But facing the moment where I have to lay my ideas bare and be vulnerable… I think this is a pretty accurate description. Will he read this blog? Will he be bothered by the Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris books I have laying around the house? How long should I put off the conversation? Should I blame it on grad school texts and clients I have worked with? Should I just lay it out as soon as he notices? I don’t know.

Two complicated individuals who are constantly changing will have to flex some more in order to keep our relationship together. Issues about careers, parenting, and ALL of the views and ideas that have changed will have to be addressed carefully and thoughtfully and… oh boy. Luckily, I believe that there is hope even without a deity. 

semantics

Faith vs. Trust

Loss of faith vs. De-conversion

What you say matters every bit as much as how you say it. I have noticed subtle (and not-so-subtle) shifts in the way I speak since I have begun to question my previous beliefs. Even that sentence holding the words “previous beliefs” indicates that I no longer hold them… which is true… but still a little awkward to admit. Although it feels more honest (which is a good thing), it also feels too honest (self-disclosure = eeeeep!).

These two examples are specifically interesting to me. The first one came up in a “The Thinking Atheist” podcast that I was listening to yesterday. Faith and trust are not the same thing, though we seem to use them interchangeably with startling frequency. “I have faith that my relationship will last.” Well… probably not. If your relationship has given you any proof that it will not collapse at the first sign of trouble, if you have overcome any (even small) hardship in your relationship, then you have something tangible to trust in. Those occurrences have given you a past history or a reasonable expectation that gives you an assurance to trust in. The concept, or the meaning, or the implied intent of the word faith, is that it is based on something totally unknown or magical or unproveable (unproveable is not a word). If there is something concrete to back up your “faith”, then it seems to me the word you are looking for is trust. Very different.

The second one- Loss of faith vs. De-conversion. This is a big one for me, the reason I wanted to write this. I think it is important to remember the impact that our words have. To remember the emotional response that people have to our words that we may or may not intend. Why do you think the the anti-abortion movement started calling themselves pro-life? Because it sounds more positive to say you are “pro” something as opposed to being “anti” something. People like that better. I feel the same emotional reaction to the words “loss of faith.” That just sounds negative to me. It sounds as though I am somehow deprived. That I have misplaced something precious, or that it has been stolen from me. This is just NOT SO. 

You cannot be angry at something that does not exist. You cannot lose something that is not real. Perhaps “loss of faith” might be an acceptable way to describe part of the journey that I have gone through. But it is not an all encompassing descriptor for the change in my views. I have gone thru this process of questioning and searching and ultimately I think the best way to describe it is de-converting. 

Think before you speak. Words are so powerful.