Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Believe

We're back on the topic of broadcasting faith, dear readers, and I'll preface this post with the end of what I wrote on Tuesday:

I’m going to publish an “I Believe” post.  It’ll be the kind that talks about faith – real faith, the faith that doesn’t necessarily have a definition but that makes me who I am and directs my hopes and fears.  And it’s going to be a little scary to share that with you because, like I said, I feel sometimes like I’m alone in not having a distinct community of people who believe the same things I do.  But I’m going to publish it anyway and I hope that it encourages you to talk about your faith, too, if you haven’t before, no matter if you belong to an organized religion or not.  I know that each one of us gets to a place where we are comfortable sharing these things in our own time, but I’d love to read if you are!

Please do share your own "I Believe" thoughts in the comments below if you're comfortable; regardless, I'd love to know what thoughts this post (and the other responses) inspire.  You're a wonderful group of people and many of you have been here for a while, so it goes without saying that I expect the conversation to be respectful but I absolutely do encourage different angles.  Please consider this a safe space and help me keep it one.  And finally, as I replied to Jenna earlier this week, this is some (but not all - I've limited myself to 10 points here) of what I believe now and I hope that my beliefs will continue to evolve throughout my life.

The Hand of God, Auguste Rodin; cast in bronze 1925
Rodin Museum (Philadelphia)

I believe in one God.

I believe that science and faith in God are not mutually exclusive; that they coexist and they illuminate each other and that when we make further discoveries in the scientific realm we are engaging in spiritual exploration as well.

I believe that there is no one right way to define or worship God and that we all do so in a context that best fits and/or explains our understanding of the world around us; as Rousseau said, "God created man in his own image and man, being a gentleman, returned the favor."

I believe that God doesn't care how we define or worship him as long as we are kind, loving, and generous to those we know and to those we do not know.

I believe that God loves us so much that he will let us make decisions that hurt us rather than impose on our free will.

I believe that God is too immense to dictate to us about morality; that he trusts us to construct our own from love and hope and faith in all people.

I believe that any organized religion can be a force for good or for evil.

I believe that fundamentalism is dangerous no matter what name it gives itself; that extreme and exclusive dogma is counterproductive to true faith in God and in man.

I believe that while the details of my faith should (and, hopefully, will) evolve over time, no one can undermine it by believing something contrary or contradictory.

I believe that questioning is a sign of confidence, not weakness, and that every time we reaffirm our beliefs or reconstruct them to reflect our changing consciousness of the world around us we glorify God and the power and autonomy with which he endowed us.

What do you believe?

45 comments:

  1. Jessica Manning-GarnerMarch 21, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    I agree with you, and applaud you for putting it out there. I love what you say about how a person with different beliefs doesn't devalue your own. So true. I believe that God calls us to be loving and full of grace not judgmental and full of hate. Great post!

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  2. thank you, Jessica! I love the language of God "calling" us - it's not an order but the opening of a door, you know?

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  3. I love this! In the end it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you respect that others can believe what they want. If only more people could understand that!


    I don't know if I believe in God in the typical sense, but I do believe there is something bigger out there. I guess I think of God as being everything. He's what makes the universe tick. I also believe that the "typical" God (the one people pray to) is a social construct created to fill a void. So for me there's a disconnect between the the God that created everything and the God that's there listening to your prayers and guiding you. Although I guess if God is everything, then he's the energy/force inside you, which ultimately you'd be calling upon when you pray. Does that make any sense? haha, I kind of have an idea of what I believe, but it's hard putting it into words! Believe it or not, this little exercise actually helped me a lot. Apparently although I've given my beliefs some thought, I've never really defined them.

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  4. I am in total agreement with you on God & religion not being mutually exclusive! My biology teacher in high school once said that biologists are among the most religious of scientists, and it was her belief that it was because everything, everything biology was so complex and so intricate that there could only be something higher and more powerful to explain such natural perfection. In turn, I found out later through my major, it seems historians are among the least likely to be religious (my belief is that this stems from the study of people in loads of wars, frequently over religion). I don't know...I am just totally down with this post altogether.


    I also believe that fundamentalism can be dangerous in any religion, and that religion can be a force of both good and evil. I've seen religion really uplift people and create these beautiful communities, but I've also seen overly-zealous religious people really ostracize and push people away from those same positive communities. It's all about perspective, and remembering that we're all a common humanity that deserve respect and to be treated with dignity; measured by the goodness we choose to put forth, rather than what we do to worship.


    Thank you for sharing! :)

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  5. Betsy, I have seriously been falling in love with your blog over these past few posts I have read. I would totally be real life friends with you :) To be perfectly honest, I don`t *know* exactly what I believe... if that makes sense? I agree with almost everything you said, but I`m not sure if I could have written it myself so perfectly & confidently, because I would have been thinking, hmm, but do I feel like this *all* the time?! Thanks for sharing!

