Religiosity

Yes, I’m aware the title isn’t a real word. But I like it, so I’m using it. In any case, what I’m writing about right now is my recent experiences with religion and faith, and the realizations I’m coming to about my own faith. In the last week or so, I’ve been going to church with Calla – last Sunday and this Sunday, to be exact. I grew up Catholic, then spent a long time as an atheist, and Calla’s church is a Methodist church, so it’s been an interesting journey.

One of the first things I noticed about Calla’s church is that they’re a relatively young congregation (at least, at the services I’ve been to), and they’re very energetic. For someone who grew up with solemn Catholic hymns and the smell of old incense at church, in buildings most often made from hard stone and bare wood, the Methodist service was practically exploding with energy. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Catholic service, it’s just a very different feel. It was kind of nice, actually, feeling all that energy in the room. I got the feeling that the people there really meant what they were praying for and singing – and the music was much more upbeat, too.

Being at church has had me thinking a lot about my beliefs. I’m pretty sure I don’t fall under the wings of any particular denomination; I’m Christian, but that’s about as far as I can go. Instead, my faith is kind of a grab-bag of things; some deism, some Christianity, some other bits and pieces – I think at one point I was seriously referencing the “Godfellas” episode of Futurama. Essentially, it all boils down to this: I think that there is a god, but due to the immensity of his/its likely power, intelligence, and abilities, there’s no real ability for humanity to seriously understand God, because we just don’t have the perceptive abilities to encompass him. And once God ensured we had free will, and the ability for rational thought, he stepped back, letting us find our own way, and watching as we tried to understand. Eventually, though, God decided that our understanding was important to him, and so he sent a messenger, one very important to him, to act as a conduit for our understanding – that being Jesus. And while we have free will, and God doesn’t often step in to act directly – because that would contradict our free will – we might never know if he does, because, quoting from the aforementioned Futurama episode, “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

For the most part, I think that my particular version of Christianity is pretty chilled out – we’re supposed to be good to the people around us. We’re supposed to give aid to others in need, especially if we have more than we can reasonably use – if I have 600 sandwiches, and you have none, it doesn’t cost me much to give you food, but it might mean the world to you. But we’re supposed to give not for praise or acknowledgement, but because we think it’s the right thing to do. The belief should be matched by works – some effort, large or small, to help our fellow man – because words need to be backed up by deeds for faith to be taken seriously. I don’t know that I feel the need to actively spread my faith – if people are helped by what I do, then that’s good enough. I don’t need to proselytize; if they want to know, they’ll ask. Christianity isn’t a secret, hidden religion anymore – it’s the biggest faith on the planet, even if it is broken up into dozens of denominations.  And my faith is my own; I don’t have, or feel the need to be identified as, anything other than a Christian. I don’t think  my faith has any bearing on the faith of others, either – my beliefs are mine, and given that I can’t possibly know that God is real for certain, who am I to say that my beliefs are right? All I can do is act like a good person, and believe what I believe, and go from there.

As a nerd, this is the metaphor I’ll use. Imagine a computer – one so big that its internal working are so immense that we couldn’t explore them all within our lifetimes, or even affect them in any meaningful way. We can look at the code, but it is billions upon billions of lines long, and in a language so complex that we can’t even start to understand more than even the most basic functions. We can understand that it is some kind of vast intelligence, far more complex than our own, but our communication is limited – until one day, we investigate and find an interface that seems designed for us. It lets us interact with the computer, make inquiries, and try to understand what everything is about. The computer is God, and the interface is Jesus. We still have extremely limited understanding of how things operate, but at least we have a start – and that can help us to expand our understanding on our own.

My views aren’t terrifically sophisticated, but given that I’ve only had my own faith back for a few months, I think it’s a decent start. I still have a ways to go, but it’s my faith. It’s not anything I’m certain of, but then, that’s part of what faith is – I can believe in God, but I’ll never know for certain until I die. One of the things I do believe very firmly is that once you go from belief to certainty, then you have passed through faith and into something different – and that something different is something I often find scary, because absolute certainty is something that only the most zealous people have, and they can do some pretty extreme things because of that certainty.

And hat’s all I have for now. Sorry for the gap in between posts – my move to the receiving room at work has left me less stressed, but more physically exhausted, which is a win in my book, but it means I also don’t always have the energy to think up and then post something here. But questions and comments are always welcome, especially on this topic.

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4 comments on “Religiosity

  1. That’s the awesome thing about Jesus. He is God made flesh. The fullness of God rests on Jesus. If we have seen Christ we have seen the Father. Studying the life of Christ is the best way to understand God.

    ‘In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.’

    Knowing the word of God+knowing Christ= Knowing God

  2. C.J. Penn says:

    Thank you for the open-hearted post. I share some of your history: living on the fringe of the Catholic Church, then an atheist, and finally started to get interested in Jesus. But a surprise for me, after all these years, is the certainty that I am now filled with. And for me, certainty isn’t scary, though I once feared becoming a Jesus freak. Instead I feel certainty about how Jesus wants me to interact with specific people, in a way that won’t scare them away. There’s much more I could say, but my thumbs are getting tired (doing this on my phone). Cheerio

  3. banuski says:

    Jamie, thanks for posting this. I’m curious what (if anything) in particular made you believe again after having been an atheist?

    I consider myself an atheist, and cannot imagine what could prompt me back to a theist position, let alone to a specific religion such as Christianity. Indeed, when I lost my faith it was because in the course of trying to preserve it I went looking for evidence, and found nothing in Christian apologetics or the historical record that convinced me that the supernatural claims of the religion are true, but on the other hand many of the good and positive moral claims it makes aren’t unique to Christianity.

    I’ve actually found in the course of treating my depression and my anxiety that approaching medication, therapy and abstaining from alcohol as a skeptic has served me very well. You may be interested in the following podcast on mental health and skepticism. I know I found it helpful: http://paulsletters.com/2014/09/03/listen-to-this-skepticism-and-mental-health-from-the-thinking-atheist/

    Thanks!
    Paul

  4. […] Along with this, I thought I’d quote from a blog post of mine from last year on faith, since I think it still pretty much applies; you can find the rest of my post here. […]

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