It is my belief and faith that connects me to the people around me.
I am a believer. I have always been a believer. My faith has always been inseparable from me, my sense of identity, who I am.
But what I believe and have faith in has and can change as I learn and grow.
Does this make me religious? Perhaps, though the word carries additional baggage.
One of my siblings is a self-professed atheist. He loves the sound of the word. Loves to proclaim his atheism, enjoying the frisson of scandal that comes with the pronouncement. He and I would often meet up in London, my home and my longest lived stomping grounds. He did not grow up here, did not live here, but as an adult, has begun to make it is his preferred home.
It is funny, but where you live in London seems to follow your political persuasions, or at least indicate them. That is certainly true of us, which is why his London and my London are two different cities.
We would meet mainly to eat a meal together, and have long, deep conversations about life, family, politics, and whatever else came along over a nice bottle of wine. He is an intellectual and has made choices in life that leave him financially dependent on the generosity of others. His politics do not keep up with his economics. It was a pleasure to take him out to meals, and I always appreciated that he would reach for his wallet and offer to pay, and know that he meant it, even if he couldn’t afford it. I was glad to see him and glad to enjoy rich conversation in such nice places.
One evening, after a lovely meal, we strolled into Soho and had a coffee at my favourite Italian bar. At first we talked about our Father. How he was abusive, and how that affected us all in different ways. I had almost no relationship with him, and that is a blessing for he was toxic to all of his children. As the least exposed to him growing up, I have the least residual damage from the experience. This particular brother, however, had the most, and suffered the most at our Father’s hands.
The things that transpired between them were unforgivable, and while both committed horrible acts towards one another, my brother was still a child, my father an adult, his parent, one who should have had his son’s best interests at heart.
I sensed the imminence of our Father’s death, and had found it important to find my way towards forgiving him for the things he had done in my life that were hateful. I found it verry liberating to let go, and find a way to accept him. I shared this with my brother, and he said he would never be able to forgive. I said that it was not for our father that he should do it, and perhaps not forgiveness, but rather acceptance. That this was a cancer in his life, and that finding a way to accept our father for both bad and good, was for him, for his life, an important step. To forgive provides relief to the forgiver. My brother needed relief, still does, as this hate is consuming him, ruining his life. He was curious as to how I had been able to forgive for the things our father had done to me. Faith, I said. My brother shook his head in disbelief.
The topic turned to God. Atheism met faith. We explored the topic gingerly at first, gently even, and I listened to him with uncharacteristic patience. His frustration and sadness seemed to lie with the institutions of religion. I too find much to fault with the Church, regardless of its stripe. But Church is the creation of humanity. It is at best an attempt to provide a house in which to connect with God, in whatever form God takes. And it is a house in which one is meant to enjoy the company of our fellow humans while in conversation with God.
“Turning the other cheek is a bullshit narrative,” he said.
“You don’t have to follow scripture,” I said, “what matters is finding the good in life, the good in people, the good around you.”
“Some people and some things cannot be forgiven.”
“Forgiving is not absolution. It is simply understanding and letting go. That is for you, not for him.”
My faith angered him. It angered him to the point of rage. The angrier he became, the more calm I felt. I have always felt the presence of God in my life. And when I say God, I don’t mean the God of scripture, the way that we are taught of God in school and in Church. I don’t believe that anyone can know who or what God is, or dictate how God should be or appear in our lives. But I know that God is there. What God is to me shall have to be the subject of another post.
My brother became so angry with me that he said he couldn’t stand the sight of me anymore, that he had to leave.
“My respect for you is vanishing beneath the waves,” he said, “how can someone so rational as you believe in God?”
“I’m surrounded by proof every day, everywhere I go, everything I do.”
“That is just the kind of nonsense all of you say, always falling back on faith, when there is a total absence of proof.”
“Faith is proof.” And around and around we went.
I could tell that he wanted to strike me, I could see the coiled anger inside him. He is a physical powerhouse, and has also always had problems controlling his rage, and it was bubbling over, taking every ounce of will of his to keep him from laying me flat. I could see that this exercise of self-control was consuming him, eating him up.
In the end we parted company on a sour note that evening. His disgust with me for being a “believer” has coloured our relationship ever since, affecting all of our interactions, affecting his relationship with my SO, my children. It is sad. Why should one person’s beliefs be so upsetting to another person?
It had nothing to do with the conversation about our father, as that was a frequent topic and one which had never stirred things up in this way. It was about the presence and meaning of God. And I am saddened by this, mainly for him. Because to live without feeling that there is something bigger and more beautiful than what our individual experience shows would be a silent life. The absence of revery and awe for the beauty of the world around us would be deadening. Perhaps someone who has been so badly hurt inside can no longer accept that a God exists. My own faith does not see God as a rational, vengeful, all knowing and all-controlling Christian God. But the miracle of existence and its infinite complexity lies all around us, and for me, that is proof enough.
What good does that do me? It helps me to rise above myself. It helps me to feel more connected to the people and the world around me. It helps me be a better person.
My brother does not believe. He is also heavily burdened by years of abuse by my father. What is damaged the most is his self-respect. Can there be faith in someone who does not start from a foundation of self-respect?
