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inisbeag's picture

inisbeag

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Our Wondrous Places

 

I am brand new to wondercafe.ca and I jumped right in commenting on a controversial post earlier. But it got me thinking a bit about my own journey. Thanks for having me. I think I'm going to like it here. 

When I look back on my journey of faith I cannot pinpoint when my ideas and beliefs about God changed. I can remember instances of feeling disillusioned or battling internal conflict. Times of feeling immense joy and love. I can remember the United Church being the liberal church I attended and myself, the conservative, opposing changes that were made to hymns, or prayers or the subtle changes in the reading of scripture. I can even remember (I’m ashamed to say) being opposed to the Ordination into Ministry of gays and lesbians when it was an issue in the late 80’s.

And then I found myself, not knowing how, on the other side of this invisible line looking back at a former self and thinking, “Did I believe that”? or “Did I really have that reaction”? And it was a wondrous place to be. For me, I had evolved spiritually over the years in a faith formed by life experiences, both tragic and wonderful experiences. I was no longer a person believing because I was told to believe or because I happened to be born into a Christian family. I believed, worshipped and praised God because I experienced God.

But then something happened. I began questioning other’s beliefs wondering how could they think the same old way? Why didn’t they change? Why were they not in the same place as I? I began to think I had the right answer, I was on the right path.

This is not such a wondrous place to be.

I sometimes am critical of what I call fundamental Christianity because I find it does not allow room for others to experience God in any way that does not conform to their way. But here, I found myself in danger of being just as fundamental, only at the other end of the spectrum.

Of course, I didn’t realize this until I happened to attend a church study group a few years ago and as I sat listening to the conversation, I was having difficulty relating to what was being said. Then a woman, who tended to be quiet at these groups, spoke up saying a few words that affected me in a way I wouldn’t have expected. She said in response to the conversation “I tried thinking outside the box once and I couldn’t handle it. I had to get back inside the box”. Maybe it was her tone of voice, maybe it was the little bit I knew of her life, but her words had a big impact on me. Her words, in fact, humbled me. I credit her for opening my eyes to my own narrow mindedness. In my efforts, in my pride, to be open minded, I became the fundamentalist in thinking this was the only path that everyone would travel at some point.

The earthquake in Haiti reaffirmed this experience for me when I read articles about victims of the quake going to a collapsed church and praying to God to relieve their suffering and I read comments from self-proclaimed atheists saying how inane this behaviour was. But it struck me, this is their faith and it is sustaining them through an event I couldn’t imagine going through. No observer's opinion could change that. The fact it gives them strength and courage is evidence it is very real.

We can perceive ourselves as growing in faith, even look back and marvel at our journey but if we ever question another’s journey as not holding the same validity because it does not meet our expectations of who God is, then we ourselves are ceasing to grow.

You see, faith doesn’t depend on someone else’s approval. This is a wondrous thing.

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gecko46's picture

gecko46

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I like the things you have written, inisbeag.  In many ways my spiritual journey or journey of discovery greatly resembles yours.

I have difficulty when it comes to judging others, especially those with a "narrower" or more fundamental view than mine....but I'm learning and am becoming more accepting and tolerant.

 

Welcome to Wondercafe.

crazyheart's picture

crazyheart

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WELCOME TO WONDERCAFE AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR TESTIMONY.

chansen's picture

chansen

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inisbeag wrote:

The earthquake in Haiti reaffirmed this experience for me when I read articles about victims of the quake going to a collapsed church and praying to God to relieve their suffering and I read comments from self-proclaimed atheists saying how inane this behaviour was. But it struck me, this is their faith and it is sustaining them through an event I couldn’t imagine going through. No observer's opinion could change that. The fact it gives them strength and courage is evidence it is very real.

Can you point out where this behaviour took place?  Yes, atheists feel that 2 hands working are more useful than a million hands clasped in prayer, but it is not like the atheists that I know or follow to kick people while they're down.  That said, I would have no problem pointing out religious leaders blaming natural disasters on what they see as society's ills.

 

But while I would not go up to a person to tell them that their prayer in a time of loss is useless, I'm also not going to agree that their faith is "real".  Lots of things give people strength and courage.  Alcohol could make me pick a fight with someone twice my size.  The power of suggestion could give a person courage.  The multple different methods for tricking the mind may work, but that doesn't mean the claims of any of them, including Christianity, are real.  That just puts Christianity in the same category as multiple hallucinogens.

