I don’t pray anymore. I don’t read my Bible. I write posts that question, criticize, and doubt God and Jesus. I’ve been pissed at God, at Christians, at the Religious Right. I experienced a noticeable lift in my mood and health when I stopped going to church. Sometimes I forget it’s Sunday because it doesn’t even occur to me anymore that I skipped church. I don’t feel guilty anymore and that feels awesome.
But I am not entirely comfortable declaring that God doesn’t exist or that I am ready to leave the church, religion, and/or spirituality behind altogether. Even though I know that atheists and agnostics can lead perfectly fulfilling, meaningful lives without concepts of divinity, eternity or even a soul to underpin those meaningful lives….I’m not sure I want to try to understand my life without spirituality as some kind of touchstone.
But then I think – well, what does my desire to maintain some spirituality have to do with the truth of whether a spiritual realm exists? It seems like it’s all boiling down to my feelings, my past experience, and my comfort zone…none of which necessarily has any bearing on Truth. And what is Truth, again? Oh jeez, I don’t know anymore!
When I get all tangled up in my thoughts like that, I try to remember this quote from the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”
Then I take a deep breath, and try to articulate one thing, just one thing, that I want to be true of my life: that I treat everyone with the human dignity they deserve, even if I disagree with or dislike them.
God, that’s noble. Kind of spiritual, too.
I was feeling really good about it, patting myself on the back, really, especially after I spent the morning Saturday working on an organic farm, where they give away 100% of the produce to needy individuals and families. It was a beautiful day; I harvested beans and planted fennel and pulled weeds, and was feeling very “one” with the earth and my fellow man. And I met a really interesting woman my age that I hit it off with.
But later, my brother-in-law criticized the whole effort: “Here’s the problem. That’s not a very efficient way to feed the hungry. Why does it make sense to expend all that energy feeding people the way that wealthy yuppies eat? Seems like it’s more a way for rich lawyers and consultants who volunteer there to feel good about themselves...much more so than to actually make a dent in hunger issues.”
Nice. Thanks for throwing for cold water on my warm fuzzy “we are one” community service moment. I didn’t feel like treating him with human dignity in that moment, that’s for sure. I felt like saying: “Who the **** are you to talk? Are you forgetting that you’re a yuppie lawyer living on 6 acres in the most expensive community in the state?” But that wouldn't really convey respect for his human dignity, which I just got done saying I wanted to extend even to those I disagree with. So I bit my tongue.
But then, on the way home, I got stuck behind someone driving 20 mph on a 35 mph street near my house. And I'm sorry, but these effing slow drivers – this is Boston for Christ’s sake! Learn how to drive!
In that moment, I forgot my noble raison d’etre (human dignity for all!) altogether and laid on my horn. Damn.
I wish I had something more profound for you today, but that's all I got: it seems that I don't need a Christian worldview to still feel guilty for not living up to my aspirations for myself!