Friday, December 23, 2011

Inspired by Harrison: My Spiritual Evolution

Harrison has a great article over at Capitol Commentary today about how Obama zealots are similar to Jesus zealots.  I encourage everyone to read it, as it inspired me to explicate how I've evolved over the years in my beliefs on spirituality.  Some of this might rehash some things I've already covered, but I think there will be enough new content to keep you interested, or at least get you thinking.

As my profile thingy says, I grew up Catholic.  All 12 years of my school, 16 if you count the fact that I went to a Catholic university, were spent in Catholic school.  I went to St. Anthony's for grades 1-8, and St. Francis De Sales for high school (for those of you who are at all familiar with the North End of Columbus).  At St. Anthony's, they made all of us go to mass once a week, usually on Fridays if my memory serves me correctly.

As compliant as I can be, I've got a bit of a defiant streak in me, so when I feel something is pointless or ridiculous, I'm apt to voice my opinion on how dumb I think it is.  In any religion, the person is told what to do: how to live their lives, how to worship, what is right and wrong.

Why am I told that I have to go to church?  I always complained when my mother made us all go to church on Sundays, because she knew we had already gone once on Friday.  "You're supposed to go to church on Sunday," she told me.  That wasn't an adequate explanation for me.

My dad's side of my family are Protestant, Baptists many of them.  When I was in 7th grade they started taking me to their church, Genoa Baptist.  Needless to say, it was markedly different from what I was used to.  The structure that I had grown up with simply did not exist.  The big thing that stood out in my mind was that the people there didn't seem like mindless drones going through the sitting and kneeling motions.  They actually, truly believed in God, and they felt God's presence.  For them, life wasn't about service or being penitent for one's flawed human nature, but rather loving God and accepting Jesus as their savior.

I admit that it put me through a spiritual whirl.  I questioned my faith in the Catholic church, and I even considered converting at one point.  There was so much about Catholicism that seem inherently flawed to me.  I ended up not converting, because I felt a strong sense of loyalty to my mom and the tradition under which she had raised me.

Fast-forward to the near present day, it was not long ago that I realized why I had such a crisis of faith.  I realize now that the teachers who were supposed to teach us about the Catholic faith at St. Anthony's were not theologians, and were probably not qualified to teach us about the intellectual nature of Catholicism.  It wasn't until college that I discovered the idea of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.

It's important that I did, because it was just the other day that I came to quite a big conclusion: I never felt God's presence, I don't feel God's presence now, and I highly doubt that I will feel it anytime in the future.  That's why I couldn't convert, because even then I felt like I was missing something.  Lots of people feel that way, that there's something missing in their life, and then they find religion and are suddenly fulfilled.  That's not the case with me.

I don't pray.  I don't "commune" with God.  I don't even believe that God's presence is a real thing, because an ethereal being cannot possibly be felt or perceived by our crude senses.  I often doubt whether or not God exists.  And this is why the Catholic faith is good for me, because I don't feel that God exists.  I feel nothing.  I believe God exists, because I've reasoned that he probably does. 

I think that's a much stronger faith, because it's not dependent on lies or kidding myself.  Feelings change easily, from day-to-day, and I'll never have to fear the day that I don't "feel" God exists, because it's already here.  I think there are many more people who don't feel that God exists, but I think few are willing to admit it.  They just put it deep down inside, and lie to themselves and everyone else.  I'm not comfortable with lying to myself.

Faith should not be a feeling.  It should be a decision.


manapp99 said...

Of course God exists....he lives in a tube in Cern. Though he has been very very clever in hiding by becoming so small, we are on to him. This is why no one has seen or heard from him since the days of old when he took some of Alices potion and hid. One wascally wabbit that God dude.

Harrison said...

Interesting. The religion in which we believe I'm convinced has more to do with what our parents taught us than anything else. If your mom was a Manichee then that's probably what you'd be.

Silverfiddle said...

What a damning indictment of the Catholic Church...

KP said...

I was just watching a special on the History Channel. It's named "Proving God". It is a 2hr documentary of man's attempts to prove the existance of God by leg work in the field and within science. CAT scans show chemical changes in the brain that are isolated to the frontal lobe are make it clear this is the center of religious and spiritual experiences. As well, they have isolated what they call the "God Gene". This gene is not present in everyone but it is present in all people of faith or who are spiritual. Those who have the gene are able to understand and feel God _or_ are succeptible to believing in God or a Higher Power. It makes sense that God would want man to be able to understand Him and believe. It is becoming more and more clear that we cannot separate science and Faith. They seem to be intertwined. The people with this gene also live their lives with a tiny bit of chemical in the brain that acts like psilocybin which we all know has been used for thousands of years in spiritual ceremonies.

