Monday, February 22, 2010

Ya gotta have faith. I gotta have fayy-aith

I am avowedly not religious. I live two doors down from a church, I was raised a catholic (albeit in a very liberalist tradition) and chose to attend a Catholic girls' school for the last two years of my high schooling when my mum supported my choice to move to pretty much any school I chose. I had Patrick baptised by my Uncle, who also married us, again in a Catholic church (My Uncle M is the kind of Catholic priest in regular strife with Cardinal Pell, of which I am inordinatley proud). But I'm not religious.

That is to say, I don't follow any particular religious doctrines or teachings. But for someone who discovered atheism at my year 12 retreat (meant to be a time to increase your spirituality), I do a lot of thinking about ... well, God, I suppose. "Source" could be a better word. Part of me just doesn't want to believe that there is nothing other than the physical world that is just the sum of so many atoms and subatomic energies/particles (damn' you quantum physics and Heisenberg for not allowing me to find a more prosaic way of expressing that). Part of me wants to believe.

But religion can be so divisive. I was listening to this on the radio today and I found this one of the most compelling statements of all that Rabbi Brad Hirschfield had to say : 

"...September 11th 2001, when I felt the full force of religious fanaticism come storming home to America, and knew as I watched those planes fly into the buildings "Only religion can do that". And I really mean it's religion, it happened to be Islam that day, but I felt it so acutely as religion, because I had been a religious fanatic, and felt the seduction of faith that makes violence ok; not just necessary, but really OK..."

and I thought- he's right- the most, the biggest atrocities are perpetrated because of religion; suicide bombers don't do it for the money or the fame. The so-called 'War on Terror' is the war of one fundamentalism on another, and the belief that only one way can be right. (Brad Hirschfield's book is called You Don't Have to be Wrong for me to be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism, and I want to read it!). And, after all my big long rant about how terrible my mum is, I find that the lovely Erin is subject to the kind of blinding religious fundamentalism that makes me not want to believe in God at all (and I felt so bad for raving about my really, rather normal family after reading her story of what her family did).

I spend much time trying to put together a picture of what I want to believe that isn't just a watered down, new-age, 'pick and choose' version of the catholicism I grew up with. If I have a faith I want it to be the kind I can defend intellectually, and that is probably the reason I have stuck with Catholicism for so long: my experience of religious scholarship was initially all about what I learned at school, tempered by my understanding of things like liberation theology* and my mum introducing me to Shelby Spong's Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, especially its revelations about the virgin birth (my number one problem with Christianity). If I defend my religious beliefs I want them to be intellectually sound, for the same reason I gave up religion in the first place: St Augustine's proofs always seemed shaky to me.

I get my 'inspiration'- for want of a better word- from all sorts of places: from Regina Spektor singing "No-one laughs at God in a hospital, No-one laughs at God in a war... we're all laughing with God" to my weekly fix of The Spirit of Things, to the Mormons knocking at the door and arguing with them for an hour (and them writing down authors I suggest) about religion vs spirituality. I'm currently (trying to) read The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur and Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong. That's my kind of thing.

But, yet again, I have no answers. I don't really know what to believe. But I also don't want to be wishy-washy about it; because one thing is for certain- faith takes energy. But if I don't know what to believe, how can I have that faith?

*When I was a prefect at my all-girls Catholic school in year 12, I also studied comparative religion at a university-entrance standard. One day our homeroom teacher, who was also the school principal, was explaining how the money we had raised at our school fete was going to help the nuns of her order in the Phillippines buy back the land of indentured peasants and establish co-ops for them to sell their produce through. I put up my hand and said "So, Sister Anna (not her real name), what we are doing is helping the peasant workers own their means of production?"
"Umm, yes, Jenny, we are" 
"Wow, Sister, so if we're helping the workers own the means of production, isn't that like Liberation Theology? Like Socialism, almost?"
"NO! It's nothing like Socialism! What are you talking about?!"
"Well, if the workers own the means of production, isn't that Socialism? I mean, like, by definition?"
"NO! Socialism's nothing like that, we're just helping the peasants not have to sell their produce through a third party. So they can have their own little...."
"Yes, Co-operative. That's what it is. Not ANYTHING like socialism."
But she looked confused for the rest of the lesson. And I looked smug. And everyone else had no idea what thay was all about.


Blogger E, SS and the Little Man said...

"What if God was one of us...just a slob like one of us...just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home..."

I don't know why but that Regina Spektor song reminded me of that song. Anyway, thanks for the shout out about my crazy fundamentalist family. Ahh...religion. Such a divisive thing in many ways.

I'm glad you have a fairly normal family and that you weren't forced to go to a Catholic high school like I was - you went of your own volition. Good luck with the whole faith/spirituality thing. I thought I had it down until my family turned on me. Now, I'm so anti-Catholic and apathetic about it all, I'm a bit lost, really.

23/2/10 22:26  

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