I am not sure I believe in God. Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. It’s not something I have strong convictions about at this time in my life. At most, I can say honestly that I really want to believe there is a god. But I want him to be like the god I envision–non-judgemental, unconditionally and equally loving of everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, personal religious beliefs. I don’t believe in a judgmental God who sits on a thrown, kicking you out of the afterlife if you don’t adhere to a specific dogma. My god knows who you really are and accepts you for it. I don’t think we can put human ideals of judgment on the Divine.
In line with Universalist tradition, I believe that everyone is saved. I don’t think we have to do anything special to gain access to the collective consciousness of the afterlife (if there is one). I think we’re all a part of the great spirit of life and, as such, we’ll all return to it upon our deaths. God, or the Divine, or whatever else you want to call it, is too good to condemn any of his children. Maybe the souls of the truly evil–those who have fallen from paths that advance humanity, those who have chosen to cause pain instead of breed love–are sent back to live out physical life here on Earth again until they get it right and are capable of advancing to the next level of existence. Maybe that’s the judgment God imparts. Maybe that’s the real message of Eden, not that we are all sinners, but that some of us are. I truly think people are innately good with tendencies and temptations towards bad. These are our primal instincts, the qualities that have kept our race alive but have no use in a cooperative society.
I think that all religions provide some sort of insight on the Divine. I’m most comfortable with Christianity, probably due to having been raised a Catholic, but I also find truth in Buddhism and some of the eastern traditions. I like the practical Mother Earth philosophy of paganism, though the myriad of gods I find confusing and slightly silly. I think that all of humanity has had the group experience of the Divine and, in their uniquely diverse ways of describing it, they have invented multiple religions attempting to explain what they have felt. I am not sure anyone’s got it quite right (including myself, I admit!) so we keep fumbling with these words and inspirations and expressions.
I believe that evolution and creationism are not mutually exclusive. No one knows what a “day” means to God, as described in Genesis. God’s day may be a million billion years, for all we simpletons know. Perhaps the intricate design of life requires science and evolution. Maybe God was the catalyst to the Big Bang. Maybe he started the chain of events to make life and he waited, excitedly, to see what the chemical stew would uncover and here we are! Perhaps somewhere else in the universe, there is intelligent life looking nothing like ourselves. Maybe they breathe methane and excrete oxygen. Do they think that they were made in God’s image too? Maybe “God’s image” is a metaphor. Maybe “image” doesn’t really mean physical image, but more like what comprises our soul is the part that was made in God’s image.
I believe that life is precious. The universe is harsh. We must make the most of our time here, ensuring that we help those who need us and we take care of the planet on which we live. What are we supposed to learn here? Perhaps we’re meant to make paradise on earth. I don’t put stock in the unknown, but I do put all my energies on what I do know. Life is hard, but also beautiful. I appreciate the beautiful moments, try to navigate through the hard moments, and I attempt to give something of myself to the world. I’m sad for those whose only life is one of hardship. I pray that the afterlife is better to them.
Lately, I’ve been thinking hard on the whole issue of God. I battle with the part of me that thinks our intelligence is random chance. It’s so easy to go there. Yet, when I marvel at all that we do and have done, I wonder what separates us from animals (sometimes, it’s really hard to tell the difference). Is there something more to us than what exists in, say, a cat? A bird? An ant? Yet these beings have their place too. Life is a cycle that feeds on itself. We’re at the top of the chain. For now.
Thinking like this also causes me to go into existential quandaries. What’s the point to all this even if there is a God? And where did God come from? And why bother with this whole thing? This is when I get into the heavy area of pondering whether reality is real and if maybe I’m just a dream in someone else’s head. Or maybe I’m sleeping in a cave somewhere while hooked to a virtual reality machine like in The Matrix. I read a book once that stated reality is what you make of it in your mind. In other words, how I perceive the world is what shapes reality so, really, none of this is real at all but made up in my head. I think I’m interacting with other people, but I’m so trapped in my own head, I don’t even realize that I’ve made this whole thing up. If so, you’d think I’d have come up with some better results for my life. I wouldn’t be a widow or sitting here at this crappy job.
I try to avoid those reality quandaries. They leave me with a strange sense of unfamiliarity with my surroundings and then I can’t communicate with people for hours without thinking about how weird every word sounds and looks (is that the right word? am I saying it correctly? who came up with this word? does anyone understand me?).
I am not sure there is an afterlife. If I was sure, I’d be more sure there was a god. I think there is a good possibility there is an afterlife. In church this past week, the lay leader’s sermon focused on the “ifs” and “whats” of the afterlife. Having done a lot of research on the topic, she still concluded that she was unsure, but that there was a lot of evidence that suggested some strange phenomenon so it was impossible to say there wasn’t an afterlife. I’m waiting to get her reading list because I’m really interested in this topic. Too many people have had interesting “near death” experiences that seem to have been impossible–people who saw things happening in the room where they were being operated on, visions people had while they were flat-lined, overheard conversations from rooms where the person’s body wasn’t. I want to read about these for myself. The lay leader said some of the stories caused skeptics to change their point of view.
I think I have to believe in an afterlife in order to be at peace with my husband’s death. That’s why I always say that I want to believe. I don’t want to believe that Mike is gone from the universe. It’s much nicer to envision his spirit roaming the universe, studying all of the Divine’s creations with apt interest, waiting until the day when he can show them all to me personally. I’d rather think he visits his resting place on Mt. Elbert, that he can really hear me when I cry to him and that he can read those cards I drop at the spot where I left his ashes. It’s easier to imagine him alive in this way than completely dead. If everything he was is gone forever, then I have to ask myself what was the point to his life–all the abusive years he suffered growing up, all the confusion of trying to fix himself after he got out. It seems like an empty venture to live for 32 years and die just at the dawning of your life where everything you ever wanted was about to begin. I’d rather think there’s an afterlife and he’s in it.
I guess my vision of God is more like the Force from Star Wars–a life-creating energy that surrounds all living things. You can use the energy for good, or you can misuse it for bad. When you die, you become a part of it, contributing to the life all around you. I have always imagined–even in my self-proclaimed atheist years–that we as physical beings are in the larval stage of our existence; when we die, we burst forth and fly away like beautiful butterflies. Maybe life is in two stages like this.
I don’t have any of the answers. But this is what I believe. I can’t say I have faith in it–I have so little faith in anything. It’s just simply what I believe when I’m tempted to believe in something.