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Lost

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Hello Reader,

It’s #fmfparty time! Linking up with Lisa-Jo and all the fabulous bloggers. This week we are: lost. This is my first time officially joining in, so we shall see how this goes.“All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

GO

I think I have always viewed myself as a little bit lost. Part of it is because of chronic illness, but part of it because I find myself pondering things others don’t, or if they do they don’t speak of it. This became the cardinal sin that caused me to leave the church less than two years after my baptism. I have been back a couple of times since then, most recently I spent a year assisting with a youth group. Those children were amazing and willing to ask the questions it always felt like adults brushed over. I didn’t have answers, but I think they were relieved that I didn’t have the answers. It proved that adults can be fallible.

After I left them and moved on with my life, I wandered through a labyrinth of ideas and experiences. I fell in love again with the scientific passions of my youth, but the conflict they created with my faith, what little of it there was led me to leave. Since I have been lost. Through my wonderings I have explored the teaching of the Buddha, the Greeks, Romans, Norse, Druids, Hindus, Muslims, and even Confucious. It wasn’t until my most recent encounter with Atheism that I truly felt lost.

I continue to wonder through the labyrinth. Trying to make sense of my internal opposition to Atheism, yet not being able to find the faith that would allow me to embrace the God of Christianity. Maybe I am lost, or perhaps I am just one of Tolkien’s wanderers.

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Five Minute Friday

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“Evolution skeptic: Professor Haldane, even given the billions of years that you say were available for evolution, I simply cannot believe it is possible to go from a single cell to a complicated human body, with its trillions of cells organized into bones and muscles and nerves, a heart that pumps without ceasing for decades, miles and miles of blood vessels and kidney tubules, and a brain capable of thinking and talking and feeling. JBS: But madam, you did it yourself. And it only took you nine months.”
― Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

I am a scientist. I am a very logic and fact driven woman. My most recent readings have been texts on quantum physics and evolution. It was through reading these texts that my “crisis” moment occurred. To be clear, I 100% accept both sciences until evidence is sufficiently offered to the contrary. Richard Dawkins’ science is impeccable. Quantum physics took this one-step further for me indicating that God was not needed to be the catalyst for the big bang. It could have been more like a bottle of soda in the freezer, pressure built up until it eventually exploded.

The problem occurred after I accepted his conclusion that there is no God. The evidence fit logically within my scientific understanding of the universe. I was so convince I came home and excitedly shared it with my boyfriend. My boyfriend is a Christian. He took the evidence I offered him and suggested that living in a fallen world could have the same consequences. Part of me finds the fallen world theory to be a convenient argument for anything that science finds that contradicts what would be expected if there were a creator. It feels simplistic to argue that science does not contradict religion because we live in a fallen word, and therefore nothing we would expect actually is.

The problem is this; I think most humans would prefer not to be atheists. It is a bleak world if we are the pinnacle of all existence. That being said, I find the evidence I have seen so far to convincing. My aha moment as a Pagan is what I think is causing me the problem. If I had never had a moment in Paganism where it made perfect sense, where something went exactly as it should have, despite being quite improbably, I probably could have accepted Atheism without a second thought. Having never had one of those aha moments in Christianity, I cannot entirely rule the “fallen world” hypothesis out, though I can construct similar hypotheses from the dogma of other religions.

The lack of a need for a god is not proof that there is no god, but I suppose this is my struggle. The reason I have been reaching out to Christians for explanations and understanding is that I have had aha moment that convinced me of the validity of Paganism, but despite being raised Christian never had a similar “conversion” moment. I am not certain it is possible to embrace the fallen world hypothesis without being a Christian. Certainly, there are faults with the world and things do not happen as they would in an ideally constructed universe, but is it possible that is just the way nature works? Do we need religion?

There is scientific support for the idea that people with faith live longer, but the studies I remember indicated that it did not matter what religion you were, so long as you have faith in something. Does it matter what we believe? Clearly, it does or people would not kill each other over disagreements over who is God and what s/he wants.

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Last night I met a lovely woman online.  We chatted for a bit and when I told her I had to go to bed because of my migraine, she told me to pray for healing.  Here is the cold hard truth: I get chronic migraines and have since I was about 16 years old.  When I was 16, I prayed my little heart out that they would go away, but after several years of prayer and a loss of my faith, I am certain that my continued migraines are not a product of a lack of faith, but rather a medical condition.

