“Spirituality has always confused me. I see it as people making up whatever they want to believe and then believing that. Can anyone who considers themselves spiritual shed some light on this? Is it that you dream something is happening and therefore it is?”
So wrote a curious woman in the comment section of today’s “The Daily” newspaper app.
Of course the question presumes that spiritual people start off as blank slates, and then decide to build their belief system from the ground up. I don’t think it’s an accurate premise, as none of our beliefs, or behaviour for that matter ever starts from a void. We are all of us products of our environment, our upbringing. Our worldview is further enhanced through education, observation and experience.
To suggest that one person who considers himself spiritual can adequately speak for all such “spiritual but not religious” people is equally inaccurate, as each spiritual man has a different set of experiences and observations. However, this spiritual man can certainly speak for himself.
I think it’s fair to say that, absent an adequate explanation (solar eclipse, aurora borealis, earthquakes, rainbows and the horizon of an ocean), mankind has always allowed his mind space to invent “facts” which have then morphed into religion and beliefs. I also think that the idea of religion provides for safe boundaries for those who would otherwise become overwhelmed with the seeming arbitrary randomness of life. Religion provides structure, rules, authority, community….it even provides artificial enemies which in turn serves to strengthen the bonds of community.
In many cases, religion becomes the arbiter and judge for behaviour, thought, processes and direction – both personal and organizationally.
As time goes on, and mankind discovers more actual facts, the basis for religion begins to fail, and so we see the results today, where more and more people are leaving the religious community. But why is their faith – why is MY faith – intact? Why do we still believe in God?
One answer would be that we still haven’t arrived at an explanation for what’s behind the curtain. We certainly have some educated guesses: our discovery of theoretical physics, which include quantum physics, string theory and the like speaks to some likely probabilities. Yet, that’s all they do. Even the Higgs boson (or God particle) experiments, astounding as they are, do not yet account for the supreme engine. The “why?” of existence. The notion that everything is random doesn’t adequately explain the bizarre probability factors. We still see some semblance of design.
Specifically though – in my own life – there is all kinds of evidence of a loving overseer who for some curious reason seems to prefer that I figure out a lot of this stuff on my own. I can only see in retrospect some patterns which defy randomness. Paths which only become clear when looked at historically, never future.
While religion and the Bible formed the basis for much of my younger self’s beliefs, I’ve found reason to put them away. Religion was there when I needed it – particularly when growing up in a violent household – but now I find it limiting. Religion, you understand, prefers that I don’t think for myself, or that I reach conclusions only in keeping with its constant drone of acceptable dogma. It wants me to remain within the beehive of religious consciousness, where everything “not bee” is considered an enemy of the hive. My belief in deity breaks out of that myopic thinking, preferring instead to encompass a world-wide acceptance and appreciation of humanity.
I still believe in God, therefore, because of personal ad hoc observations – something which can’t be qualified by others, as it is entirely subjective. My belief however does not suffer from the ridicule of others: it merely sits, content, with no need to defend. It has no need to proselytize either.
In fact, my belief appreciates those who don’t think as I do. More than appreciation, there is an active value of them.
Christopher Hitchens was, in my opinion, one of the greatest logical minds ever. I felt sorrow at his passing, and I found resentment at not being able to attend a debate between himself and Tony Blair in Toronto during the last year of his life. Christopher didn’t believe anything like I do – but now I find that it wasn’t necessary that he and I agree. I approached a love of him mostly because of his honest querying and objections. That’s the thing: his honest intellectualism. How can you fault a man for that? And his intellect was absolutely amazing.
The God I believe in has liberally distributed His DNA to mankind at large. The result is that He has created thinkers, architects, singers, scientists, Hindus, religious people, atheists, construction workers, mechanics and doctors, each with unique abilities and outlooks. They are all, in my opinion, different facets of His mosaic. Different sides to the diamond. The studious mathematician, who is socially awkward and insistent upon boring details, performs a function that I could never in a million years emulate (or want to emulate). His value is beyond measure. As is the concert violinist with his Stradivarius, playing Mozart with enough passion to bring tears to the eyes.
I think the God I believe in loves it all. The music, the passion, the intense attention to details, the math. I think all of that is likely an extension of Him, in some way or another.
Someone said “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Just so. For Christians (or any other religious folk) to try and qualify their beliefs through the application of perceived facts is an exercise in futility. The moment verifiable facts come into play, faith takes an exit. It must. The two are as alike as apples and orgasms.