formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Writer's Workshop: Not My Thing...

Note: I noticed I lost a follower this morning (though I can't figure out who)... I hate it when that happens anytime but I hope it was just a timing coincidence and not a result of this post. But if it was, so be it. As Popeye used to say, "I yam what I yam." Love me (or at least like me) or leave me!

Kathy over at Mama’s Losin’ It listed a couple of interesting prompts for this week’s Writer’s Workshop… one was, ‘I don’t believe in prayer because…

I found it interesting because I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the whole God/religion/prayer thing. Several of my favorite bloggers are very devout in their religious beliefs and it comes out in their writing. And some of my favorite bloggers are as far from religiously devout as you can get. That sort of diversity makes for an interesting reading list!

Before I really get started, though, I guess I should issue the following disclaimer...

1) It is not my intention in any way to offend anyone or sound critical...
2) I have no desire to be converted or told I’m wrong/right/going to Hell, etc...
3) I'm not looking for a Bible study or theology lesson...
4) I have never, ever attempted to change anyone’s mind about their religious/spiritual beliefs and I assure you, I’m not doing it now...
5) This isn't in any way, shape, or form about me being right and anyone else being wrong. The bottom line for me is, and has always been, I don't know. And I'm 100%, totally, completely, no-doubt-about-it comfortable with that.

My spiritual path is mine alone and I’ve been traveling it my whole life. I’ve worked hard to arrive at this place; to figure out what feels right to me; to embrace what makes sense. And though I've never felt the need to explain what I believe to anyone, I will tell you that I was baptized and confirmed in a Christian church, but I never felt comfortable there. I searched... I asked questions, listened to answers, and looked for signs. I labeled myself an Agnostic for a while and an Atheist for a long time after that… then an Agnostic again. I don’t know what to call myself now but I’m not all that keen on labels, really, so my inability to find a name for what I am is OK with me.

I know what I’m not, however. I’m not a Christian, nor do I align myself with any religion. I believe strongly that true faith and spirituality have nothing to do with religion at all and while I completely understand, respect, and even admire faith, religion simply makes no sense to me. I am especially confounded by the various Christian religions… they’re all similar in some ways, yet vastly different in others; all based on the worship of one god and the doctrines of one book – a book with many different interpretations - with each branch of Christianity believing their interpretation to be best and true and right. Then there are the other major religions of the world – again, similar and vastly different – all believing their view is best, true, and right. As I say, confounding.

But I do understand that other people need religion; rely on it; live for it. I understand the need to come together to worship. And I believe religion has done a lot of good in the world. I also believe it has been, and continues to be, an incredibly destructive force. The things men do in the name of God, religion, and their interpretations of religious doctrines are often horrific. One of my favorite quotes is Gandhi’s, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Truer words were never spoken and I believe they can apply to the followers of nearly all deities, whatever their names.

I often say I believe in tolerance over faith because in the end, not a one of us knows for sure. I believe that with my whole heart. I know I have been so sure of many things in my life that turned out not to be true so I don’t think for a minute that my path is any more 'right' than anyone else’s. To believe that would be, in my opinion, the definition of arrogance. I saw a prayer for the conversion of non-believers on someone’s blog a while ago and though I know this person is a devout Christian and incredibly kind and good-hearted, I found the prayer to be arrogant and somewhat offensive (though I also know with 100% certainty that was not the blogger’s intention, so I didn’t take offense). Now, having just said I found it arrogant, I do understand that people with deep religious or spiritual faith believe the path they're on is right and true and, as a result, many want and feel the need to share it (and indeed are compelled to do so by the very doctrines in which they put their faith). And I understand that all religions need followers; they need believers. I understand that continuation through conversion is the mission of true believers. Although I don’t necessarily respect the act, I respect the strength of the belief... but I'm still often bothered by what I perceive as arrogance, whether it's intended or not.

While the prayer I just mentioned implied that all non-Christians need converting, I’ve found, in general, a particular negative-bias toward Atheists. I know Christians who believe them to be immoral, reprehensible, frightening, and living in a dark place (they are sometimes even mistaken for Satan worshippers!). I always shake my head at this view. Most of my very closest friends are atheists. And you know what? They each have an incredibly strong moral compass… far stronger than many devoutly religious people I know. They always try to do the right thing; they help people; they follow the Golden Rule; they are passionate, joyful, kind, positive, productive, good people. Every one of them.