Many faithful people have chronic illnesses.  It is difficult to take seriously people who believe that illnesses and other hardships are caused by a lack of faithfulness.  Everyone has illnesses and hardships. Everybody suffers.  Faith might make it easier to get through life, but it will not shield you from suffering.  Some even believe that it will trigger more suffering in order to test you.

People with chronic illnesses are often given these sorts of platitudes: if only you prayed harder, exercised more, ate better, or even just wanted to be sick less, you would not be sick anymore.  Maybe you cannot actually understand what it is like to wake up every morning sick, unless you actually live it, but most religions encourage some level of compassion, yet these platitudes always feel like judgments.  My body is broken and yet I am being judged for not trying hard enough to be healthy.

Maybe there really is no higher power.  People are evil and judgmental by nature.  We all need to feel superior to someone else.  Compassion is weakness.  If this is true, here is what I want to know, why should we bother staying in this universe?  If there is no compassion, everyone is evil and judgmental, human beings are the pinnacle of existence, and this is all there is, is there meaning in existence?  Why do we hurt when we see others in pain?

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In The Dark without A Flashlight

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A few weeks ago, I very nearly became an atheist.  As a person who values knowledge and logic, Richard Dawkin’s arguments in The Greatest Show on Earth were convincing.  I was particularly struck by the argument that an intelligent creator would not have created human the way we are designed, particularly concerning the sinuses.  I brought this idea to my boyfriend who informed me that it could simply be a product of living in a fallen world.

I can’t decide if I think the fallen world argument has legitimacy or is just an easy way to dismiss anything that falls outside of what would be expect.  If God is so infallibly great then why? Because we live in a fallen world.  It’s a catch all for everything from why create humans as bipedal apes instead of making them with a more logical formulation to why do bad things happen to good people.

If this doesn’t work for me, why does it continually run through my mind.  Why have I been considering attending a church for the first time in nearly 5 years?  I have been happily pagan for quite some time.  I found a community, friends, and a goddess to work with who seemed to be what I needed.  I am arguably the happiest I’ve ever been, and yet I keep coming back to the question of God and Christianity, but why?

I see very little evidence for a God, which brings us back to the fallen world argument.  Churches are clearly fallen.  Many of the most visible are greedy, judgmental, and completely lacking in love and compassion.  I see no reason to be a part of such an organization.  If we truly live in a fallen world, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that we see these things.  In fact, they should be expected.  Which leads to my next question, what would make me want to follow a God who allows these things to happen?

The thing that struck me about God when reading the Bible was the compassion and willingness to allow people to make their own decisions, even if it was not in their best interest.  The idea of free will is what makes me continually go back to the idea of the Christian God.  He gives people free will, probably knows they will mess up, so in his infinite compassion gives them an option for redemption.  Not only that, he had to allow his child to die in order for that redemption to be a possibility.  It’s a story about the infinite compassion of a loving God.  How cool is that?

So why is it so hard for me to believe in this story?  I suppose the downside of my intellectual gifts is a personal inability to have faith in much.  I struggle to accept much of anything without imperial evidence.  Gravity? Fantastic, I see evidence of it every day.  Evolution? Same thing, I find a lot of fossil and DNA evidence.  Mindfulness Meditation? A lot of research and personal practice demonstrates the benefits. God? I see a lot of people trying to encourage me to have faith in the unseen, but while I don’t struggle to believe that there is something greater than humans, I don’t know if it is God or gods and goddesses, and I suppose that is where I am right now.

Now I assume at least one reader will try to show me the literary consistency of Biblical books, and I will grant you that the evidence is there, and it should be because Christianity has been a world religion since not too long after its inception.  Other books were destroyed, but not the Bible.  Just because a book matches the original doesn’t make it true.

I feel like I’m muddling thought the dark without a flashlight and the answers I seek are just out of reach.


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I will defer to “a religious organization’s good-faith understanding of who qualifies as its minister.”  Justice Clarence Thomas

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The Supreme Court recently ruled in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Federal labor laws do not apply to religious organizations in regards to people who can be considered ministers.  The defendant, Ms. Perich claims she was fired by the Lutheran Church School she worked for because she developed narcolepsy.  The interesting and perhaps concerning part of this 9-0 ruling is that the school can define her as a minister because for 45 minutes a day she was responsible for attending chapel with her class.  What bothers me is that it seems to me that anyone who works for a religious organization could be defined by the church itself as a “minister” if the church wanted to fire that person.  (By the way the official reason for Ms. Perich’s firing is that apparently it is a violation of church doctrine trying to take the church to court instead of trying to work out the problem with the church itself).

