Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Does Faith Need a Religion?

This post is inspired by I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits. Though not sisters by blood but through their Hasidic faith, Mila and Atara views the rules and structure of their culture differently. Mila seeks comfort in the Torah while Atara searches for answers in secular literature she is forbidden to read. Ultimately each must make an irrevocable decision that will change their lives forever. Join From Left to Write on May 8 as we discuss I AM FORBIDDEN. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

This was an interesting read for me for a culture and religion so very different from my own.  Over the weeks since I read this, I've found myself thinking about it a lot.

I don't talk about it often, but if pressed, will admit that I am not Christian.  From my view point, you have to believe that Jesus is your savior in order to be a Christian.  I don't, ergo, I'm not a Christian.  BUT, I believe that Jesus was an exceptional man who is no more (nor less) the son of god than is any other person.

One of the biggest reasons that I don't talk about it is we're thump in the middle of the Bible belt in southern Alabama.  

When we first moved down here, my Grandmother in law asked me the first day, "What religion did you say you were?"

I responded, "I didn't.  My parents are Methodist."

She accepted it as though I'd actually answered her question, and shared that she's Baptist.

Quite frankly, this part of Alabama is largely Baptist country.  Spring means people knocking on the door every week to invite us to their church.  I always thank them for their offer, accept their flyer and close the door.  (Just because I don't intend to go doesn't mean I have to be rude to them.)

I've had more theological discussions with my little boys than you would expect from a fairly secular home.  We've discussed the birth, teachings and death of Jesus.  While discussing Genesis, we've also covered other creation myths from around the world.  We've also had several discussions about reincarnation and the afterlife.

But we're still in southern Alabama in a largely Baptist area.

It started when each of them were four.  And the only available preschool was Baptist (now before I get into this much further, my boys received excellent teaching while there that prepared them for school).

On separate occasions, my children have each come home over the years upset that a classmate has told them they would burn in hell for not going to church on Sunday.  For not going to -their- (meaning the classmate's) church on Sunday.

Children can be cruel... but they heard it somewhere.

I explained to my boys that for me, god doesn't need us to go to a church to believe.  And that we can read the bible, the torah and any other religious texts that we're interested in for ourselves-- that we don't need a religious leader to tell us what they mean.  I also explained that we don't believe in hell, there is no devil that makes us do anything, and that we are responsible for our own actions here on earth.

I contend that one can be very spiritual, without being religious at all.

I've always thought that most religions have at least part of it right-- after all, there are a lot of overlaps.  I used to describe my view of world religion like you'd expect an artist to:

That 'god' is a half filled wine glass on a clear thin pedestal in the middle of the room, with all the religions being artists around it.  Some may choose to sit on the floor, others to stand on ladders.  Perhaps some are even viewing it through the window outside.  Some may work in chalk, charcoal, pencil, pen, paint, oil, or sculpture-- the fact is they're all using different media.  And even though they're looking at the same thing-- they're not going to produce identical results because of their perspective.

It boils down to this: I believe there is more than this mortal life and in something greater than myself.

Sometimes, it's merely the wonder of nature: a clear sky full of beautiful stars or the comforting rustle of the wind through the trees.  Sometimes, it's peace and hope in times of worry, or a friendly ear or shoulder when one is needed most. Sometimes, it's watching my children enraptured in the moments--the children's magic that explains dust motes and rollie-pollies and a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.  

And for all of this, I offer up thanks into the universe.  

The symbols of fourteen religions are shown. Clockwise from the North Pole, they are:
Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Wicca and several other Neopagan religions, Zoroastrianism, and Druidism.


  1. I applaud your approach with your children! Good for you!

  2. it's very difficult to live in the Bible belt if you're not a believer. I'm sure you'd find slightly less trouble in the north. I've lived in Texas and WOWOWEEEEE church is so integral to everything they do down there!

    thank you for your brave post.

  3. I like and respect your views on religion. I myself am a Christian, but I have friends that I love and respect from various different religions. I always explain to peopple tht sy they have no "faith" that we all have faith. When we sit on a chair we have "faith" that it will support us. When we flip the light switch we have "faith" that the lights will come on. "Faith" isn't a strictly spiritual thing. My spirituality has deep roots in my soul. I find myself more tolerant as I get older which may be how God intended it. I have no issue with others spiriuality, or religion. My favorite verse is from the New Testament book of Romans 12:18 "As far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men."

  4. I think even a lot of believers would have trouble living where you do! I am a Christian but I study other religions as a hobby and I heartily agree with what you said on perspective - in fact, its largely what I said in my own post. Thanks!

  5. I can understand your hesitation to admitting your beliefs to fellow Alabama residents. I feel the same way when I'm visiting my family in Louisiana.

  6. Great post. You are braver than I am. I hardly admit my beliefs, or lack of, to myself. I skirted it in my post.

  7. I agree with Kim, I can understand being hesitant to talk about matters of faith, in a community so full of those whose church is so central to everything they do. I also agree with Pam, that your post is brave and I thank you for your honesty and openness. Faith can be a tough thing to write about and put yourself out there.

  8. The picture makes the post!

  9. It is all so beautiful. That's precisely where I find my religion.

  10. I love your photo at the end. It reminds me of a bumper sticker I've been looking for with the words CO EXIST written in the same symbols.


I'd love to hear your thoughts!