Sam is navigating the world of religion through the lens of a Jesus-loving mother, and atheist father, an agnostic husband.
I still haven't found Jesus
As a child I challenged everything, including religion. I always wanted to know why people "took Jesus" so early in life. The way I understood it he was pretty forgiving, so they could do what they wanted and just apologize for it on their death bed. I now see the error in my thought process, but I'm no closer to accepting Jesus as my savior. In fact, I might be the furthest I've ever been from believing in a messiah. God, to me, is too abstract to give a name and a story. He has no face, for he is not a single being, but a collection of goodwill, kindness, and love.
“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.”
— Abraham Lincoln
I don't believe there's a religion that can hold the idea of God, mostly because I don't think there is a God. I think that word was created to allow us to talk about the collective good in the world. I think God is every volunteer hour spent at a soup kitchen or children's home. God is every child adopted, every goodnight kiss, every moment where your hair is in the wind and nothing but that moment matters. God is the reason it feels good to do the right thing, even when it's the hard thing.
And the devil. The devil and hell were created to try to keep evil at bay. I think the devil is no more real than God, but just as good exists so does evil, and the devil is the word we use to talk about evil. "That's just the devil trying to make you think you're not good enough." The devil is every negative thought, every suicide, every mass shooting, and every instance of domestic abuse.
Good and evil find their way in the world just fine, God and the devil don't need to help. Prayers are meant to give people time to build the courage, think over the situation, figure out how to do the right thing. Churches create communities of people trying to do the right thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to church, keeping the devil at bay, or doing the right thing.
I just can't get behind the mythical story that everyone is putting all their energy into asking people to believe. Tell people you're trying to gather good people to do good things - will that not work without lording the fear of hell over them?
“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.”
— John Lennon
So what do I believe then?
I believe in souls. I believe every living thing that can be kind or evil has a soul. I believe in the continuation of souls after death. Where do those souls go though? I would say into another body, another life to be lived.
I once heard this lovely idea that the same souls stick together for hundreds of years, a sort of cluster of souls that all know each other without knowing it.
I think when you die you live on, and I think you get to keep your wisdom gained, but not your memories. I don't believe in being punished for indiscretions because I think this life punishes us enough through its own, inherent cruelty, karma, and systems created by man for man.
I believe in being a good person, keeping your head up, and doing the best you can with what you have. Because there is no second coming, nirvana is a place inside your mind, and love and kindness is the only religion that can heal the world.
What do you believe?
I am not likely to be swayed, but I love learning about other people's beliefs, especially when they don't fit inside a box labelled with any particular religion. Leave me a comment about what you believe, or tell me if my thoughts impacted you. I'd love to have a conversation about it.
“Religion is like a pair of shoes.....Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear your shoes.”
— George Carlin