KP said...

I don't what to think about a God gene that predisposes one to spirtuality.

But I get this:

Jack Camwell said...

Well played KP =)

I felt like I was running out of space, so I didn't fully explicate how I felt about the Catholic church.

I came to realize that all the ceremony and "rules" really are just traditions. There's nothing wrong with tradition, as it can help frame how one approaches God and the unknown.

The Catholic Intellectual Tradition is what stopped me from becoming an atheist. It's not about feeling, it's about reason. Faith and reason are not opposed, and that's what gets me through all the doubt.

I was too young to understand what the Catholic church means, and the people that taught me about it from 1-8th grade were morons, not theologians.

Silverfiddle said...

OK, now I understand. Very well said. It is about using your God-given light of reason. Read stories of the saints. They were not on fire and happy 24/7. Most tell of long periods of dryness where they felt God's presence not at all.

Jersey McJones said...

I'd be careful with the History Channel, KP. It can be fun, but it's also a popular venue for a lot of popular mythology.

You do point out something interesting from that show: Yes, regions of brain light up on scans when people feel spiritual, ie. in what we feel as a higher state of understanding.

You don't have to be religious or believe in any God to feel spiritual. I've had many spiritual moments in my life and yet have never believed in God, or at least not in God as any religion has described God to me.

I was raised lapse and only nominally Catholic, but with Catholic sensibilities just the same, and I did attend some Catholic school.

Some of the many theological elements of the Catholic Church seem anachronistic, but they are valued as traditions, as reminders of the deep, two thousand year old history of the Church. Protestants do not share these traditions intentionally - to make the Church seem antiquated, to break away from it, without really arguing the theological positions.

I have explored Protestantism and Catholicism, and found Protestantism was always about convenience. It's easier to have salvation with grace alone, to have a flock without approval of a higher body, to throw out two thousand years of theology and just make it all up anew as you go.

Even the ostensibly spartan tenets of Protestantism, like the "Work Ethic," are convenient for some. And that get's to the main reason we even have Protestantism today: People wanted power they coveted from the Church.

Long before the Reformation (or "Revolution" as the Catholics see it), the Catholic Church had become a political/spiritual global behemoth, with a monopoly over the religion of the entire West, secured in the halls of power throughout.

It took a major sectarian revolution (along with many, many horrific wars) to undo that, but were it not for the Church's dependence on and desire for political power, there never would have been impetus for such tumult in the first place. It was the Church abusing and being used by political power that laid the ground for that mess. The truly theological differences that caused all this, were always and still are just rhetorical devices.

Hence yet another tale of the dangers of intertwining of church and state - and of religiosity in the first place.


KP said...

<< You don't have to be religious or believe in any God to feel spiritual. I've had many spiritual moments in my life and yet have never believed in God, or at least not in God as any religion has described God to me. >>

We completely agree, JMJ. Like I said "I don't (know) what to think about the God gene that predisposes one to spiritiuality".

As a reminder, if I (personally) believe something, I will flat out say it and defend it, and I will have more than the History Channel to back me up. Still, as you say, the show was fun and interesting. Especially if one has the loco gene (VMAT2) or has used magic mushrooms :-)

Anonymous said...

God is Love.
God is Truth.
God is Principle.
God is Intelligence.
God is Beauty.
God is Spirit.
God is Soul.
God is Life, itself.


So, it's very helpful to have a clear idea of who and what God is.

If you believe in Love, you believe in God -- whether you choose to call Him "God" or not.

The use of "Him" is a convenient but essentially irrelevant concept. God is SPIRIT and Spirit is sexless, yet it is the thing that ANIMATES our existence.

SOUL is different from Spirit in that it defines the INDIVIDUALITY and CHARACTER that SPIRIT brings to life.

If God is Truth, Truth is Beauty, and Beauty is grounded in Intelligence and Principle, the stern precepts enumerated in the Bible become great deal easier to understand - and a great deal more palatable as well.

Once we begin to understand God from a metaphysical basis, existence becomes far easier and less problematic.

Salvation comes from knowing, loving and abiding by TRUTH. Remember always that God IS Truth, and you can't go too far wrong.

Fight the good fight with all of thy might -- just be sure you know what you are fighting FOR.

Negativity does not exist in the Kingdom of God, which IS within YOU -- whether you choose to believe it or not.

Best wishes for a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

~ FreeThinke