On Faith and Sensemaking
By Allison Cook on December 22, 2011
Does having faith in a higher power help you make sense of the senseless?
Because if it does, if believing in a higher power helps the really hard stuff in life add up to something orderly; something sound, I envy you.
To the religious, death and human suffering makes some sort of sense. They see it as a trial, a test. There are parables and verses for every situation, and the words seem to bring comfort. I don't think they expect their god to swoop down and make things right, but they seem to get their heads around what's happening and accept it in a way I can't. If you honestly, with all of your heart, believe you will see your loved ones again after they die - it must make death a lot less awful.
What do the rest of us do, we heathens who have chosen to eschew the tales of glory? Those of us who refuse to be kept in line out of fear and promises of eternity? As a staunch supporter of nothing, it's easy to be on the sidelines of any religious debate - not from a lack of interest, but a lack of ownership. Despite my position of no position I do find religion fascinating and will, when given the opportunity, grill friends and strangers to no end about their rituals and beliefs. I've learned about Kosher kitchens and Mormon swipe-cards that give members access to the Temple (and can be instantly deactivated if certain rules are broken) from co-workers who were glad to share their stories with me. When I asked a Muslim acquaintance about her hijab, she patiently explained why she chooses to cover her head - for herself she said, it felt right for her. I've watched the Hasidic men walking to Temple with their sons, ever careful to keep their little boys, dressed exactly like their fathers, away from the whirring traffic. With the exception of the Jonesboro lunatics, I admire faith. I just don't want my own.
I'm pretty sure I'm not an Atheist, because it just seems like too much work. I don't want to defend my position and explain how I know - because I don't. I don't think I'm Agnostic, either. Fence sitting means you're giving something some careful consideration before you make a decision. Nope, I'm not doing that. If anything, I am member of the church of possibility. It would be great if there were some sort of lovely afterlife, but I'm dubious and lazy and will leave the afterlife discussions to those far more educated and opinionated than me.
If senselessness doesn't exist for the devout, I am glad for them - and a little jealous. The faith thing just never "happened" to me, but I didn't seek it. I suspect my afterlife will be the same as yours, even if I haven't been saved, but the journey we take to get there will be as different and as full of misunderstandings as religion itself has been through the ages, and just as fraught with casualties. It's time for us look at religions that are strange to us with interest, rather than fear, especially now - in this season of peace on earth.
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