Does it help you? Is there any relationship between kink and God?
” too find much to fault with the Church, regardless of its stripe. But Church is the creation of humanity. ”
not per the bible. It is always curious when Christians want to run away from their religion. You do seem to be a Chrisitan, one who make up a god in her own image just like al of the others ” My own faith does not see God as a rational, vengeful, all knowing and all-controlling Christian God.”
““Turning the other cheek is a bullshit narrative,” he said.”
Indeed it is. Since your god never does this. Do explain on how the idea of hell works with “turning the other cheek”.
““I’m surrounded by proof every day, everywhere I go, everything I do.””
all theists claim this about their particular god/gods. No evidence that this is true for any of you. Faith is not proof. IF it were, then every god would be just as real as yours. I’m guessing you’d not agree. I can see why your brother was disgusted with you. You also seem to be trying to pretend to be a martyr, many Christians love to do that to establish “cred” with other Christians.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. May I ask you to kindly explain what you mean by the martyr comment. I don’t follow.
you seem to need to imagine your brother committing violence against you for being a Christian. I’ve seen that in others Christians, needing to claim that they are somehow heroic for speaking about their religion.
Thank you for your comment. I tried to reply through the mobile app, but it isn’t appearing, so here goes again.
I don’t agree with your view that faith is not proof. And I do accept that anyone’s God can be just as real as mine. Why not?
Not sure I understand your last point about trying to be a martyr, please explain…
so, is a Muslim’s faith “proof” that their religion is true?
if the commands of god/gods are contradictory, how does that work with your claim that anyone’s god can be as real as yours?
I’ve already explained about you wanting to pretend you are a martyr for your faith.
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I am someone who chooses to believe in G-d because I feel that belief has a positive relationship on my life. But I’m also in a situation where the mental gymnastics needed to reconcile “G-d is good” with “G-d allows bad things to happen” is not so challenging in my own personal life because my life really has been exceedingly good; if things were different, I suspect I would find belief much harder. So I don’t begrudge anyone who doesn’t believe.
I hope your brother is able to find peace and healing, in any form that works for him. And I hope you and he are able to get to a better place in your relationship.
Hi…thank you so much for sharing, and yes, me too, I hope so too. I don’t wish to preach, everyone should be encouraged to find their own path…
I know what you mean, about how to balance the good with the bad. For me, I don’t regard God as having a will that affects us on a human level. We must take active steps to live righteous and good lives, and that is where God lies, in the recognition that we are just pixels in a bigger picture, and that we have social responsibility to those around us.
But I also know that others take a much more interventionist view of God.
In reply to clubshchaudenfraude’s comment…
I am not sure that I recognise myself in your words. I would not describe myself as Christian in the strict sense of the word even though I was raised that way, baptised that way, and went to church schools. But my own views on who and what God is don’t follow the teachings of the Bible…Religion for me is a set of beliefs, a moral code, and a faith that there is something bigger than us as individuals, a life force, if you will, but not a conscious, vengeful God as the church teaches.
I do not need martyrdom for anything, nor do I feel heroic for it. Faith for me is an act of humility, acceptance of how small and insignificant we are. Heroism is the opposite.
And no, I had no need to imagine my brother committing violence against me. It was not a pleasant feeling, and unfortunately there is history there–not with me, but with others. Sometimes people who possess deep stores of rage and resentment are hard to predict.
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My brother and I had a clash about religion too. It was in a time when he was very fanatic about his faith, and tried to convert everyone to it. I don’t talk about what I believe – to me it’s a private matter. I told him as much, but he didn’t accept it. Kept on asking me if I have found God, even when I repeatedly told him it’s none of his business. It was just another thing that harmed our relationship, to the point where we don’t have any contact at all.
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I am sorry to hear that. Indeed, although in this case I was the “believer”, I certainly didn’t bring it up, nor attempt to convert or pressure him…live and let live is my motto…thanks for sharing.
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I hope you find a way to heel. I remain troubled by the distance that my brother has taken from me–and it doesn’t come from me. I invite him to things, try to get him engaged with my kids, and sometimes he says yes, but then he doesn’t even show up! I guess it is sad for me, but for my children it is very sad, as they don’t always understand it–and he was a favourite uncle!
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Hi clubschaudenfraude, there may be something in your settings that does not allow me to reply to your posts, but does for everyone else’s…but this is in reply to your last post.
It seems to me that you have a set idea of how an argument goes, but the things you keep describing don’t fit with my own views–so I will assume that I am not being clear enough.
I am not talking about “religion” in the sense of a group of people coming together with a shared set of beliefs. I do not hew myself to a “religion”. I believe that we each find our own way to God, and God may be something very different to one person or another. I absolutely do not deny any person’s faith. If someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Hindu, whatever, I do not think for a moment that anything I think or feel has anything to do with what they believe.
You are taking a very reductive view of “God” and one which is commonly taught/discussed in church, etc. I do not believe in a God that issues commands…that does not mean that if someone else does believe in such a God, that such a God exists or does not, it is just not my belief.
In other words, I have a personal connection to what I describe as God, and that feeling has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks or feels. And my faith in that feeling is enough to satisfy me that God exists for me. What anyone else thinks or believes is their business. Including yours.
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