Everytime I attain a milestone here, I try to celebrate in some way. This week, two events converged within days of each other. This living breathing blog reached 10,000 hits, with which I say “thank you.” It also came upon it’s 200th post, virtually all written by me. I am proud of what I have done here, and also very proud of the guest posts by @wrkreads, @tessathebox, @StrawberryFinn, and @OS_Blogger.
So with this starting point, I decided to state and elabourate on a topic so many find private, while others are very public with.
And that is my belief in God.
Growing up, my parents picked from early on after the start of their family to have religion in our lives. It was not omnipresent and all pervasive, but every Sunday or so, we would venture to the local United Church and take part.
It was not always a perfect union. While a congregation should be a place of love and support, this was not always the case. Stories people have told me over the years is that imperfection and human frailty like this exists in all religious gatherings, no matter the denomination and no matter the size. Most of the usual problems behind the scenes flew under my radar while I grew up. The church was fun, filled with friends, had some neat stories from the Bible, and was in a very cool building.
As the years piled on and the sermons continued apace, my critical functions kicked in more. Quite apart from any church teachings or doctrines, I came to conclusions I hold to this day. By the time I was ten, I had evolved into a firm liberal with absolutely no problems with gay marriage, strongly against capital punishment, and fully for helping the needy from the government chest. The only option I have ever wavered on was with capital punishment, and that was because of The Great Escape and Osama bin Laden.
So, with my morals formed outside of the guidance of the church that helped raise me, I took in the sermons offered with a more critical eye. Being the United Church, the majority were slightly liberal, and mostly milquetoast. It struck me at the time, a great need not to offend was in play here. It did not seem till I hit my teens that the United Church finally decided to take Jesus’s message to heart and usurp the conventual and lend a helping hand. Maybe I just never noticed before, amidst all the petty politics displayed.
Shortly after this awakening, I turned 14 and went through Confirmation. A group of teens, some I had known for years, took classes on religion and morals and ethics and how it all related to us. Most of us were of the same mindset, which seemed starkly at odds with our parents.
This came to a head in a massive controversy for the whole church. A report had been released by the United Church about what to do with homosexuals. Yes, this was a debate back then. Every congregation had to have a meeting and vote on this basic human right. We were allowed to attend, and hearteningly encouraged by one of the Ministers, but we all declined. We knew the hells we would receive at our homes over this. Some would call that cowardice, and I would understand that judgement, but all our self preservations kicked in. It is with little wonder within another year or so, virtually all of us stopped attending.
What had started as something fun and full of love when I was a child had now become somewhat of a drudgery and emanating hate now that I was entering adulthood. Not every memory was bad towards the end, and I am sure it is remarkably different today. But that snapshot of time did not endear me to staying with any particular organized religion. All major faiths seemed to exist in the same time warp of hostility with progress. And so many still do. If all the Christian faiths were to read the children’s Bible stories they offer to the youth groups, they would notice the open love Jesus offered to all. Repeat. To all. Homosexuals. The Poor. The Disadvantaged. Your Neighbours. Lessons for little ones forgotten so quickly.
With this disillusionment settling over me through high school, I soon found myself becoming an atheist. How could God exist, when so much hate thrives, sometimes with the help of the very people proclaiming God’s greatness. It was not a happy time morally. I so wanted to, ached to, believe, but how could I. When I told some friends I was now an atheist, the look of shock was noticeable.
Shortly after this turn to lack of faith, I was browsing a local library and came upon a book I had heard of vaguely. The thick paperback was titled Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I soon thereafter began devouring all 600 plus pages over the next month. As the foreword simply states, the book is not very factual on Zen, or on Motorcycles either. But this non-fiction tale of a mentally troubled man going on a soul searching trip with his son, all while ruminating on philosophy, struck a chord deep inside.
This begat a trip for myself over the next few years. Numerous and various philosophy books passed through my hands, all expanding my understanding and prodding new thoughts into development. And even before I finished the Zen book, a remarkable process happened.
I believed in God again.
I still do not prescribe to any organized religion and severely doubt I ever will.
But I feel supremely comfortable with the knowledge that all over our ever expanding universe is a being of immense power and knowledge who is always present for us. An entity who helps us, not hinders us, and is always willing to listen.
Maybe that crisis of faith was God’s way of helping me along to the next part of my journey. Maybe the Zen book was found at just the right moment.
Maybe it was in God’s plan all along.