Tag Archives: faith

Spiritual Journeys Are NOT Destinations

So, my wife is struggling with her spirituality these days, trying to reconcile how she feels and how she views the world with an upbringing that was fairly fundamentalist in terms of Christian doctrine, even if she herself has always been pretty progressive/liberal in terms of social issues and politics.

This won’t come as any surprise to anyone who follows both she and I on Twitter (and several of you do; for those who don’t, she’s @blackgirlinmain on Twitter and she also has a blog…follow her in both places and I think you’ll be glad you did). She’s been talking quite openly about her spiritual struggles. I’m proud of her for her journey and her explorations and finding the proper path for her.

Because being on a spiritual walk is like any other walk. There isn’t a clear destination. Sure, you may be going somewhere, but even once you get there, the place you’ve reached might not be the perfect place to be. And even if you do like that place, there’s always a need to walk someplace else at some other time, for other needs.

Journeying is exploration, and any person truly seeking spiritual growth will find many different twists and turns; they should never be satisfied that they know it all and have found it all. That would be self-delusion and ignorance.

Thing is that I’ve been on a spiritual journey myself and still am. I came to Christ after years of being a lapsed and “recovering” Catholic, and that was through the woman who would become my wife, and the church she attended, which was presided over by her dad. That being said, while I was never a fundamentalist in any true sense of the word, I did have some beliefs that were more fundamentalist than what I have now.

As I look at some of the earliest posts on this blog, I can see where I have changed and grown. I haven’t changed my path drastically, but there have been adjustments as I grown closer to my soul and to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure more changes are to come.

I might post on this a bit more later this week, but that should do for now.

Co-signing away your soul

I cannot take credit for the following quote, but I can’t help by smile ruefully and nod my head as I read it. It’s sort of the religious/spiritual equivalent of the Tea Party candidates who tout that we need to remain true to the U.S. Constitution, but who don’t know what the Constitution says or what the amendments to it are.

To most Christians, the Bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click “I agree.”

That came from a Twitter account known as almightygod (I didn’t know my Father in Heaven had signed on to Twitter until now ;-)), and I don’t know if the owner of that Twitter account is the originator of the quote or simply passing on something he or she heard, but it’s a gem if I ever saw one, regardless.

Debate Time!

In case you don’t check the “Recent Comments” section in the sidebars, let me inform you that David (who commented in my “Down the Hole With You” post the other day) and I are engaging in some friendly debate about Catholic doctrine. He asked in the comments of one of Miz Pink’s posts if I was Catholic, and it went off from there. It’s good clean fun…no one’s getting savaged or anything, but if you’re curious, it starts here.

Deacon’s Wisdom

Strong beliefs in spiritual things are often seen as arrogance. Certainly, they can be. But the true arrogance isn’t in strong faith. The arrogance is when people hold to their faith so tightly that they fail to respect others’ beliefs; fail to ever question and explore their own; and assume they know all the answers.

Blessings Abundant, No Matter What I Think

I’ve been a bad, bad boy with my posting around here. (Or lack thereof, I should say)

Sorry about that.

Also haven’t talked much spirituality lately. Not much of that Christ thing. Or God thing. Religion and all that.

I’m sure for some of you that’s been a breath of fresh air (*chuckle*) and others probably feel I’m slacking a bit on my faith walk since I’m not talking about it much.

But I have been thinking about blessings lately. This is a dicey topic, though. People both inside and outside the faith will zero in on talk of blessings and a often-interrelated topic called “faith.” If a person starts talking about their blessings, someone else will ask, “Well, why doesn’t God bless the poor and starving people in [insert community or nation here].” A person may talk about how their blessings are through their power of faith, and then by extension other Christians will say, “What? Are you saying my life sucks because I don’t have enough faith? Not everyone can prosper!”

And so on. And so forth. Ad infinitum.