    Some Snapshots Blog
    Jess

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  6. I found the bit about biologists and historians very interesting, Kim. Certainly food for thought... I would initially assume the opposite.

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  7. Georgia ChristakisMarch 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    I am Orthodox Christian, and this is what I believe. http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/creed


    Our creed has not changed in over a thousand years, and while I believe I have been blessed enough to be born into the true faith as laid down by Christ through his apostles, I hope I am never so arrogant as to assume that a person of any other faith, whether Christian, muslim, Jewish or something else, would not go to heaven simply for not being an Orthodox Christian. Thank you for sharing your beliefs, Betsy :)

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  8. Georgia ChristakisMarch 21, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    my boyfriend is a physicist and I was shocked and also impressed to learn he is a Christian. anecdotal evidence, I know. As a medical student I find it hard not to believe in God when you look at how our world has evolved; what I find hard to believe is that this- the earth, the flora, fauna and all the humans living in it- could get to this state that we are in now simply by chance. Thanks for sharing the interesting facts, Kim :)

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  9. Wow... I love this post, Betsy. I have struggled with religion in the past few years, although I was raised in the United Church of Canada. I think I allowed myself to become too influenced by how others were defining religion and their beliefs. But in this straightforward post you have fleshed out what I believed as a child and young teen. It's brought it all back to me; what I loved about church and God and faith in the first place. I feel like you whipped the blanket off my bed after I've been sleeping for way too many hours! (Does that even make any sense? Hmm..) So thank you for that.

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  10. love this all, thanks for sharing, Betsy. I'm not entirely sure if I still believe in god (or a god) anymore but if there IS a god, I fully agree with your thoughts on being kind, loving, and generous. THOSE are the beliefs of my "previous religion" that I still use to define myself. And your 7th and 8th points ring so true (to me, at least). I wish that more people took the time to think, and mediate on those thoughts.

    Thanks again for allowing the space for us to share, think about, and question our beliefs, and faith. Respectful honest discussion is so vital for topics such as this! xoxo

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  11. Your point #4 is something that has been in my mind for most of my life. If Jews, Muslims, and Christians all worship the same God, how does each consider the other two to be so horrendously wrong? But then I've never really understood the "I'm right, you're gonna burn in hell" rivalry between Catholics and Protestants, either- and it seems like there has even been some clashing between Protestant denominations.
    I don't know if it's because I don't follow a particular faith or because I'm not competitive, but I just don't understand the vehemence behind declaring those who are so similarly minded but not quite the same "wrong".
    And #8, YES. So dangerous, both to others and to oneself.


    This is lovely. Thank you.

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  12. I love this post. I hope I have enough courage to work through what I believe in such a clear way-- it's time I start to put words to my faith!

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  13. That's always how my biology teacher put it too - even as a hardcore Darwinist, it's hard to understand something as complex as even the human eye and not believe some power guided it there! I'm glad you had the same reaction as me though - it seems counter-intuitive, though on further thought it seems so logical!

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  14. ah yes I can see that! my MA focused on medieval Christianity and it definitely provoked a lot of skepticism - I was shocked when I studied how the creed (the official "I Believe" of the Church) evolved through decisions made by contemporary Church leaders rather than any specific word of God. but every time I see a sunset or a newborn or - well, anything from nature or biology that I don't truly understand, I think that even though there are scientific explanations for these things there must have been something mystical involved, too.


    thank YOU ladies :)

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  15. This view is so refreshing! Thank you for sharing :)

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  16. so your use of the phrase "He's what makes the universe tick" made me think of Deism - have you heard of it? It's a theological argument from the 18th century that defined God as the Great Watchmaker, who designed and created the world and then sat back to let it work on its own. I kind of like that idea :)


    but YES what you say about God inside you totally makes sense! and actually it's why I have real trouble with religions that say you can't talk directly to God but have to go through an intermediary. I think that if he really did make us, he'd be part of us and we'd be able to access him, you know?

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  17. I have to say that I'm thrilled that you commented and identified as a specific religion - I was a bit afraid that no one would! Thank you. So I have a question - is it possible to live according to the tenets of a church (like the Greek Orthodox Church) without belonging to the community and therefore still be considered a part of the faith? I don't know if that's a question you can answer and probably every church would answer differently, but it's always something I wondered. Does there have to be self-awareness in order to belong to the community?