 What could be the long term ramifications of this ruling?  It seems to me that this ruling determined that ADA does not actually apply to churches, so long as they choose to call them a minister, even if it is after the fact.  Blatant discrimination against the disabled is okay now, so long as you are a church.  I am not arguing here that churches should have to move into the 21st Century and accept groups that they would otherwise vocally come out against; however, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a church who turns people away because they are sick.  As Rev. Barry Lynne, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said “Blatant discrimination is a social evil we have worked hard to eradicate in the United States…” said Lynn.  “Clergy who are fired for reasons unrelated to matters of theology—no matter how capricious or venal those reasons may be—have just had the courthouse door slammed in their faces.” 

Ultimately, I am lucky to live in a country where the government cannot appoint my religious officials, but I think in this particular case, the church has been put above the law of the land.  It doesn’t matter if you are actually a minister, if you work for a church, you are at risk.  What does this mean for victims of sexual abuse by priests?  Will it make it harder to prosecute priests simply because the church is above being held accountable?  Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, “The upshot is that religious organizations can fire clergy based on disability, race, or gender, and clergy will not be able to sue them for invidious discrimination.  No one becomes clergy in the United States expecting to face such discrimination, but now at least those who are being ordained can know from the start that if they are ever subject to invidious discrimination by their religious institution, they will have no legal recourse… But the Court did not hold—or even approach the notion—that religious organizations operate autonomously with respect to any body of law other than the federal anti-discrimination laws.” Only time will tell what this judgment really means for the average church employee, but overall I am troubled by the potential implications of this case.

Image borrowed from http://www.slapupsidethehead.com/2010/06/religious-freedom-doesnt-give-you-that-power/

A7x “So Far Away”

For a time, I was posting songs that I thought were worthy of being shared.  Following Dan Wheldon’s death today, I have been listening to “So Far Away” by Avenged Sevenfold.  Even if you are not a fan of metal, I think this song can speak to you as it does to me.

I haven’t posted a blog in quite some time.  To say that life has become busy would be an understatement.  Life always throws little bumps in the road and often I do not deal with them the way I should.  Today one of my heroes passed away and I find myself simultaneously at a loss for words and so desperate to say something.

“Dan Wheldon injured in massive 15-car wreck in Sunday’s IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas”, read the text message my sister Joyce sent me around 5pm EST.  To be honest, I didn’t think much of it, until my other sister posted on Facebook that he had passed away about an hour and a half later.  I’ve grown up around racing, and this very moment is what it took to recognize why my mom made my dad quite racing so many years ago.  You see, as race fans, we assume that everything is so safe, and the cars are so much safer than when my dad was drag racing in the 1970s, but racing can still be fatal, especially in open-wheel race cars.

Last night when Jimmie Johnson hit the wall at Charlotte Motor Speedway, my boyfriend jokingly told me that Kasey Kahne was his new favorite driver.  I smiled and agreed; after all it seemed like for so long Johnson had more luck than any one person should reasonable have.  Then I saw the replay.  Just a decade ago and motorsports would have lost two great drivers in one weekend.  The physics of Johnson’s crash should have broken his neck; fortunately, his HANS device saved his life.

Racing is a big business in America, and even throughout the hard economic times most Americans are facing, we still tune in to our favorite sports.  We need something to believe in and distract us when times are tough.  Unfortunately, I am distracted tonight by the thoughts of how devastating it is to lose someone who is only 33 years old.   Dan Wheldon was only 33 years old.  He leaves a wife, two young children and his parents behind.  Yes, the whole motorsports family lost a friend a colleague this weekend, but tonight I struggle with what all this means for his family.

Before I was born, my dad gave up a successful career as an NHRA driver to move out west with my mom and sisters.  As I understand it, he had a horrific accident early in the 1973 season that would have taken him out for most of the season.  In fact, nearly 20 years later he still had a bone fragment floating around his elbow.  It wasn’t a career ending injury, but my dad never raced again.  In many ways I am so lucky that he didn’t.  I was born 10 years after my father retired from racing.  As long as I can remember, I wished my dad was still a race car driver growing up.  We even discussed me taking up motocross, which my mother refused to consent to; she insisted racing is too dangerous.

Dan Wheldon’s death is a reminder to me that even as the major racing sanctioning bodies take action to make motorsports safer, there is always an inherent risk.  If the man who won the Indy 500 five months ago can get caught up in a fatal accident, so can everyone else.  No matter how safe we make the cars, they will never be 100% safe.