But the fact that my life is blessed, in so many ways. When I look at it, I have no reason to complain, really. I still do, though. I think about what I don’t have instead of seeing all the things that I do possess and do receive. Do my blessings overflow my cup? Hell, no! Am I comfortable and prosperous. I wish!

But am I provided for?

Yes. Most definitely.

Over and over in my life, Mrs. Blue and I have come up on near disaster, only to have just the right amount of salvation (often in the form of unexpected money) arrive just before things reached crisis stage, or soon enough afterward to clean up the damage.

There was a point not so long ago that I wasn’t sure we’d be able to continue living in our house. Now the mortgage is paid off. Sure, the oil bills in the winter are still a bitch. Sure, we don’t have any money to fix the many things that need fixing inside this old house. But no longer does a mortgage hang over our heads; just taxes and insurance.

A couple months ago, we weren’t sure where Son of Blue would be going to college. His ACT scores were only average, thanks to horrible math scores (almost everything else was outstanding, particularly his verbal/writing/reading scores, which made the score that much more heart-wrenching). He had only applied to a few universities, a couple of which were pretty elite. Not only did he find a perfect school in the late application process, but he got some grants and scholarships. We were still concerned up until this week, because the remaining costs were still high, but now he’s got more scholarship money coming from the university, and all we have to pay for now is some $5,000 or so a year for room and board.

My wife needed a surgery that she had long put off, and Little Girl Blue needed dental work, and I still need to get an elective surgery done. None of those things would have been possible if insurance coverage hadn’t landed in our lap by a means that I can only call “the grace of God.”

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

I need only look at the terribly improbable turns of my life and know that if it’s coincidence or blind luck, then I should have hit a winning Lotto by now.

But it’s not just me.

So many people in the world are blessed, even if they don’t think so and even if we don’t think they are.

As terrible as it is that people have to live on things like a few dollars a day in pay in some nations, the fact is that they survive. If they didn’t, the population numbers would go toward extinction fast in those nations. And as hard as life might be, they still find reasons to celebrate and they still have happiness. Is life peachy? Probably not. But do they get by? Yes. And in this world, that seems to me miracle enough.

Why do hateful and horrible people prosper? I don’t know, but I have a feeling their “blessings” may in many cases be as fleeting as life itself. Why do so many good people have to scrape or endure horrors in their lives that they don’t deserve? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s so that those who can help will have someone to help. Maybe it’s supposed to be an object lesson to us how few people are truly without blessings, if we simply look at the world and its people as a whole.

If we look beyond the surface and into a wider realm. Of blessings. Of faith. Of spirituality. Of the next life (of next lives, perhaps…who knows how many stages and evolutions lie beyond this life?).

I know some of those who don’t believe in any higher power or life eternal will likely  launch into me now for not being sympathetic enough to the suffering in the world. Or they will chide me for putting my faith in something invisible; putting my hopes into some eternal life that is unproved by science.

That’s their right, if they chose to do so.

But I look at the blessings in my life, and realize how many people have blessings in their lives, too, no matter how much rougher they are even than my own life.

There is suffering in this world. There is no doubt of that. But the blessing and the evidence of God, I think, is in how little suffering and death there seems to be, compared to how much it seems like there should be.

Making the Change

It’s time. Time to bow to the inevitable. It’s been pointed out to me so many ways that faith and reason don’t mix. I’ve been faced with contradictions and challenges in my faith walk.

So I’m hanging it up. Stepping off the path I’ve been walking so long. There’s no proof of God or any higher power, so why keep looking for one?

After all, my moral code doesn’t require a higher power, does it? I can do the right thing without a god watching over my shoulder, much less an invisible one.

My circle of friends will improve. Instead of being surrounded by mindless sheeple, I can cast off those losers and move on to people whose heads are firmly in reality.

I’ll be able to reopen my mind to expand and to grow. No longer anchored by superstitious nonsense, I can stop being held back. Now when I read a book on some social issue or historical situation or intriguing person, I won’t be filtering it through my religion-clouded mind.