 

MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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Welcome, Little Island

Faith's necessarily a journey, a personal one… our spirits (so long as they're healthy) are living things full of hungers, thirsts, questions, uncertainties, excitements and energy. 

Blessings and best wishes!

SG's picture

SG

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Welcome, inisbeag!

 

Thank you for sharing your faith journey.

As a member of the GLBTQ community, let me also thank you for that honesty related to "the Issue". Many folks change position and then it can be sanctimonious. Those who will say, "this is where I was" and "this is where I am now" get kudos from me. It can be a hard thing to say.

 

Again, welcome.

 

inisbeag's picture

inisbeag

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[/quote]

Can you point out where this behaviour took place?  Yes, atheists feel that 2 hands working are more useful than a million hands clasped in prayer, but it is not like the atheists that I know or follow to kick people while they're down.  That said, I would have no problem pointing out religious leaders blaming natural disasters on what they see as society's ills.

 

But while I would not go up to a person to tell them that their prayer in a time of loss is useless, I'm also not going to agree that their faith is "real".  Lots of things give people strength and courage.  Alcohol could make me pick a fight with someone twice my size.  The power of suggestion could give a person courage.  The multple different methods for tricking the mind may work, but that doesn't mean the claims of any of them, including Christianity, are real.  That just puts Christianity in the same category as multiple hallucinogens.

 

[/quote]

It was an article on CBC's website with a photograph os a destroyed church in Port au Prince and people in prayer arounf the ruins. The comments I refer to were from readers who said they were atheists and criticized and insulted these people for praying to their "make believe fantasy gods."

As far as faith not existing, I'm afraid, you are wrong. If these people found strenght to face the events surrounding them by praying to their God, if the time they took to pray gave them encouragement and lifted their spirits to face their reality, then there is nothing you can say to erase it. If their spirit is lifted and sustained, then it is so. Just like a person going to meditate an hour a day to find some inner peace away from the day: You might not agree with their practice but nothing you say, think or belief is going to take away their inner peace. This is the part atheists fail to get (at least the many atheists I have had the pleasure of meeting). Just because you say faith can't exist will not erase the fact faith exists for others . It may not exist for you, nor can it as long as you don't have faith, which is fine too! But what is not fine, is for someone to criticize someone else's spirituality just because it doesn't fit into their own belief system. I think we may be looking at faith and spirituality from two differing places. Perhaps you are looking at it from a literalists point of view?

inisbeag's picture

inisbeag

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Thanks MikePaterson! And you knew the Irish. smiley

 

inisbeag's picture

inisbeag

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SG wrote: 

As a member of the GLBTQ community, let me also thank you for that honesty related to "the Issue". 

____________________

Yes, well, I am still embarrassed that I even thought that way! That thought process is so foreign to me now.  And to think I was a teenager at the time. I didn't realize my 40 year old me would have grown so much. smiley

Thanks for the welcome!

seeler's picture

seeler

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I didn't know that I 'knew the Irish" until I read "Little Island".   Then the lightbulb went off.  Of course, that's why the name seemed familiar.   I'm not a linguist, and I don't pick up other languages easily, but I've read books that use some Irish words to set the tone and place, I've seen maps, and I've heard music.    So, Little Island, I"ve already welcomed you on another thread, but let me also welcome you here on your thread. 

 

I look forward to hearing a lot more from you.  I find mysel travelling the same journey, and struggling to understand some of those whose faith journeys are different from mine.   I seem to get my back up too easily, and fall into arguing rather then accepting.   I hope that I can learn from you.

 

Elanorgold's picture

Elanorgold

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It's the same in Scottish Galic, Little Island. Mike's not the only one who kens! Welcome. Pretty avatar.

inisbeag's picture

inisbeag

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Thanks Seeler and Elanorgold. I know there is much I can learn on here. I knew about the site for a long time but never took the time to look further when , in fact, it is what I been looking for in terms of finding others who like to discuss religion and spiritiuality.

And, Elanorgold, I really enjoyed your video 'Dream within a dream'. I wanted to watch it a few more times before I commented. smiley

My avatar is a painting I completed not long ago, I call Joy&Sorrow. 

Thanks again for the welcomes!

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