One of my best bloggy friends told me a while ago that I am more of a Christian than many Christians she knows. Strangely, a man I dated for a while last year (a devout Catholic) told me the same thing. Of course, another man I dated told me I was going to Hell and according to his Christian religion's "correct" interpretation of the Bible, he couldn’t be associated with me in any way because I’m a ‘non-believer’. In any case, I found this whole ‘me like a Christian’ reference interesting. I suppose they see me that way because regardless of what I believe about Jesus and the Bible, I acknowledge the lessons taught by both are important and relevant (the same as I see teachings in other religions and spiritually-based cultures as valuable). I do try to live by the Golden Rule, the same as my Atheist friends. We are all as far from immoral, reprehensible, and frightening as you can get… we simply follow our own True North, which doesn’t necessarily lead to the Christian Kingdom of Heaven. And you know what else? I’d rather be counted among that group than stand by a Christian (or follower of any religion) who goes to church, claims to love God, and then craps on his fellow human beings. And sadly, the world is full of those sorts of believers. Fortunately, it’s full of the other sort as well; the ones I’m happy to stand beside; the ones I've found here in Blogland.

So, back to the prompt. I don’t pray because, like religion, prayer doesn’t really make sense to me. I’d have to believe there was someone or something listening, willing and able to act… and I don’t. But I do offer up good thoughts to the Universe – I believe strongly in the power of positive thinking, hope, and love, because I believe they inspire positive action. Some of you might say that’s the definition of the power of prayer; a tangible display of God’s love. And that’s cool. I’m perfectly willing to accept that possibility. And just imagine… if every one of us was willing to accept even the possibility of each other’s truths… what a wonderful, tolerant place this would be!

34 comments:

Heather, aka Jake's Mommy said...

Diane, it's so nice to get to know you better and be able to appreciate you as a person with differences and similarities to us all. It's nice to feel good in your own skin.

Michelle said...

Yep, I agree, thank you for saying it so eloquently :)

Pauline said...

Very well-put. Disclaimer or no, I imagine there will be readers out there who will feel the need to "pray" you into believing what they believe. It's an interesting concept - this insistence on an I'm-right-you're-wrong thought process. What do you suppose is at the root? Fear?

blognut said...

I agree with you on all of this. I truly do. I call myself a non-practicing catholic, then feel guilty for not being a better one, but I don't know how to be better at it when there's so much I can't accept. (Don't even say it!) :0)

I believe there's a higher power, and yet it turned its back on me a time or two. I struggle to reconcile that with what I was taught and I haven't forgiven it yet. I don't know if I can.

I believe there's a lot I don't know, and because I don't know, I'm accepting of any religion or un-religion that preaches love, respect, and helping one's fellow humans. I'm not accepting of religions or un-religions that teach/preach hate and intolerance for anyone who is different, for whatever reason.

None of us really knows for sure, and so I go on with what is familiar. I don't know who I'm praying to, and I don't know if anyone's listening. That's actually kinda painful. I just don't really know. I've often wondered if religion is a path to spirituality; I think it is. I just don't think it's the only one.

Annie K said...

Diane, I will be praying for you.

;) You know I had to say that because I couldn't help my sarcastic self.

Annie K said...

Oh, and one other thing, that dud(e) that said you were going to hell...I would've kicked his *ss had I been there. One Christian to another.

sherri said...

Wow. That was heart felt. Most people would never share so candidly about something that is very sensitive to so many.

I'm not at all offended by your different belief.

Okay, so you already know I'm a Christian.
A follower of Christ.

Not a follower of religion, although I regularly worship in a building full of other Christ followers.(Some of whom I love, others I don't particularly care for)

My faith is very personal, and I find not only peace, but so much wisdom from reading the Bible and especially Jesus words.

It is very much a part of who I am. And I'm not ashamed of that fact but I try not to shove in down people's throats either.

I must agree with Gandhi though, that many followers of Christ are nothing like Christ.

You already know this, but I grew up a pastor's daughter and have been surrounded by a wonderful loving family, but have also experienced great pain inflicted by so-called "well meaning" Christian people within the church. Although I'm a gospel singer, I can't stand some of the churches I've had to sing in. I can't stand fake people.

But not all Christians are fake, some are like me, messed up -but striving to be Christ-like and then missing the mark and trying again.