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  18. oh THANK you! this means a lot to me - it does make sense, and I'm really honored. I think it can be easy to succumb to peer pressure when people are talking about religion, but trying to clarify for yourself can be really refreshing. it was for me at least :)

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  19. Yes, I have heard of Deism! I remember in high school learning about it and thinking it sounded interesting. I'll have to read up more on it.

    I have trouble with religions for that reason too. It's the same with people who say you can't practice a certain religion unless you attend their services. What difference does it make where you pray, worship, etc? If God really is everywhere and always listening, then it shouldn't matter where. That's not to say that everyone should just skip out on services, because I understand there are other benefits, but I don't think they're the only solution.

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  20. Georgia ChristakisMarch 21, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    I'm not a theologist, but my instinct answer to your question is no. Here's why: to say that you belong to the Orthodox Church (or any church, for that matter) is to say you are a member of the body of Christ (this is how Orthodox Christians around the world see themselves- as members of one body in Christ in the Orthodox church.) So it's necessarily a community faith. More importantly, to believe in something is not necessarily to be a part of it- to truly be a part of the Orthodox church we are called to take part in the sacraments of Orthodoxy, such as communion, confession, baptism, marriage, etc., and so I think most Orthodox clergymen and theologians would tell you that "living according to the tenets of a church," in this case as an Orthodox Christian, means believing the nicene creed, but also participating in these sacraments of the church, especially communion. You have to realize that this is an ancient faith, and the concept of spirituality independent of religion is a fairly new and Western concept. Of course there are exceptions, but that would be another paragraph and I don't want to bore or confuse you :) what do you think?

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  21. Georgia ChristakisMarch 21, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    p.s. I loved what you said about scientific discoveries being an engagement in spiritual exploration- I will definitely be sharing this post with Peter

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  22. Georgia ChristakisMarch 21, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    I have had so many interesting conversations with Peter about this recently. It's interesting that people of science often reject God because He cannot be proven by solid evidence. Meanwhile We understand only 5% of the universe and are still trying to figure out the other 95%...really mind-boggling stuff!

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  23. Georgia ChristakisMarch 21, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    Oh my goodness! have you read Love, Sex and Marriage in the Middle Ages? Quite a few laughs to be had. I wish I knew more about the evolution of the creed in the Eastern church to share with you; suffice it to say you could argue that the bible evolved through decisions made by the same men; this is just the nature of living in a fallen world. Everything in it is flawed and we can only do are best as humans to try and follow the right path.

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  24. I identify as Christian, but for a long time I've understood God from all three major world religions as the same. It's just logical for God to appear to different people in different ways.

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  25. This is so very well-written, Betsy! Bravo! I was raised Roman Catholic including being baptized and confirmed. However, I always felt that it was more out of family tradition. I never refused to go to church or classes, but I observed everything as a history class, not necessarily a spiritual journey. That part of it has been on and off for me.



    I am very thankful to my parents that they never spoke negatively about other religions and that I was even exposed to other types of churches like non-denominational Christian, Baptist, etc. (Question: What does non-denominational Christian mean? It feels the same as regular Christian to me.) I was actively involved in church in college, but my views and sense of belonging have changed so drastically since then.



    You may have noticed in posts and tweets that I tend to say "The Universe" instead of "God." It was never a conscious decision, but right now, it feels right to me. Faith is a journey, so inevitably, it is a truth that is ever-changing for each person. And I am totally okay with that.



    My parents taught me that more important than titles is who I am as a person, what I can do for others, and how I contribute to the world. At the very least, I focus on those things which I know shape my faith, whether I'm conscious of it or not.

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  26. Most Protestant denominations have their own set of theological beliefs that usually don't mesh with other denominations. For example, Presbyterians (and keep in mind, there are multiple denominations of Presbyterians) believe in predestination, that is, the concept that God has already chosen who will and who will not go to heaven. So nondenominational churches form when a group of people realize their religious or political beliefs don't align with any mainstream churches. A political reason would be supporting gay marriage, for example.


    Personally, I want to join a Unitarian Church because their beliefs are very welcoming, but if I didn't find one I liked, a nondenominational church that believes in egalitarianism and supports gay marriage would be my second choice.

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  27. I hadn't thought about the definition of "non-denominational" before - interesting point! if a church identifies as such, it almost automatically sounds more open-minded to me, though I'll be the first to admit that that has to do with my own stereotypes and prejudices as opposed to anything else.

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  28. YES! Since I'm Jewish and my monotheistic views remain there, rather than with Christianity, when I studied Christianity it was easy to remain objective - I think if I had studied Judaism academically it would have hard not to approach it subjectively.


    LOVE this: Faith is a journey.

