Faith (Not) No More?

I apologize for the terrible, terrible title. And for the lapse in posting for the last several days; work and other activities have kept me fairly busy, and more tired than I would have expected. Plus, I haven’t exactly had a dearth of things to blog about, and thus my silence.

One of the things that has been on my mind lately is faith. I know that I have mentioned in past posts that I am, and have been for some time, an atheist. Despite having grown up Catholic, and even gone to high school in a Jesuit school, at some point during my undergraduate years I lost my faith; I no longer saw the point of believing in a god, any god, because I didn’t feel there was any reason. Now let me be clear – then, and now, I felt that faith was a very personal decision. My loss of faith had no bearing on what I thought other people should believe; I wasn’t anti-faith or anti-religion, I just didn’t feel that it was working for me personally.  For the most part, I still went through the rituals, because I didn’t really want my family to be angry or more worried than they already were, but there was no belief behind them.

I remained that way for a long time. If you think about it, I’d guess that my loss of faith occurred sometime around the year 2000 – that means that it has been 14 years. That’s over a third of my life that I haven’t seen the need for faith in any kind of divine being. Thinking about it now, I’m not really sure what to feel about that; I remember what it used to feel like to have faith – I wasn’t zealous about it by any means, but I was relatively active in faith during my high school years. I wore the cross that I got on one of our yearly retreats for years, and I still keep the Footsteps prayer that I got at my freshman retreat by my bed.

One of the reasons I have been thinking a lot about faith recently is because, shortly before Calla came back to Houston, she found her own faith again. I know that was a great relief to her, because from what she had told me before, faith had been an important part of her life, and I could see how sad she was talking about its loss. Finding it seems to have brought her a lot of stability and happiness – I mean, she went to two church services on Easter. That’s commitment there. I mean, even when I had faith, I found church services pretty unpleasant – bad singing, uncomfortable seats, and general placement at a time of day which I find unnatural, along with often annoyingly depressing and preachy speakers made church very uncool. But my aversion to most church services aside, Calla’s journey back to faith has, I think, put me on the path to finding my own.

It’s been kind of a nagging sensation in the back of my mind for the last few months. I think it all really started when Calla went off to her treatment center, and I got in touch with one of her friends, trying to make sure our support of Calla was as good as it could be. Calla’s friend is quite spiritual, and there were a number of times when she told me that the best thing I could really do was to pray. At first, I was skeptical – it’s kind of part of being an atheist, you know. But there were times when I felt desperate to either help any way I could or to get some kind of support of my own, and so I followed her advice. It was awkward to start, but I have had plenty of practice in the past, and so it started to come back to me. And, while I didn’t really believe for a while, I felt bits and pieces – infinitesimally small pieces – creep back in.

It didn’t even occur to me that something like faith might be returning until Calla mentioned that she had had some luck in finding her own faith once more. After that, I started to put some serious thought into the idea, and even picked up a little reading material on it. I though about C.S. Lewis, at first, but I figured that might be a bit much for someone as lapsed as I am. So instead, I went with something I’ve seen pop up a number of times at work (the perils of working at a bookstore, eh?), a book by James Martin, SJ, called The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. The Jesuit approach to religion and faith has always appealed to me, ever since I was first exposed to them in high school; I know that even though I was in a Catholic high school, the world religions course I took was more comprehensive – and unbiased, oddly – than the courses some of my non-parochial school friends took. The Jesuits are pretty practical in their approach to things, which appeals to me; the start of the book actually has a good joke that illustrates that practicality:

A Franciscan, a Dominican, and a Jesuit were celebrating Mass together when the lights suddenly went out in the church. The Franciscan praises the chance to live more simply. The Dominican gives a learned homily on how God brings light to the world. The Jesuit goes tot he basement and fixes the fuses.”

So, I guess the punchline for me is that after so long without my faith, it took someone else finding their lost faith to put me on the path to finding my own. It’s odd. But maybe they were both in the same place, some kind of metaphysical lost and found. I’m not really looking for advice or anything, but it’s kind of like using a muscle which hasn’t been in use for a very long time, and I doubt that whatever my faith ends up looking like, it will really map well onto any existing branch of Christianity (I figure that’s where I’ll end up, just because it’s familiar and comfortable – sorry, every other religion). It’ll be a long, strange trip, but then I have been on one of those for quite some time.

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