Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Faith, or lack there of...

Although I grew up in a Catholic household and attended Catholic school for ten years, I never really bought into the belief system. I guess you could say that I've been an analytical person my whole life, and tend to question things that don't seem logical to me. It's very hard for me to trust in anything that isn't supported with evidence or cold hard facts. I guess most people just follow through believing and/or practicing what ever religion their parents are, or the religious beliefs of their country. On a whole, the adults in my life are not overly religious, so that might have influenced me to doubt or question my religion lessons in school, and later in life. Even as a small child, I had a difficult time believing in the stories of the Bible and magical characters like the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Other than telling my Kindergarten class that Santa Claus didn't exist, I tried to play along and not to ruin it for my friends and siblings.

I tend to enjoy playing devil's advocate and like to question or pick apart subjects and have mini debate sessions with my friends. It can be a bad habit at times, because it makes it near impossible for me to enjoy movies, television or books at face value, without over analyzing every detail. It impacts my social life at times, in the sense that I often read into situations more than necessary and end up creating undue stress or anxiety for myself. Generally speaking, I'd say the ability to analyze facts and assess social situations are both good qualities. My problem is that in the past, I tended to only apply my analytical skills to my studies, career and planning, while acting spontaneously and carefree in other aspects of my life. Sometimes, when I look back on my life I wish I could've been more consistent and took the time to think through all the choices I made. I always joke that I'm book smart and life dumb. Although my accident has given me a new perspective on life and opened my eyes to so many things; the one thing that has always remained the same is my lack of faith in a higher power.

Logically, I have an extremely hard time believing in any concept of God. I rely heavily on science and enjoy learning about how things work and why things do the things they do. I love learning the history of things and understanding how and why things are the way they are. In general, I like having answers and proof to back them up. I would imagine most people feel the same way. It is comforting when someone is able to offer you a reason or a solution to your questions. On the contrary, it's frustrating and stressful when no one can give you a straight answer or fix a problem you might have. My spinal cord injury is a perfect example of a puzzle without a solution. Not knowing how to fix my spine is infuriating. The fact that so much time and energy is spent on finding answers to other questions, when we (humanity) still haven't solved the problems of our own bodies seems absurd to me, but that is a whole other topic. What baffles me, is how people can have faith in something they have no proof of, or logical reasons for why or how it exists. In fact, I'd argue there is equal evidence, if not more, that should discourage people from having faith, yet people continue to believe. I'm fascinated by faith and often envy those that have it. I want to know what motivates people to have such one sided relationships and what influences them to believe.

Prior to my accident, I'd probably consider myself an Atheist. A lot of people confuse atheists with Devil worshipers, although they are very different. At the time of my accident I was at an all time low in terms of having faith in any deity, either good or bad. My childhood was filled with obstacles that ultimately turned me further and further away from believing in God. My parent's divorce and the death of my little sister (among other things) were enough to disprove the existence of a loving God. As I got older and learned more about the origins of religions (the reasoning and cultural history behind belief systems), I became less mystified and more aware of man's role in the creation of rituals and rules. Even now, it turns me off when I think about the corruption and bloodshed that has occurred and still occurs in the name of God.

The night of my accident I believed I was going to die and it terrified me. When I was face down in the water, unable to move and could barely see because of the darkness, I accepted the fact that my life was about to end. That night was the first of several nights in which I almost died (due to high fevers). It was during those first few weeks that I first felt the terror of not knowing what would happen if I died. Before my accident I would have said, "You die and that's it. Heaven and Hell are just fairy tales men made up to teach morality." Words are easy to say when you have no experience to back them up. Once I actually experienced coming so close to death, it's as if a switch turned on inside. The tiny flicker of doubt of "what if" has pushed me to find answers. When I do die, I don't want to find out I was wrong. Some might call it "guilt" or "fear," but regardless of my motives, I have felt the need to work on, or develop some sort of faith in God.

Now, I guess I'd be classified Agnostic. I've come to believe in some sort of higher being, but I'm not sold on any one religion, or name for God. Here again, logic steps in and makes me think that if there is a God, it created all of us and so why should it care what name we call it by? My religious friends all have arguments as to why it has to be their God, but so far I'm just convinced I have to be a good person and love my fellow man. When I describe a person as "religious," I mean someone who believes in a specific God/Gods and lives their life according to the specific rules of said God/Gods. I don't think someone has to necessarily be church going or radical to be religious.

On one hand, I envy my religious friends, because their religion gives them peace of mind and security in knowing that there is a certain purpose or plan for their life. On the other hand, I feel suffocated by the thought of having to buy into one group's set of beliefs. I don't like the thought of only a select group of people (worshipers) reaping the benefits of God, while the rest of humanity is doomed. I don't know that I'll ever be able to understand that mind set. Why should children, ignorant people or people that lived before a specific religion existed be punished for a choice they were never given? I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I can't even begin to trust in a God that would punish 99.9% of the beings it created. Why would God create us only to pit us up against one another? Who is to say which group is right? Even religions that are similar can't get along. I mean Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God of the Old Testament and yet, still have been willing to kill one another over technicalities. The thinking of most modern organized religions keeps me from getting involved because it often tends to be black or white, with little room for thought or questions. Why did God bother to give me a brain if I'm only meant to follow blindly like a robot? Why give freewill if everything is already planned? So many people tell me that my accident is part of "God's plan." Doesn't that imply that I was forced to break my neck; that I never had a choice?These are the types of questions that make it hard for me to have faith.

I'm taking the time to read/learn about all different religions in my search for answers, as well as my desire to understand why people think the way they do. I'm interested in knowing what motivates people to believe. I'm especially interested in knowing how/why people that have faced horribletragedy or overcome tremendous obstacles have faith and if/how it impacts their ability to cope. I think having a stronger faith would give me more mental strength to keep moving forward. I'm met with the paradox of wanting to build faith, but not having much faith as a foundation to build from. I find it funny that I ask God to help strengthen my faith. It's as if I'm asking God to help me believe in him/her, just in case he/she actually exists. How does faith get stronger when you never receive any answers or proof to justify your questions? It's a riddle I find very difficult to deal with.

Of all the religious people in my life, I'm curious to know what factors influenced them in deciding which religion to believe: What factors make them believe in it?; How or why they think their religion is right and if they believe other religions are wrong?; What benefits do they feel they get from having faith?; Do they feel their questions are ever answered, if so how?; What proof, if any, do they feel they've seen that has validated their belief system?; What do they think about death/dying?