You may remember that this time last year I read a fair few books that seemed quite contradictory reading in many ways:
“My recent/current reading list has contained the titles, “What God Wants“, “What the Bible Really Teaches“, “An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion” and “The God Delusion“. Quite a selection – a “new age” book, a Christian challenge to fundamentalists, a philiosophical/theological book, and one written by a staunch atheist!”
I also went on to explain why this was of interest to me:
“More and more I am realising that if I truly want Little Man to grow up and make his own decisions about faith and “God” then I need to be able to encourage and support him in his own exploration as and when he is able and wants to do so… I’d rather he chose to be firmly religious or a passionate atheist (neither of which I am) or even someone who couldn’t care less either way, than follow in my footsteps and choose to believe something just because I do. If I can raise him to have his own mind, I’ll be one happy mama.”
I didn’t really write much more about this after that, even though I continued to read various bits and pieces. But when I picked up another book by Neale Donald Walsch recently I realised that he has this unique way of putting into words so much of what I have felt for so long but never been able to explain very well. I began reading Communion with God just a week or so ago and every time I pick it up I wish I were as able to put my feelings into words.
You see, I seem to have a lot of friends who either have very firm beliefs in God or who are passionately atheist and I find myself agreeing with each one on so many things and yet disagreeing on many others. And it can be hard to explain where you actually stand when you are neither here nor there, but somewhere in the middle, because that can seem so very “wishy washy” and changeable at times, which it is (changeable I mean, not wishy washy)!
I love each one for their conviction in where they stand as I feel the same conviction that what I feel is right, is right for me. But expressing that can be difficult. And it can be even more confusing to try and explain how sometimes I can feel I have more in common with an atheist than with a christian, even though I believe in a God (of sorts).
But when I talk about “God” I mean “Life”. Pure and simple, I believe that “God” is a term used throughout the ages to describe the energy that creates life, that sustains life, that simply is life. So that includes you and me. Totally heretical to many faiths to suggest that we are all a part of God, co-creating the life that exists, but at its essence this is what I believe. We live in the world, we affect it through our thoughts, beliefs and actions. We’re aren’t mere spectators, we are creators. We create new life, we give birth to it, and we raise it.
And the book puts this so much more succintly than I ever could:
‘There is nothing that is that is not God.
‘You may better grasp this idea if you use the word “Life” in place of the word “God”. The two words are interchangeable, so you will not alter the meaning…
“Nothing that is, is not Life. If Life needed to produce a result, where would Life get it? There is nothing that exists outside of Life. Life is All That Is, All That Was, and All That Will Ever Be.’
You may think I’m nuts, and that’s okay! I think I’m nuts sometimes too. But I know that this really sums up for me exactly what I feel about life and God. I don’t believe in God as a person. I think that we have personified an abstract feeling and concept that we struggle to put into words. And I think there is a real beauty in that, so long as we do not then expect everyone to accept our truth as the truth.
And so this is why I find myself falling somewhere in the middle, enjoying various perspectives given by both religions and atheists alike. It keeps me questioning whether what I believe today is the same as I believed yesterday, and I like that. Again the book writes this so much better than I ever could:
‘Remember… take what you read as valuable, but not as infallible. Know that you are your own highest authority. Whether you read the Talmud or the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita or the Qur’an, the Pali Canon or the Book of Mormon, or any holy text, do not place your source of authority outside of yourself. But, rather, go within to see if the truth you’ve found is in harmony with the truth you find in your heart. If it is, do not say to others, “This book is true”. Say, “This book is true for me”.
‘And if others ask you about the way you are living because of the truth you have found within you, be sure to say that yours is not a better way, yours is merely another way.’
This last passage reminds me of the conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu that I shared last year and I think it is worth sharing again. I love how beautifully this conversation expresses the ability to seek your own truth and still be able to honour the truth of another.
And I think it is a message that holds true in so many situations in life. ‘…if others ask you about the way you are living because of the truth you have found within you, be sure to say that yours is not a better way, yours is merely another way,” is surely a message we should all remember when discussing different lifestyles, parenting choices and so much more. And this is why I love this book so much.
I do hope that as Little Man grows I will not only find the words to express these things to him but also the ability to live my life honouring the paths of others, showing him by the way I live my life rather than simply the words I speak.
JulieJanuary 28, 2014 at 9:24 pm
The book sounds fascinating and I think, probably, overlaps a lot with what I believe. I am different from you in that I don’t invest much time and effort in what I believe, I think that may come some time in the future – at the moment I’m happy to merely ponder every now and then – but I suspect there’s some similarities in our outlook and the way we’d like to live our lives. Juliex
AmandaJanuary 29, 2014 at 8:00 am
Thank you for your comment! I think pondering as and when the mood hits you is great… I go through stages where I immerse myself in this kind of thing and then I can go months without giving it a second thought. I think the freedom to follow your own heart on all matters is what is most important in life 🙂
KeletkezesFebruary 25, 2014 at 2:16 pm
Faith is such a hard thing to explain, isn’t it! I have no religion but I am not faithless, but most people can only quantify it in terms of religion.
God-wise, I’m closest to ‘agnostic theist’: I believe there’s (probably) a higher power but not necessarily something with a personality or thought or even a consciousness.
As someone brought up in a Christian faith (and here we see how faith and religion get confused!) but not-very-religious family, I never had a problem choosing a path. That’s not to say that choice was easy, correct for me (although it was at the time) or anything like that: rather no-one was there to tell me I was wrong or try and impose their way of thinking on me. And I think that’s most important.
AmandaFebruary 26, 2014 at 8:52 am
Yes that’s it exactly – faith and religion are two very different things, and yet because religion usually includes faith people assume to have faith you must be part of a particular religion! I don’t even know how to describe myself let alone anyone else (ha!) but I do hope I can raise Little Man in an environment where he can choose his own path, just as you were! It isn’t always easy, and as you say it isn’t always even right for you (in the long-term) but is always the right place for you at any one moment if you are free to choose and explore. You don’t have to have it all sussed out (who does?) but rather have the confidence to explore, knowing that it’s okay to change your mind about things. I think that is where religion is too restrictive… it doesn’t allow for mind-changing experience 🙂