I will become a fully actualized human being. I will evolve to the level I was intended to. I will be free…

OK, if the sarcasm is too subtle, and you’ve forgotten that it’s April Fool’s Day, I’m doing none of that. Well, not giving up my spiritual walk, thank you very much. The growth, intellectual ability, and the rest I will pursue, but then again, I’ve always pursued them. Because believing in God and in Jesus has never held me back from any of that.

This wasn’t a post meant to tease my agnostic or atheist readers into thinking they converted me. This wasn’t meant to confused or dismay my readers who believe faith has a place in life. But being April 1, it seemed as good a time, and as good a way, as any to make a point.

The point that faith is not garbage, and it is not some universal “idiot maker.”

I’ve been down this road before in other posts, but there’s a little twist I want to make this time, based on some blowback I got at another blog when I called the blogger on some bullshit. He was making a point about the stupidity of religious folks, in this case those who believe in the Rapture, by using a video of a prank perpetrated on a Christian to make her think the Rapture had happened and she’d been left behind. Problem was that the prank was clearly a fake. Clearly it had been scripted, it was badly acted, and wasn’t a prank at all. This was pretty universally acknowledged by the blogger and the many commenters who were enjoying sticking it to the faithful.

And yet, it was still maintained that making using the video as an example of Christian stupidity, even though it was a scripted/fake situation, was justified.

Moreover, in my criticism of that tactic, and my defense of faith, some interesting comments were being hurled around. Basic themes were:

Religion/faith prevents people from engaging in critical thinking or being progressive socially and politically

Religion/faith are holding back human evolution and progress

Believing that there is no God is a harder but more rewarding path than faith

If you believe in a higher power of any kind, you are not intelligent

Those are the biggies.

Except they aren’t true. Sure, there are people who don’t think and are faithful. But you know how many people don’t really practice their presumed religions in any way…or who don’t believe…and are ALSO idiots? Do you truly think that every person who wants their “life doctrine” fed to them is religious? Really? If so, do you get out much? Not many people call President Obama the antichrist, at least not in comparison to the number who call him a socialist or fascist or jihadist.

I have deeply held faith beliefs, and yet I engage in critical thinking all the time; sometimes about my own faith.

I spent most of my life irreligious, and frankly, it’s far easier to not believe in a God. It’s really freaking easy to go through life not thinking about any higher powers and to behave as if the only consequences to our actions are those we reap on this Earth. As to whether faith or lack of faith is more rewarding, I can’t say. I suspect there is no appreciable difference as long as the person feels fulfilled in their journey. But in many ways, a faith walk is far more challenging (when properly pursued) than a non-faith walk. So don’t tell me I’ve taken the easy way.

And finally, how has religion and faith held us back? I keep hearing from so many atheists about how we won’t move forward until we shed religion.

I keep hearing about how too few Christians are “progressive” yet the moment someone like me comes along shattering that image, and talking about friends who likewise shatter that image, we’re branded as apologists who just work in new fantasies to fill the gaps. We go from being socially irresponsible idiot to mostly harmless idiots.

Scientists can make as many fancy theories of unproved and unobserved things as they want to fill in the gaps. But add an intelligence to something unseen and unprovable, and you’re a mindless automaton.

But you see, as much as these things annoy me, in the way they disregard and marginalize people like me, that isn’t the real point of my rant. Yes, once again, as so often happens in this blog, I’ve done something I almost never do in an article about some pharma business deal or information technology trend: I buried the lead.

Here’s what bothers me and what I don’t understand:

Why must the most intellectual and/or pompous atheists insist on a “scorched earth policy” in which the only good world is one without religion, whether formal and institutionalized or a more personalized spirituality?

I mean, really? These folks claim that religion hampers our progress.



Most of our technological and scientific and artistic outpourings have taken place in cultures in which religion was important. Even in these relatively secular days since the late 20th century, we still have an estimated 5 or 6 billion people out of around 7 billion who claim to have some kind of religious or spiritual belief. And yet we have these huge advances in genomics, information technology, energy, conservation, and more. Art continues to be put out, whether purile or thought-provoking, family friendly or aggressively provocative. Social advances continue.

