Monday, August 20, 2007

A Random Monday Post

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!

6 comments:

Heather said...

This was hilarious to read, in the sense that I've totally been there, and will probably be there again at least twice this week.

If anything, though, I think you're giving yourself permission to be human. There are days when I'm just full of hope and love for this entire planet, and sure that I can carry that through for, oh, the next hour. And then some idiot ruins it five minutes later, and then another one ten minutes after that.

However, any position like this takes practice. If we're used to responding a certain way, we can't just snap out of it, but need to build up to where we want to be.

Besides, at least you didn't say any of that to your brother in law, and that counts for at least 75% of your goal.

SocietyVs said...

I think we all have this happen to us - we have fun doing something - then someone rains on the parade of happiness we feel...it sucks but it ain't the end of the world. These struggles are very normal - heck I tried to do good for others (in a group I started) and I was met with more criticism than if I had done 'nothing' at all...which made no sense to me (and still doesn't). We all try to be the best we can be and find out - we have miles in different pairs of shoes to still walk...we are there with you.

lowendaction said...

Hey Slapsthehornwithgusto,

So I've got a little challenge for you (not that you don't have enough of your own right now;).

While you're still toying with the idea of keeping God in the picture, all the while attempting to bleed out the toxins left behind from your churchy experiences...can you seperate your image of God from what you know as the church? IOW, can you seperate yourself from all past (and maybe even present) human contact related to church/Christianity, and just seek the identity of God?

I would argue, that your past experiences have left such deeps tracks that are also entwined with the entity you have been calling God, that it might just do you some good to clean that channel up a bit...get rid of the debris.

Let me know how that works out for ya. Meanwhile, lay off the guilt a little. It'll crush you. The world is full of asswipes, some live in tin shacks, others in huge mansions, and others drive at the speed of death...don't let them slow you down!!!

beep beep

Jonathan Blake said...

I've wrestled with the idea of spirituality as an atheist. I think you can be spiritual as an atheist, as long as you don't take the "spirit" in spirituality too seriously. Spirituality for me has always been about a sense of connection with the world around me and a greater purpose for my life. Both of those things can be achieved without God or spirit.

Jared Funderburk, SIM CP said...

Decided to check out your blog after your comment of a comment.
Anyway, I know what you mean. You try to do what you believe is the right thing to do, and some yee-haw comes along and spoils it all. I think working to help feed those in need is very noble. Doing the right thing doesn't mean doing something effectively by secular standards. If that was the case, I don't believe many church doors would be open today!
Well, take heart. You are not alone in the world. Been there, doing that!

Slapdash said...

***Well, take heart. You are not alone in the world. Been there, doing that!*** (jared funderburk)

Hi Jared - thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I've been so cheered and encouraged by everyone who has contributed on my blog, even when I've disagreed with them. It's nice to know I'm not alone in many of the questions and experiences I'm trying to make sense of. :)