Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Do You Believe What You Believe?

I was born into a Catholic family; water poured on my tiny, infant forehead in a Sunday baptism ceremony.

I entered first grade at the downtown Catholic school and had my First Holy Communion at the church next door. Outfitted in a white dress, belted at the waist and poofed out below with a crinoline slip; along with white Mary Jane patent leather shoes, lace trimmed ankle socks, and a lace veil, I received the Sacrament with other little girls and boys. I was beginning my life as a Christian.

But then the divorced happened. Dad remained a Catholic; Mom, ultimately, did not. She had custody of my brother and me. We moved to Michigan where our church going routine went awry. Fifth grade was my last year of Catholic school.

However, the seed was planted. I believed in God.

Later in life, I began to believe because of faith rather than what I’d been taught.

* * * *

I woke up one morning, stressed; worried about being able to accomplish the long list of things to do. My first thought: ask God to help me throughout the day.

And then I wondered – What do people do when in need of mental or physical relief? How do people handle a tough time, like a life or death situation involving themselves or loved ones? Where do they find comfort?

And, who do people thank when it all works out?

As a Christian, I have a “thank you Jesus moment,” like the lady on the commercial who won the millions in the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes…well, not e-x-a-c-t-l-y like her.

When blog surfing, and just reading in general, I find info on many celebrations – some that are religious, like Diwali. I Googled it and learned that it is a major holiday celebrated by Hindus.

With all the holidays celebrated around the world, I am reminded of the many different beliefs, and unfortunately, all the conflict surrounding it, which I believe will always exist. Religious wars have been fought since history has been recorded.

Nowadays, people criticize each other with words like: gullible, cult, naïve, stupid, heathen, violent, thief, weird, lost, etc.

I’ve seen bumper stickers with the word “coexist” (written with religious symbols), which is what we have to do, but I see nothing wrong with healthy and respectful debate. Educate yourselves and defend your beliefs, because sometimes in the process, you may help someone, or, you may discover something you’ve been missing that someone else has. When you have peace in your heart, you’ve probably hit the mark.


Just Two Chicks said...

Reading this made me remember the little girl in "Miracle on 34th Street" She closed her eyes, and half-heartedly whispered, "I believe, I believe, I believe..." Then there was this "aha" moment... it was about Santa Clause, but I can "feel" that. SO, this is what I do when things start to fall apart around my ears... I close my eyes and "I believe, I believe, I believe... " And at times I may hide in a closet or two, but luckily I've not done that for almost two years. :)

Tabor said...

I guess I am an agnostic and believe in the spirit of goodness in us all. If it comes to you in the Christian form, that is fine with me. The spirit for me is within and I sometimes have to dig deep for strength, but if I watch a sunrise or an animal feed its young, then I am renewed. We all have a different path and as long as we leave the world a better place, that is all that matters.

Betty W said...

Many of your thought have been on mind also. Especially the feeling of gratefulness. Who do people thank, if they don´t believe? When they celebrate Thanksgiving, who do they thank?
Great post, as always Anita!

One Photo said...

I am not religious, best described as atheist. As Tabor said, I think spirit is what lies within each and every one of us, determination to do our best, or not. I do however have some slight pantheistic leanings, because when I am hiking, getting back to nature in beautiful surroundings I have to think there is some reason for all of this, and I always think how very lucky we are to get to experience all of this - life, living, being.

Stephanie said...

Oh yes, I do think our experiences shape who we are and what we believe. That's why I am so so careful about what I say to my children and try to expose them to as many different "sides" of the world as possible.

Donna. W said...

I'm 66, and I can't believe all the changes I've gone through in my beliefs. I'm still a believer, still a Christian (although a pretty pathetic one). But my faith at present bears very little resemblance to what it was when I began.

Unknown said...

Anita, you've brought up some very good points. I grew up in the church and went to Christian schools until I graduated in high school. My parents raised us in a more Pentecostal upbringing. Yet, when I grew old enough to choose where I wanted to worship, I chose to be in a more laidback environment where it wasn't all about traditions and legalistic views. I chose mainly a non-denominational church with firm beliefs in the Bible being the word of God.

As for being thankful...some people find that all it takes is to have a grateful heart that they are alive and have food to eat. For me, I do owe where I'm at and what I have completely to God. I will be starting a job after being unemployed since 2009...that's not something that I look at as fate but in God's plan.