Even with the most egregious example lately of religion and science butting heads, which would be the embryonic stem cell debate, religion stopped nothing. In fact, it hardly even put a dent in stem cell research, even with President George W. Bush backing it. In fact, that debacle, as embarrassing as I may consider it as a progressive Christian, ultimately forced researchers into a much better direction anyway, and one that is more practical long-term: figuring out how to make adult stem cells act more like embryonic ones so that they can be changed into any kind of cell in the body. Huge advances are being made there, and not an embryo in sight.

Where is this fantasy world that so many atheists concoct where they are persecuted and humanity is being held back in some primitive mode?

Because, frankly, science marches on, and so does everything else.

And oh, by the way, how about the large number of scientists who still believe in God? I’ve seen the figure at over 60% as recently as 2005. Just because some of the more notable ones with big book publishing deals like Stephen Hawking don’t believe in God doesn’t make it a universal belief.

Oh, yeah, I saw one guy dismiss that 60%+ figure by citing a survey of “leading scientists,” limiting the pool only to members of the National Academy of Sciences and ignoring the multitude of other scientists out there. (I guess by this guy’s standard, if anyone polls journalists about something, I can’t be included because I didn’t join a professional journalism society. So much for the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and more than 20 years of experience…)

Science includes elements of faith. Faith can include elements of reason. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Moreover, if atheists are waiting for that magical utopia wherein there is no faith in higher powers, they are going to be waiting a long time. And when that time comes, if it ever does, I’m pretty confident we’ll have a world with just as much intolerance, just as much violence and just as much ignorance as we have throughout history so far.

Questions of Faith

Like most anyone with a brain who also walks a path of spiritual or religious faith, I have my moments of doubt.

But when I do, the thing that always brings me back to Jesus is this: To me, the actions and behaviors of the apostles (the original ones [sans Judas Iscariot] plus the replacement guy, plus Paul, who is a special late-addition case), make no sense whatsoever unless Jesus lived, proved to them his divine nature, died, and rose from the dead definitively.

For them to have such uniformity of action, commitment to an executed man, and put themselves to the kind of risk they did, all to establish the early Christian church, makes no sense otherwise. It defies human nature, self-interest, and self-presevation for all 13 of those people, one of whom had a position of authority before converting to Jesus’ path, to do that. And to stick with it even through persecution and unto their very deaths as martyrs.

So, to those of you who want to knock me off my faith, you are going to have to give me credible reason to believe that Jesus never even existed, and neither did the apostles, for you to knock me off my faith.

Consider it a challenge if you like. If you can provide me with such such evidence of those two assertions that it overwhelms the record of the existing sources from which I currently draw my knowledge and on which I base my faith (and that comes from historical sources, not just biblical ones), then I will publicly declare myself agnostic.

Disprove the existence of those people, and I will admit that my faith is fundamentally flawed.

Fire and Pain

Now how’s that for a provocative headline, eh? Probably going to talk about hell and damnation today, right?


I don’t know how many of you are into metallurgy, but when you’re putting ores and additives through the process of making some metal or alloy of metals, as I understand it, you end up with something called dross. It’s kind of like the scum you get on top of the soup you’re cooking, except with metal, it’s a lot more important to scoop that crap off unless you want buildings falling down and cars falling apart.

So to refine metal, to get out its impurities, it has to go through the fire.

Nothing new there. Nor is it new to apply that philosophy to life. The bible talks about putting people through the metaphorical fire to make them into something stronger. It’s a philosophy that also exists outside religion: “No pain, no gain” and “You have to pay your dues” are just two examples.

Generations X and Y have been accused of laziness and complacency at times. It’s true and it isn’t. (I’m an X, by the way…nice to meet you). It’s said that we rely too much on our parents and that we aren’t willing to work responsibly or work hard.