Do I think I'm right in choosing Christianity? Why, of course. I think we all believe what we believe because we think we are right. Who truly believes in something that they think is wrong?

Personally, I have become stronger, better, more positive,more merciful, more understanding, patient, kind, etc. by reading and practicing the words in the Bible. I still mess up some could judge me and point out my sins, or shortcomings and curse God because of me.

I think most Christians (including myself) are sometimes such a poor representation of Christ that I'm pretty sure God is even telling us not to tell people we are one of his followers! He doesn't need the bad press!

I try not to focus on the people though. We are all just trying to find our way.

I love people. I find different people fascinating, really. And I find that I can find VALUE in ALL people, regardless of their beliefs.
Whether or not you share my faith and belief system, doesn't make me see you as less valuable to me. I love you and your wonderful spirit.

Do I want you to believe as I do? Honestly? I would have to say yes.
But even if you don't...ever...I will still return because you are a wonderful person whose words I love to read. WHen I don't agree with a statement you make, it truly does not affect how I feel about YOU. Your value to me is based upon more than your opinions.
I just appreciate who you are.

You are a gem that I believe has enhanced my life by knowing you through this blog.

I pray daily, and often but more like an ongoing conversation with a close friend.
I believe God has a sense of humor and at times is a bit snarky- and I do believe He created me to be a very unique individual that makes him smile. I do. I feel His love.
I really do.

You may think I'm silly, or dependent, but I don't mind 'cause it works for me.

Now, this is NOT me "preaching", because I'm not one to preach, just sharing my heart.

sherri said...

Sorry for the hour long answer- I didn't realize it was so long.

Forgive me?

Diane said...

Sherri, I forgive you (I sent you an email in reply). And sorry, but I do think you're silly... though it has nothing to do with your faith. You're just nuts ;)

hebba said...

AMEN to that, Diane!

Mama Kat said...

Very interesting! I'm choosing the same prompt and had the SAME feelings about whether or not it was such a good idea...maybe I should put a disclaimer on mine too!!

I think you did a great job of saying how you feel without offending or challenging anyone's views...very nicely done!

boneman said...

wrong.
Not you, me.
I had about 5000 characters on it before I deleted and started over.
What I think doesn't matter, and as much as I like you (and that grinnin' daughter on your lap under the comment box, your thoughts on it don't matter much either.
Help each other.
Love the creation.
You can't go wrong with that.
I sincerely doubt in the god sitting in the clouds and angels hanging on him. If 'he's' god, he doesn't need boot lickers, eh? The work is here. We are in Heaven.
We can destroy it or we can make it beautiful.
Er can hurt each other or we can help each other.
Show me the CREATOR and that being wants us to be good.
Show me our own reincarnations through some Spirit, then that Spirit also wants us to help each oter, clean up our 'pigsty'.
Show me an existence completely void of any grand, immortal design? Will our future look back and say, "man! I sure am glad they cleaned up their act!"
or will they look back and think, as they drink their last uncontaminated water, kill their last human for meat and blame us for theirs and ours (ultimately) existence?
Uh-oh. I can tell I'm getting long.
HA!

Tell you what. I don't know how long you've been hanging with Lee, but he was partial subject between three poets (it's an even LONGER story, so, we'll leave it at that) but Paul, a really great fellow poet all competed.
He's not in the tip top shape, but, has many interesting thoughts following what you're talking about.
http://www.originalfaith.com/blog/

And, if you tell him I sent you, he'll give you a big smile from his bedside!

(sure, that doesn't sound like a lot, but, trust me on this, his smile is worth a million hugs.
Rare indivdual, that.)

Hey, do good, love your creation. Can't ask for a better person than that!

A FiveOh4 Uplifting said...

I was raised a Catholic, but for MANY reasons removed that label from me. I do believe in God, so I refer to myself as a child of God. I'm spiritual, but religious. I like that we all can have different views, respect those views and exist peacefully.

I fully enjoyed this topic Diane.

lisa said...

Nice thoughts Diane. I feel for the most part, people need religion to feel better about themselves and it let's them blame G-d for things they don't or won't understand.

Lee said...

It is natural to pray, even if only to a nebulous universe.

But it has always struck me as a bit odd - if God is infallible, what are you doing telling him/her that you think a wrong decision has been made?

mo.stoneskin said...

Thanks for opening yourself up like that, I think that takes a lot of guts.

