Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Faith and Loss

Judaism doesn't really focus on the afterlife.  The Torah is primarily intent on instructions for the here and now, though it does propose existence after death, so most of what Jews believe regarding future punishments and/or rewards has been extrapolated by biblical scholars through the centuries and is open to personal interpretation.  Essentially, though, Jews don't ascribe to heaven and hell in the same way that Christianity does: in Judaism, the souls of the righteous dead ascend to a higher state of spiritual perfection in which they learn the secrets of the scriptures, and the souls of those who did not earn this transcendent award through their actions while alive are subjected to a punishment/purification processes after which they join the righteous with God.

To be honest, I'm not sure I entirely believe this.  I do buy it over Dante's version of the afterlife, which seems a bit histrionic but which has been adopted by millions of of people of all faiths who perhaps haven't spent as much time in church/temple/whatever as they could, and I prefer it to most biblically-based Christian beliefs, be they Catholic, Protestant, or anything in between.  However, I hypocritically do love the liturgy of the Requiem Mass and find many settings - the Mozart, Fauré, Duruflé, and Verdi are generally the most popular - to be incredibly powerful.

I've talked a bit on this blog about my own brand of faith, but what I haven't shared with you, dear readers, is this: I want more.

I want more faith.

There's a blog I read obsessively - I won't name it here because it doesn't seem appropriate given that I am not exclusively saying nice things - that is so firmly grounded in faith that it blows my mind.  Even when the blogger isn't overtly discussing her evangelical Christianity, it clearly directs her every action and thought.  She overwhelmingly believes in the love of Jesus and unequivocally places her trust in God.

At the beginning, in all honesty, I mocked the blog and its 12,000 followers.  (Yes, you read that right: twelve thousand.)  I saw this woman's adherence to her religion as irresponsible, maybe even cowardly; that kind of blind faith seemed naïve to me.  How could you put your happiness in someone else's hands and be convinced that everything will turn out alright?  How could you yield the power to make decisions about your life and be confident that whoever is in control knows better than you?

It took me a few months, but eventually I realized that the snark that reflexively flared whenever I read a new post wasn't really rooted in any fundamental disagreement - it sprung from a total lack of understanding.  I realized that I couldn't comprehend how anyone could believe that wholeheartedly in anything, tangible or otherwise, and it scared me.  So I sat myself down for some introspection, and discovered further that it wasn't simply that I didn't understand that kind of faith or that I was afraid of it, but that I was jealous of it.

You've read about my Jewish upbringing and my concurrent immersion in the culture and beliefs of the Anglican church, but what you perhaps haven't ingested is that I don't truly profess to believe wholeheartedly in any religion.  I maintain that it's not necessary to agree with the tenets of a single faith,  but I am learning that it is incredibly important, if you don't ascribe to one official belief, to create your own.  Cut and paste if you want and/or make it up as you go along, but have faith.  I don't yet, not entirely, and I'm desperate to.  I don't know if finding faith will provide any clarity or answer any questions, but I know that it will comfort me through times of trial and I know that it will release me from some of the stress that I place on myself.  Having faith - real, overwhelming, mind-blowing faith - takes amazing courage and strength, and I want more.


  1. However,...even if the faith you make up is simply to be the best person you can be, that's OK too.
    I don't have a faith in a God, but I know that I am at heart a good person (with occasional lapses) and it doesn't worry me at all that I don't attend a church or a temple.

  2. SO true. I don't think that faith has to be in a higher power at all. It's amazing if you can have that faith in yourself!

  3. Ok, one of my favorite quotes about faith and worship is David Foster Wallace's:

    "In the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship –- be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
    If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough...Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly...Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out."

  4. Girl. We should talk. I've had very similar discussions with myself and others...


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