“I don’t believe in God because Aunt So-and-So, or Grandpa, or the neighbors, or the people in the church I went to are hypocrites!” Ever heard that? I have. Hmm. Even as a fairly young person, that didn’t make sense to me. Basing your choice of belief, or unbelief, on what other people do. Actually, there are no ‘other’ people. People are just like you. Sometimes they do good things, sometimes not so much. Are they hypocrites? Well, my definition is a person who knows that they are doing wrong, and has some agenda or motive in doing it, so they continue – fully aware. That’s a hypocrite. They are using organizations or people, religious or otherwise, to further their own ends. The rest of us, most are trying our best and that has to be on a daily basis. Some days go well, some days. . .
Or, “I don’t believe in God, because I believed He promised me that such-and-such would, or would not, happen.” One young man told me that he didn’t believe in God because his grandfather died on Christmas day, a day when he was hoping to see this important person in his life one last time. It’s ok to be angry at the loss of someone you love, be careful whom you splash that on. Make sure it fits.
For me, I don’t base what I believe, or don’t, on anyone else. I don’t base it on doctrine, one particular source, philosophy or ideation. I listen, observe, study and decide. What do I think and feel about what I have absorbed? In most instances, I have learned to use critical thinking. Am I never influenced by others? I am influenced by others, and I realize human nature. If I had to believe in God, in order to dictate or control my behavior, I wouldn’t believe. If I can’t be who I am, decide on who I am going to be, my moral path, my duty to others and self, inside my own self – then, what good is belief? If you only have control over your thoughts and actions by believing someone else controls them, or someone is watching you and may punish or reward you, what do you have?
I mentioned I was raised in a rather rigid Christian church, and continued that through my young life. Even got myself into a situation of attending, not really by choice, an even more rigid church (from which I literally escaped after about 10 year, that’s when critical thinking became important). I prayed all the time. I prayed for others, for my family. I had certain prayers that I learned as a child, and repeated those prayers for loved ones, and self.
Each day, and each evening , I would pray for the safety and protection of friends and family. During that time, a close friend shot himself to death, another was killed in a climbing accident, another dove off a cliff and broke his neck and died, a friend was murdered by her half-brother, and my fiance was killed in a motorcycle accident, two of my business contacts committed suicide. I also worked in a clinic and saw all around me the devastation of minimal, or no, access to healthcare. I saw poverty and hunger in people who worked hard and had nothing. Inequality, injustice and abuse. And, I believed in cause and effect – some people cause and it can affect you. You also do the same, words and actions matter – you don’t always know where they will wind up. I grieved and felt heartache, each time. Seasons of life.
If I continued to base my belief on outcomes, I would have none. I learned through these experiences about grief and loss, about anger and passion, the value of compassion and love. I learned that belief is not about outcome. It’s about what is right now. What you can do. We have invented something very clever (and sinister, I think) in standing back and saying, “pray about it”, “God will help you”. Then, we have no responsibility. The truth is we are the God that’s coming. We are the rescue, and the help. It is given to us to care for others, friends or strangers. That’s why we are here – not to collect and achieve. Few get it. Few live it. Few want to.
If you believe in God, and that adds strength and peace to your life, good. I encourage you in that, I admire it. If you do not believe, and that gives you stability, courage and the desire to do good and be compassionate to self, and others, good for you, as well. I have known the faithful of varied traditions, and the nonbelievers, both. The trajectory of their lives seems to have no difference, in my observation – they have the same amount of good fortune and tragedy. It seems to me, the worth of life is in what you choose to do with it. How you choose to live, whether someone is watching, or not. How you choose to send your intentions, by prayer or holding good thoughts in your heart, regardless of outcome.
No matter your circumstances, no matter the tragedies, injustices or disappointments (that’s life, the seasons of living) you have the free will to choose who you will be. That’s up to you. Rich or poor, famous or not, you can choose integrity, courage, faithfulness any time you want to. You can make that the course of the life you have. It’s never going to be about the things that happen around you, or to you; it’s always going to be about who you decide to stand up and be. Hypocrites, real or imagined, don’t make your decisions. You do. You always do.
I apologize for the length. It’s something I’ve been wanting to express. I thank you so much for listening, for stopping by. Lilie