I would love to respond in full, but don't feel I can - I mean not right now - but one thing I will say as a Christian is that humility and grace must be used when speaking of faith. Without them words are destructive.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I envy you for being so comfortable in "not knowing" :)

Protege said...

Loved this post.
You have a wonderful way with words.
I think it is so correct to say that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. And we are also entitled to change them as we go along.
I agree with you that eventually our actions, the way we live and treat others around us are what matters the most.;)

Michelle said...

Wow Diane!! This post touched me and hits me hard! I think it is inspiring me to write a post. Something that now I think I have to write.

BUT, I am just like you! I am Jewish and proud of that but I believe in just being a good, kind, joyful, positive, productive all the words you used!!! Gosh, this post is just perfect!!

I do not pray either. Never did. I may have to email you! Is that OK???

Jenners said...

One of the things that I admire most about you is your willingness to put stuff like this out there -- knowing that you might get some flak for it. I am pretty much on the same path as you -- kind of following my own "made up" path that tries to focus on actions rather than ritual. Universal good rather than specific "good" (no meat on Fridays). And like you, I have no problem with people who find strength in their faith,religion or whatever ... all I ask is that they respect those who aren't in their same path. That kind of "we are right, they are wrong" attitude was very much at the core of what caused me to leave the church I was raised in. Wonderful post (as always).

jill said...

excellently written and so honestly expressed.

i can't imagine being offended by someone expressing their heart..i guess i'm naive.

have a wonderful day!

Sometimes Sophia said...

Someone once described our different religions as being different sides of the same pyramid ... all pointing upwards to something larger than ourselves. I think that's what you've described very well - a moral code. It doesn't much matter what we believe if it doesn't make us better people. Organized religion lays down a path. Some of us find that path on our own.
A religion that preaches tolerance is most desirable - especially in this day and age. Sadly it seems as if crusades and fatwas never go out of style.

Amy McMean a.k.a McSunshine said...

I share many of the same views you do on this topic. My main problem is with people who are "good practicing Christians" who treat people of other religions as less then human, because they aren't following the "right" faith.

I had an aunt who was "a great Christian women" who treated the rest of us as though we weren't as good as her because we didn't believe the same.

I also do understand people who kill and wage war on the idea of "in the name of God". It doesn't make sense.

blueviolet said...

I've gone through many different thought patterns on this one. I am a christian, always have been, always will be, but I definitely don't think I fall into the normal definition. I am soooooo open-minded and I'm just not convinced that there's one path and that everyone not on that path is wrong. I think we're all basically headed in the same direction, no matter how we're traveling. :)

Ronda's Rants said...

I respect your beliefs but I do feel you judge all of us in one lump...and then you complain that other's do that to you!
There is some pretty awful people all around...
I am a Christian but I will be honest and say sometimes I am embarrassed to lump myself in this group because we all aren't very good at it and I am including myself in that group. I am humbled by the knowledge...I pray because it gives me comfort...I don't judge others because I am too busy doing the very best I can. For the record I think you are a great person, probably better than I and I hope you haven't ever felt that I ever felt any other way.
Now...as far as being tolerant...I am working on it...I am uncomfortable with many religions who keep women in certain roles including many Christian denominations. That might seem contradictory to you in terms of "us" all working together in the same faith but I think all major religions disagree on interpretations! I would be considered a liberal minded Christian...and some of my own faith would tell you I am going to hell...
but my faith tells me otherwise!
Thanks for the thought provoking post!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. I too, am still learning and questioning things that I've been told to believe without questioning since I was a child. I do believe that in the end, it's how we treat EVERYONE, not just the ones who share our views, that matter. I'm the last one to judge anyone. That is what turned me against the denomination that I grew up in.

Thanks for being so nice to my daughter last week. (you haven't been sick have you? b/c she's been sick ever since returning. I saw her for about 10 minutes on Sat. and I caught it too.)

Heather's M

dianne said...

A beautiful post as usual Diane, I am with you on this one, I think our spiritual journey is a personal thing and I dont like other people trying to convert me to whatever, judging me or telling me what to believe.

I try to live my life by taking in all that nature has to offer and appreciating the beauty, helping people who are in need, I know the difference between right and wrong and as I have principles and morals I never cross that line, doing my best to preserve this planet,I do this every day not just on Sundays as I no longer attend church, I do pray but not to a God its more of a meditation to calm my thoughts and ask how I can solve my own problems and also help others who are hurting.
Most of all 'do no harm' and 'love one another'.