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  29. you'll get there - we each have our own journey, as Lindsay says above! thank you :)

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  30. so in my first year or so as a chorister at the National Cathedral, I regularly went up at Communion for a blessing - my attitude was absolutely that it was the same God, and when I got older and talked to the priests there about it, they agreed. I love that :)

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  31. yes! it's something we should talk about more - close-mindedness is scary and dangerous no matter what name it hides behind, and the only way to open it all up is to talk about it. thank YOU :)

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  32. YES that makes sense. I think I sometimes get stuck on the Church's early writings, where they talk about a church being wherever Christians are gathered in worship - but I guess that's not as vague as I took it to mean? Because it's absolutely still a community. Hmm... much to think about here! yay theology :)

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  33. haha YES I used it for my MA dissertation :) and that's true - I didn't mean my skepticism to say that OH MY GOD IT CAN'T BE THE REAL CREED BECAUSE THEY MADE IT UP, but rather as a "hey, imagine where the world could be now if they'd decided something else." you know?

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  34. I swear I replied to this yesterday, but maybe I exited before my comment actually went through! Gah! Basically it was just me gushing about how I have fallen in love with your blog & I would totally be real life friends with you ha ha :-) Thanks for keeping it real. I agree with everything you wrote, though I`m not sure I could have written it as completely & straightforwardly as you did :)


    Jess

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  35. ah! it had been flagged as spam :( but I whitelisted you, so now I get this compliment twice and you should come through fine from here on out :) THANK YOU. and I would love to be friends, duh!

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  36. I think very few of us know EXACTLY what we believe and I think that's a good thing because it does mean we're on an ever-changing journey, learning and growing and adapting. I'm glad this spoke to you though :)

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  37. You are my hero. I am Catholic by birth, and I do practice regularly but I practice under the notions you've listed above. While there will always be things I don't agree on with the Catholic church (probably a long list... haha) I have faith, It's just not THE defining factor in who I am as a person. You're so brave for sharing all this and this further affirms the fact I adore YOU and everything you stand for!! :)

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  38. thank you thank you! I'm SO glad this is speaking to people - and I'm delighted you commented :)

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  39. Georgia ChristakisMarch 22, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Initially it was- communion was once a gathering of Christ's followers- Christians- in someone's home, sharing a meal. I think in the first few hundred years the ritual of communion evolved, and the meal moved out of the home and into early churches, and so on...but I am not sure.

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  40. Georgia ChristakisMarch 22, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Yes, I think that about the bible a lot- like the gospel of Thomas- why didn't they include it? who got to decide what the salient text of one of the biggest world religions would be comprised of? And how did they decide? Food for thought... :) have a great weekend

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  41. Hi Betsy! Good job on this post! I especially love point no.9. It breaks my heart to see churches who teach their congregations 'this week we're going to learn to shoot down the jews' 'next week how to shoot down the mormons' etc... As a mormon I hold strong to my values and beliefs but appreciate and respect those with varying or opposing beliefs to mine, and certainly don't think that people who can call themselves Christian should be focusing on how to mock and be degrading to different religions. You say organised religion can be a force for good or evil. In my life it has only ever been good. Many people say they believe in God but don't feel the need to do anything about it on a day to day basis. As a result of my belief in God and in his teachings and his commandments and because I owe so much to him I don't look forward to any other day in the week as much as I do to Sunday! A whole day when I get to worship him, and meet and fellowship with other people who share my beliefs, whose comments and views strengthen my own and build me up. I love being a part of a worldwide organised religion, I have moved 7 different times in the space of my 6 year marriage - 3 times to different countries and everytime I move I have no fear of going to a place where I know no-one because I know as soon as I turn up I will look up our local church, people will be waiting to meet us at the airport or help us move into our new house. They will turn up with meals and gifts and offer us service and we will have an instant family wherever we go, that brings me such joy and happiness in my life! It is a wonderful thing to be surrounded by such a loving and inspiring community of people who motivate you to be better people and to love God with all your heart! I do, of course, have my own very personal and sacred relationship with God and with his son, Jesus Christ, but I feel it is a strong as it is because of the religion I have been raised in and because of the other members of my church who have taught me so well :) Just my 2 cents anyways about my beliefs! Happy Friday to you!

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  42. p.s you can also see what I believe here: http://mormon.org/me/3BFV/Gem :)

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  43. Bahaha, ooh shoot! You're the second person today to tell me I ended up in their spam folder, I wonder why that happens! Well thanks for saving me from the abyss :)

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  44. DivinemessengerofBaalApril 6, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    I believe in Baal, Ashera, Astarte and of course the divine father El may the usurper Yahweh perish beneath their divine swords.

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  45. I think the community aspect is SO important - I do envy members of organized religious groups that! It's such a blessing to have that no matter where you are :)

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I love reading your thoughts and suggestions! Please do leave a comment so we can get to know each other better.