Thursday, June 16, 2005

How I Know I Still Believe in God

I was born and raised Episcopalian. A happy accident of my Irish ancestry - though I suppose that means I inherit some shared guilt over Northern Ireland. I’ve never considered myself anything other than this, though I have come precariously close to Buddhism. More in the sense of "in addition to" rather than "in place of". I’ve also never considered myself NOT this, I always have and guess I always will identify myself as an Episcopalian, though it’s been decades since I regularly attended church.

I do, however, have serious problems with "OR" (Organized Religion). I witnessed first hand the personal hypocrisy of too many churchgoers to think that OR does any damn good at all. Many people get caught up in the trappings of a religion, and lose the message. They think that if they get there on Sunday morning, they’re covered for whatever other lousy behavior they display the rest of the week.

This led, quite naturally, to a reconsideration of EVERYTHING, all religious teachings that I had been exposed to. I like Buddhism, and always find it very close to the experience of playing music. But I could never make the full leap into adopting it as a religion. If my gripe is with the structure behind religion, isn’t one just as susceptible to corruption as the next? Though I have to admit the Dali Lama seems less corrupt than the Pope, or I’m guessing the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury.

I intellectualized about the existence of God and the reality of Jesus. I came back to the truth of Jesus’ message. It really does work for me. I often think that if He were to show up in present times, He would re-phrase His message something like this:

"Try not to be a dick."

Of course, He might soften it up somewhat, but the whole "Do unto others" thing can really be summed up in my contemporized version, I think.

I did abandon the Michelangelo image of God as some old white guy with a long gray beard sitting in a big Archie Bunker chair controlling everything. I do, however, continue to live my life as if someone is watching. Keeps me from being a dick. Whatever that force is that set things into motion, that’s God. You know, whoever lit the match that set off the Big Bang, that’s God. That initial energy, that ultimately primal impetus.

I also like Emerson’s notion of the OverSoul. The idea that we’re all connected, not just to other people, but to everything in the universe. A lot like Buddhism. And again, a good reason to not act like a dick.

But the thing, beyond any realization that I still hold onto some "faith", a belief in something I know cannot be proven, and beyond any Cartesian intellectualization on the existence of God – the one thing that tells me that I still believe in God – I pray. When I’m truly worried about something, when a loved one is sick or suffering – I pray. I ask for God’s help. When I lose someone, I ask God to take care of them. When something good happens to myself or those I love, I try to remember to say thank you. There’s no intellectual activity behind it, there’s no calculation like "I better cover my bases, just in case". I simply do it, without thought.

I don’t bother praying about the small things. "Please God, I really want a better job/car/house". "Please God, drop the price of gasoline". "Thank God I've got clean underpants". C’mon, He’s gotta be too busy for that crap. But when those I love are in trouble, I pray.

A simple realization on my part, I suppose. But it was an important thing for me to understand.


At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Thank God I've got clean underpants". LOL

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Joe said...

I reckon' God is big enough to deal with the small stuff (it's part of the job description) & that it's good practice for the big stuff. Anything you want to do in an emergency is something you had better do all the time or you're not going to switch modes in time to remember to do it. So I pray for parking spots & I hope when I pray for my sick friend I'm that much more likely to believe it'll work 'cause the one's for parking spots almost always get an answer (either a spot or a reason why not).


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