Anonymous said...

My faith is such a large part of who I am that I really don't even think or question it. I do know that I can look at my entire life and clearly see that God has been with me every step of the way. I grew up in a crazy home and took refuge in church - often going by myself as a child. God has had His hand on me throughout my entire life.

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

I'm a long time Christian and it has been my saving grace more times than I can count.

I do, however, believe that many of the different religions are different paths to the same truth.

As opposed to debate, I will respectfully 'agree to disagree' with others. Many times I've said, "I understand what you're saying, but I'll have to agree to disagree."

The most interesting people for me are agnostic and atheistic. I always say a silent prayer for them and then I find myself thinking how easy it is for some to be limited by their human brain.

There are fewer agnostics and atheists on their deathbeds than there are during their lifetimes...just a theory.

Happy Thanksgiving, Anita!!

Nakamuras on Saipan said...

Leave it to Anita to put up another intriguing post! I grew up in the Lutheran Church because that is what I had to . I didn't really have a choice-mom said it-so we did it! I believed in God because I was told to. In early adulthood I ventured out on my own and experimented with different things-beliefs and rituals. None of it left me feeling like I had "found" something.

Later on in life something began to happen to me. Can't say exactly what-perhaps all the hard times I went though, all the struggles, but I began to view God differently. I began to pray out of desperation (for lack of a better word). I began to see in earnest a relationship with that "higher power". Something wonderful began to happen-things that are difficult to explain. Things happened in my heart and deep within my soul. And now, all I can say is that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real.That he loves us and cares about our daily experiences-no matter how mundane. I know it spiritually-versus intellectually. Hope I made sense. (p.s. too tired to proof-read this post)

Sharon said...

I find myself saying "thank you Jesus" quite often. Or when I go through some hard times, I ask Him for help. I do believe. I've witnessed way too many miracles to do otherwise!

Rising Rainbow said...

Me, I was raised a Catholic too. Lots of things got in the way of that as I grew and matured. Today, I'm where I'm at through a lot of introspection and my desire to be good.

Tammy@Beatrice Banks said...

I've experienced too many miracles in my life to ever question or doubt my beliefs. It's more than believing, it's being. I owe it all to Jesus.
As for your question on dusting, I have a magical dust fairy who keeps everything clean. Not! I just do it when I can't stand it anymore.

smartee said...

I have a long list of religious views that have been a part of growing up...methodist, catholic, born again christian and now I have my own beliefs that changed drastically during college and grad school...I believe that there is a guiding force which all religions point to...I dont know the name of that which I call "the source" nor do I know what lies ahead...and I am content in my not knowing...I believe in miracles but not coincidence...I believe in purpose but not dogma...I believe in change.. that comes from finding yourself, knowing yourself and the power of "now" to allow this to occur....Im open to learning new things and new ways to see the world...and I believe that peace begins within ones soul...other than that Im still trying to figure it all out...!

forever lost said...

hey friend of blogland! I barely recovered and thank you so much for checking on me! sign of a good mom! lol~
regarding this post, well it stirs a post of my own and that is very good. but I recently gave up church (devout catholic for 17 ish years) love the buildings, hate the 2faced people)
now back where i started, I have faith in something bigger than me.

Unknown said...

All faiths can lead to God just like spokes on a wheel all radiating to the center. How you get there isn't important in my mind.

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving Day!
Julie Magers Soulen Photography

yonca said...

I don't like people criticize each other.We have a lot of things to teach each other and learn from each other. Great writing, Anita!
Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo

Vanessa Rogers said...

Religion is such a touchy subject isn't it? I like learning about other people's religions. Although there are many differences, sometimes stark, there are also similarity that most people can agree on.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Education also gives one the opportunity to sort and strengthen beliefs. To discover what one truly believes. Sometimes scary, but new direction is often eye opening.

Happy Thanksgiving, Anita.

gayle said...

I grew up Catholic too! I enjoy hearing others views on the Catholic religion and other religions.
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Jenny said...

Wow. What a thoughtful and thought provoking post.

I was raised Catholic and now I consider myself spiritual rather than religious.

I know it hurts my parents that I no longer embrace the Catholic faith but I am trying to be true to me.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

Unknown said...

