Sunday, October 04, 2009

In search of Faith

Religion is such a controversial topic to discuss because it is such a personal belief that reason often has no place in a discussion. In many cases the impasse occurs because the response "this is what I believe, therefore it is true" would prevent a discussion from moving further.

And really, that's fine. That's what you would call Faith, "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" (Merrium Webster dictionary).

I approach this subject today because it is something that has been on my mind for the last 15 years or so. What is it that I believe?

I was born and raised Catholic. I wouldn't say that I had a devout household, but we (grudgingly) went to church on Sundays, I attended religious instruction on Saturday mornings and received my Holy Sacraments. I was scolded for my bad behavior "you made Papa Dios cry" (that's my Puertorican heritage coming through) but never remember being praised in God's eyes by something I did well.

So Catholicism was something I never really believed in. It was just something offered to me much like the morality stories of Aesop's Fables or Grimm's fairy tales.

As I got older and started to reflect on this more, I realized how much I disagreed with the Church and eventually all organized religion. Specifically the exclusivity of it. The 'my God is better than your God' or if you don't believe what I believe then you will not receive the rewards that await the faithful. To me, God was not angry or vengeful and I couldn't agree with any doctrine that taught that.

To be clear, I want to separate Religion from Faith. I found fault with the oppressive doctrines of Religion, but I never faltered in my Faith that there is something greater than myself that connects me with all humanity and nature.

What I'm sure will be scoffed at by many, I started giving my unformed ideas into a more tangible shape by reading and watching fiction.

The first that comes to mind is the 1999 Kevin Smith film, Dogma.



Yes, the movie is silly and fun, but with one line at the end, it encapsulated all my vague ideas into something real; "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe."

So this got me to thinking, what else is there?

My search had taken me in different directions and again fiction stories were the spark of further exploration. Dan Brown's 2003 book The DaVinci Code is a thriller having to do with the Catholic church and the secret of the Holy Grail.

I had my doubts on the celibacy of Jesus. He was a man so why shouldn't he have had a family?

But the one aspect that drew me was the patriarchal ways of the Church. Why were the women second class? Why were women not allowed to hold positions of influence?

I became very interested in Mary Magdalene and her representation as the "sacred feminine". I read Woman with the Alabaster Jar by Margaret Starbird and Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd and it really began to awaken a deeper sense of spirituality.

Nature is all about balance. Pre-Christian and Eastern religions understood this and celebrated the God and the Goddess.

The Goddess. This appealed to me. It made sense to me. Women bear children. Women create life. So with that logic, The Creator is a woman. Mother Earth, Mother Nature.

That then lead me to explore more of the ancient Goddesses of all cultures and geographies. Isis, Briget, Kuan Yin, Gaea, Tara and Chalchiuhtlicue.

Spanning time and great distances, many goddess stories are similar long before people had ways of mass communication. So how did these similar stories come about? Could it be that Man created these stories, these myths to help explain what couldn't be explained? Have these stories morphed into one another through the ages? Maybe. (See Religion Comes from Ancient Astrology and Sun Worship: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

Or maybe it's something else.

Dan Brown again uses his fiction to expose another interesting idea. The Lost Symbol talks about Noetic Science, which brings objective scientific methods together with the deep wisdom of inner knowing to explore the mysteries of consciousness. Cassandra Vieten, Author of Mindful Motherhood, Director of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences could better explain:

In other words, there are several ways we can know the world around us. Science focuses on external observation and is grounded in objective evaluation, measurement, and experimentation. This is useful in increasing objectivity and reducing bias and inaccuracy as we interpret what we observe.

But another way of knowing is subjective -- or internal -- including gut feelings, intuition, hunches -- the way you know you love your children, for example, or experiences you have that cannot be explained or proven, but feel absolutely real nonetheless. This way of knowing is what we call noetic.

Humans are born knowing. It's just a matter of paying attention and listening. Intuition, instinct. Call it what you will. But that such diverse civilizations from diverse times have come up with similar stories to explain their existence could have stemmed from an embedded knowledge within us.

Common thought can have profound results on the physical world. This is The Secret, the Law of Attraction, or the power or prayer.

So this is where I am now. Contemplating this idea. Albert Einstein said:

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Now this is something that I can believe in. If we are all born with an engrained knowledge of something greater than us, if that same 'something greater' connects us all, and if a collected thought can alter the world we live in, then why do we define ourselves more by our differences than what we have in common?

I believe that the root of all faiths is to be good to yourself, be good to others and be good to the earth. It's that simple.

My search of Faith is not over. I don't think it ever will be, But I think that right now I'm the closest that I've ever been before.

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