The truth is more that the world changed, and X and Y got faced with entirely new economic dynamics and new rules that don’t always respond to the solutions that suited Baby Boomers and their immediate predecessors.

But in there is also some truth in the criticism, and I see it more the older I get. Members of Generations X and Y can be a bit quick to want recognition and reward, before they’ve proven themselves. They can be fabulously self-centered in ways that are distinct from the often self-absorbed and sometimes self-important Baby Boomers.

But one thing about the Baby Boomers is that they were able in many cases to achieve and build nest eggs and help their progeny get going in life. They may have been less religious and less dogmatic than their parents, but they still often saw value in religion and in seeking God.

I wonder, though, if the increasing way that people are distancing themselves from God, especially in the younger generations, has more to do with the way the world is going and the way we X’s and Y’s see the world. And perhaps less about reason and science making religion irrelevant.

You see, too often, we young-ish folks (if I can still call myself that at 41) want results with minimal work. We want answers and solutions now. We don’t want to wait on God. And so when God doesn’t respond to us immediately, and we look back at history and say, “why does he let this crap happen” we decide that He must not exist. Because if He won’t just give us what we want now, how could He?

Too many of us don’t value the notion that we are works in progress. That our time on this planet is less about getting what we want and more about learning lessons. It’s a lesson that even atheists should take to heart more often. Because particularly for those who don’t believe there is anything beyond this life, there is precious little time to grow up and make something useful out of oneself.

For those who are agnostic, or those who, like me, are in a faith walk with God, it’s time for us to realize that we are put through a fire. We are meant to feel pain. It’s terrible when some people have to live with almost nothing but pain and stress and misery, but we humans aren’t alone in that. We like to think we are, but we’re not.

Whether you want to credit evolution (genetic and social both) or God’s will…or a combination of the two…a pristine, trouble-free world isn’t the kind of world that will push us to become something stronger or smarter or more useful to ourselves and others.

Pain is necessary. Whether we like it or not, we must all pass through the fire, some of us more often than others.

We need to pay our dues. We need to see the value in that and make something good out of it in the end. Or at least as good as we can.

If we don’t, we remain children. We don’t grow. Not in this world, and not in God’s plan.

Journeying Toward God

I’m often presented with this question from people who don’t believe in a higher power, or who aren’t sure if one exists (or who it is) and people with different faith beliefs than my own:

What makes you so sure that your faith is the right one?

Now, you can substitute in there. For example, some like to ask me how I could be so arrogant. Some ask me how I could believe my way is the only way. And so on. Sometimes, it’s a honest, interested query. Sometimes, it’s a challenge being thrown at me. Sometimes, it’s just plain mean.

But, regardless, it’s a valid question and—as hard as it may be for some of you to believe—it’s a question I ponder fairly often. And, mind you, manage to ponder without necessarily having to have a crisis of faith or doubt my own belief system.

What it comes down to is that I don’t believe my path is the only path. I don’t even believe that my Bible alone tells the whole story. I don’t necessarily think that all other faiths are wrong, though I do worry that many of them are off track in some way or another, or have the wrong focus (then again, I think many Christians are off track…).

God wants us to journey toward Him. God wants us to seek spiritual understanding. I also believe that God sent Jesus to be the focal point around which we should gather. The challenge is in trying to understand how Jesus fits into things and why he is the individual God set up as the ideal and as Lord. But the fact is that there really hasn’t been anyone like Jesus in religious history. I can’t think of any individual who has been held up philosophically, socially, politically, spiritually, intellectually and divinely (all at the same time) in any comparable manner. Not Siddartha Buddha, not Mohammed, not Moses, not David…no one of whom I have knowledge. And for well over 2,000 years, mind you.

That alone should make people sit up and take notice that Jesus is someone unique and special.

I have a few follow-up thoughts on this, in terms of where Christians and non-Christians are getting things wrong, as well as areas where they aren’t necessarily wrong but have misplaced priorities, but I’ll leave that for tomorrow or the next day…