I am all for respectful and healthy debate, too. I've seen that Coexist bumper sticker and kinda covet it! I wish people would just BE NICE, you know? If we were all exactly alike and all had the same beliefs, how boring would that be?!!?

Buckeroomama said...

Very well said!

Religion is such a personal thing that if people could just respect that and leave well enough alone, then perhaps we wouldn't be having as much conflict as we have today.

forever lost said...

hey...been awhile.. hope to see you back soon!

Georgiana Daniels said...

GREAT post! Early on I believed because it was what I was taught by a family that took me under their wing. Later in life (after spending a lot of time away from God) I believed because of several close encounters of the God kind that SOOO confirmed everything I had been taught as a kid. The deep knowing is such a comfort.

SuziCate said...

"Later in life, I began to believe because of faith rather than what I’d been taught." Me, too. I have a strong faith sytem, but the religion differs from that of my parents...too much hypocrisy growing up. I needed to get out and find my own way. Intersting post. I find many of my friends are within the religous bounds in which they grew up, but those who were burned by institutionalized relgion have chosen differing faiths.

Paul C said...

What a wonderful discussion you have initiated here. Coexisting in faith and creed is an ideal which we struggle to achieve. I appreciate your reflections.

Hilary said...

Wonderful sentiments, Anita. I guess the operative word is "respectful." As long as we have that...

Rebecca S. said...

Dear Anita,
I read this post last week and have been thinking about it, off and on, ever since. My husband and I were both born into the Catholic Faith. His history with it is very much like yours - almost identical. Mine was different. My parents stayed together, and I was taught that having a faith should be more about love than anything else. I am quite private about my beliefs, for I believe strongly that a person should live their faith from the inside out, not the outside in. I believe because, frankly there is too much evidence in my own life not to. I have struggled at times, but I know that I am loved and that that love is always waiting for me, no matter what.
My daughter was being pestered at school by a boy in her Grade 4 class who kept asking, "Do you believe in God? Because I don't." She held up very well but at one point when he'd asked her for the fifth time she said, "Ooooh, what a news flash!" Then he proceeded to ask again: "Why do you believe in God. You can't prove he's real." My daughter paused for a moment then said, "That's why we 'BELIEVE' and she held up her fingers to make quotation marks. I said, it's time for that kid to see 'Miracle on 34th Street!' like your first commenter said. Thanks xo

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks for visiting my blog.

I enjoyed this post and am guessing you got overwhelmed by diapers as it is not new or up to date. I been there before or my wife of 55 years was. We had 5 and the oldest is 54 years old. One year apart there for a while. Old wringer washing machine and hand pumped water heated on the kitchen cook stove. Lone before the days of disposable diapers.

These were the cotton kind that you had to dump the turds out of before washing.

I was caught off guard at the mere looks of your blog. Talk about clean, simple and beautiful. That is your blog. Marvelous to see. A thing of beauty.

CeCe Wilson said...

As always Anita, thanks to your post, my brain has made a new road. I love when you throw in a little cognitive dissonance ( monkey wrench in settled paradigms).

I think it is natural to want people to see things the way we do because it is comfortable (probably the root behind culture and why we have so many different ones).

My best friend recently divorced our denomination because her experience was similar to many others: being a part was what she had to do and didn't really understand the whys to her being there. She discovered that she really didn't have anything worth having when it came to peace and faith.

It took a lot of honesty on her part to go down the road less travelled and a whole lot of honesty on my part to be able to accept that she was choosing a different, albeit her own, path and I told her my biggest fear was that her leaving the church could take away a point of commonality which would in turn take away a piece of our friendship.

Thankfully, we discovered that our friendship is bigger than personal religious views and that she didn't blow up or burst into flames because she left the denomination. Her decision has also given me the opportunity to really take a minute to solidify what I believe. It also allowed me the freedom to recognize our differences and to still embrace her as a person and a friend. This situation allowed me to see her as person first with needs, desires, and differences that should and must be acknowledged. Her doing this did not come without a price however, she did lose friends along the way because it was too much for them to have her leave. I think we have both been strengthened in our friendship and our faiths as a result.

Thanks for another awesome post!

Melanie said...

What a beautiful post. I am a new reader to your blog and found this beautiful.

I try my darndest to live by my faith and do not have any idea...or do I want to have any I would or could cope without it.