It’s hard to say what Dan Wheldon meant to me.  I cried when I saw him win the Indy  500 in May.  It was emotional and he seemed like such a genuinely nice guy.  I saw him in August at the Brickyard 400 and was impressed by his jovial nature.  In some ways for me Dan Wheldon was the best that IndyCar racing had to offer.  He was articulate, charismatic and talented.  It was hard to not like him.

My heart goes out to Dan’s family and friends tonight.  Their suffering is more than I can imagine, and even though their tragedy has managed to touch my heart and wretch at my soul, it is nothing compared to the pain I am sure they are enduring.  I wish them peace and comfort over the days to come.

Goodbye Dan Wheldon. You will be missed!

Lent and Compassion

I started the project of letting go and letting God at the start of Lent with the hope of better understanding my Christian friends.  I wanted to understand their relationship with God.  For me, God is often nothing more than an afterthought; I think it is like that for most people.  We only really consider the idea of a higher power when we need something.  When life seems out of control we begin to call on God for help, but the rest of the time we forget.  We live our lives, making decisions, rarely considering God in that process.

I can’t live that kind of life, which might explain why I have not committed to a devoted Christian lifestyle.  I don’t know what that really means for my life though.  I mean if I truly believed in a God that is everything my friends claim he is, then I don’t know how I could live my life and not be committed to pleasing him.  All things considered, I am someone who strives to please the people around her.  If I were a faithful Christian, I would be nothing less.

So what’s holding me back?  I would argue that several things are keeping me from becoming a devoted Christian, and one of them is a perception of Christians.  I find that so many of them profess one thing on Sunday and live a completely different life the other six days.  They judge others for their weaknesses and generally do not love people the way they claim to, they simply pity them for failing to live up to impossible standards.  Not only that, most do not seem to respect other people’s rights not to share their beliefs. It often seems to me that if most Christians had their way, it would be illegal to live beyond their thinly defined morality code.  The trouble is that a lot of the doctrine of the Christian church is things that aren’t agreed upon between denominations.  I think love should generally trump hate, and I feel that disrespecting people and trying to impose your belief system on them is hateful.

I collect pins and my mom once gave me one that said “Dear God, Please protect me from your followers”, and in a lot of cases I think that is a prayer worth praying.  My problem is not with God, but rather with his people that distort his teachings, I struggle with people who are so overcome by their own pride that they cannot imagine anything beyond their own interpretation of religion.  This is admittedly not all Christians.  I have met some amazing Christians that truly live what they preach; however, I still find that even many of them seem to be filled with hate for anything that is alien to their belief system.

So what I have learned so far is that I’m a long way from being a church going Christian.  I still need to figure out who I am and what beliefs fit in where, but I can’t do that with people who are constantly judging my every action. I grew up in a church where I would present myself one way on Sunday and the rest of the time I would just be myself.  I was baptized at 14, the same year I started performer pagan rituals in my backyard.

I don’t regret performing those rituals in my back yard.  They were part of a process of understanding who I am and what I believe.  I think that one thing that most Christian churches lack is a strong connection to ritual.  I am, of course, not suggesting that Christians sit in their backyard surrounded by candles praying, but rather that they connect with the traditions of their religion, such as lent and actually facilitate the relationship that they claim to have.  It is difficult to believe that anyone has a “relationship” with God when they forget about him 363 days a year.  I am still not sure what I’m seeking, but I can say without hesitation that this time of connecting with God has left me feeling like most of his followers have forgotten his message.  People do not even try to live Jesus’ message; they just emulate Old Testament God because wrath we understand, forgiveness eludes us.

So another few weeks of my experiment remains.  I don’t know if this adventure will leave me following the Christian faith or seeking something else.  What I do know is that there is something seriously lacking in the Christian church today, and I think it is a number of things ranging from compassion to genuine faith in God.

Suffering

Dear friends,

Many terrible things have happened in the world the past couple days, most notably the earthquake in Japan. Unfortunately, it is very annoying to try to blog from my phone and my hard drive decided to die yesterday. Therefore, I ask you to pray, meditate, send positive energy, whatever you do in your spiritual practice for all the people who are suffering this weekend in Japan, Hawaii, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, New Zealand, Wisconsin, and all around the world. We often forget that when something stops being headline news people are still there suffering. So I may be off the grid for a while, but until next time, remember all those who are suffering.