In Dreams We Find

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I just awoke from a very strange dream, but it is a dream I feel is trying to tell me something.  I was in a dark cave with a couple of people.  They had Biblical concordances, and they were trying to prove to me that other gods or goddesses are not mentioned in the Bible and therefore there are no other deities.  Everything they showed me continued to convince me that not only were other gods mentioned in the Bible, but they were real.  I just knew deep down that their God wasn’t the only one.  What I didn’t know is what this meant for me.

When I got up, I picked up a Biblical concordance and the first thing I found was an article about Artemis, who was worshipped by the Ephesians.  I have always felt a close affinity to Artemis, so I found this to be really quite fascinating.  The article claims that Artemis worship died out, and that no one worships her now.  This is not true.  I have found a number of Artemis worshipers throughout my life, but I am certain that when this article was written you could only have found them if you knew what you were looking for.

In fact, what I found makes no indication that the other gods and goddesses worshipped by other regions in Biblical times weren’t real, but rather that the Hebrew God was jealous and did not want his followers to worship anyone else.  From an anthropological/folklore standpoint, I would argue it is unlikely that anyone writing the Bible would have been willing to claim the other gods and goddesses simply did not exist, something I hear often from modern Christians.  Their argument that not only is there God superior to other gods, other gods simply do not exist.  If they did then people would still worship them.  I think this ignores the actual history of the Western World where people even under suspicion of worshiping another god would have been put to death.  Worship of any other deity would have gone underground.  It simply wasn’t safe, much in the same way that it isn’t particularly safe to be a Christian in Sudan.

From a scientific standpoint, I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of the divine.  I have had experiences that indicate to me that magick is real.  My first inclination of this was actually at church camp in fourth grade.  We did light as a feather stiff as a board in the cabin under the leadership of our camp counselor.  I do not remember if the girl actually levitated, but I do remember feeling something was very strong in the room with us.  It was rather incredible.

I think my subconscious is trying to figure out whether any sort of divinity is real, and I still am falling on the side of yes.  Is there just one Christian God?  I don’t know.  The Bible seems to indicate that not only are there other gods, but humans have a tendency to idolize things.  Are there two aspects of one god as suggested by some Wiccans?  It seems possible to me, though the goddess-focused Earth-based spiritual movement beyond Wicca is in many ways a response to the patriarchal rule of Christians.  This doesn’t invalidate the importance of this worship; however, it could explain why there are many groups who ignore male deities entirely.

I have spent my whole spiritually conscious life oscillating between Paganism and Christianity.  I believe this is because of several issues:

  1. My mother is very strongly convinced of her God’s powers and constantly forces me to evaluate my beliefs.  I think this is actually a very good thing because unlike many people I have to justify my beliefs.  As an intellectual, I dislike the idea of blind faith; therefore, I find this to be very useful.
  2. Sometimes I just want to fit in.  The majority of my family, my boyfriend, and the majority of the people in the United States are Christian, so I begin to question my feelings on God every so often.
  3. I always end up back at Paganism because I haven’t had that moment of spiritual conversion to Christianity.  Some Christians argue that I’m trying to make God do all the work, but I struggle to believe that trying daily prayers and asking for help from their deity is me not trying hard enough.  Something is missing.
  4. I also end up back at Paganism because I am a scientist and most apologists I have struggled through either reject my field of science entirely, or pick and choose what parts to accept.  This doesn’t work for me.
  5. I end up back at Christianity because while blind faith is thoroughly unappealing to me, I find faith in general to be beautiful.  I like to see people who have experienced something so deeply that it means everything to them.
  6. I ask a lot of questions and hold my beliefs up to a high level of scrutiny.  Some things about spirituality, I suspect, cannot be explained by science at the level it is at now, and so I end up trying to make sense of what I know in terms of the faith I am not following at the time.

So I suppose I will continue to oscillate until I either become an Atheist, have a conversion experience, or accept my Paganism aha moment as the foundational moment for understanding the spiritual realm for me.

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.


photo credit: Lel4nd via photopin cc

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