Yes I too am hurt when someone removes their support from my follwers list for whatever reason, sometimes it is deliberate to cause hurt. ♥

CJ said...

This was such a wonderful post. I'm afraid I am not courageous enough to put myself "out there" as you have done, but I agree with you on almost every point. Your post was beautifully written, too.

I hope someone wasn't so closed minded that they stopped following because of this post. I just stopped following a few blogs because I don't have time to visit so many, so I chose the ones I enjoy the most and dropped a few I no longer visit. It didn't mean I didn't like them ---just not enough time to work, take care of an elderly parent, keep up with two public and one private blogs, and read fifty blog posts a day.

One of the nicest people I ever met was an atheist. One of the most despicable was a Christian. But, in general, I find most people are good, honest, moral people, be they religious or non-religious. I also find the people who do not have these characteristics come in all religious and non-religious garb, as well.

dianne said...

Thanks for stopping by, I have left a reply over at my blog to your comment, pleased I could help.
I have joined your followers list and added your blog to my links list, I hope that was OK. :) ♥

CJ said...

Thanks for your reply on my blog (which included a comment on Twain.)

I read Mark Twain's novels as a teen, but I fell in love with him as an adult after reading his social commentary. I attend a Twain conference held every 4 years in Elmira NY. The next one will be held this year, August 6-9, 2009. Attendees are mostly Twain scholars, but include a handful of "fans" like me. Can you imagine 3 days with a bunch of people who love Mark Twain?

Bonuses: the food is to die for, a pre-dinner wine tasting the first night, keynote speaker Russell Banks, a Saturday picnic dinner at the farm where Twain spent his summers writing, a cozy bar on campus, a great place to buy wine just north of Elmira, the Clemens family grave site, & the nearby Corning Glass Museum.

If anyone is interested in the conference, go to:
http://www.elmira.edu/academics/distinctive_programs/twain_center/conference

I will be there, so if anyone else plans to attend, contact me so we can meet.

CJ said...

Oops. The end of the url didn't publish on my last comment. I will divide it into several lines, but they all go together:

http://www.elmira.edu/resources/shared/pdf/academics/
distinctive_programs/twain_center/Conference09.pdf

C Woods said...

What a great post ---and truly from the heart. You said, "I don’t know what to call myself now...."
I know you are not into "labels" but I might suggest that you are a freethinker. The FFRF (www.FFRF.org) defines a freethinker as "a person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief." Freethinkers include agnostics, atheists, brights, deists, humanists, materialists, milesians, naturalists, pantheists, rationalists, skeptics and other champions of church and state separation.

Many people don't realize how many of us are out there. The non-religious are the third largest group out there, below Christians and Muslims, and we number (depending on which poll you look at) between 15% and 20% of the population worldwide. And most don't realize how many freethinkers have done wonderful things, such as
Philanthropists: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Andrew Carnegie. Founding fathers: Paine, Adams, Jefferson, Madison. Scientists: Edison, Einstein, Carl Sagan. Writers: Asimov, Vonnegut, Twain, Frost, Sandburg, Fitzgerald, Hemingway. Artists, musicians, entertainers: George Clooney, Mozart, Rodin, Ray Romano, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, and even Irving Berllin who wrote God Bless America, Easter Parade, and White Christmas.

I have a huge list on my blog (five separate posts between 3/3/09 and 3/11/09) of hundreds of freethinkers. So you would be in excellent company.

Moomby said...

Ms. Diane, please don't ever see a Christian as an example of God. They will ALWAYS let you down/ill represent. We're just human and no person who loves Christ should ever condemn you or anyone else who doesn't believe.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and beliefs. I can't get enough of your writing!

Heather said...

Still playing catch up from last week...
I definitely agree with Ghandi's quote about Christians. It's sad how many horrible things get carried out in the name of Christ. And I, too, have felt arrogance coming from many. I've felt as though people were looking down their nose at me in my own church. Yet, ultimately, I know it's my faith, not my fellow Christians, that define me. In my heart, I believe there's someone out there, watching over us - loving us, despite our faults. And I believe we're supposed to do our best to be as much like Him as possible. That's where so many supposed Christians go wrong. They see it as their duty to judge and condemn. But it's not. It's to accept and love.
Kudos to you for being so comfortable in your skin and for treating others with respect and acceptance. :)