First of all, I need to get this off my chest: I think people who are “spiritual” rather than “religious” either need to get their head examined or pick up a history book. Preferably the latter because I think their lives would make a lot more sense then.
Okay, now that I’ve insulted whatever “spiritual” readers I have, let me explain. From what I’ve gathered, “spiritualism” is really just Deism with another name and less rules. Which is why I want them to pick up a history book because that’s where I found my faith and a lot more.
My family is Catholic. My mom’s family was Italian Catholic. My dad’s German Catholic. I don’t know much about my mom’s religious upbringing, but I think I’ve seen a picture of her first Communion. It may have been my grandmother’s because at that age, they looked alike. I know she went to public school throughout. My dad went to Catholic school, for the most part, through 8th grade. His dad was Navy, so they moved around a lot and I get a little confused about the timeline.
My dad has more or less gone to church every Sunday for as I’ve been born. When I was a kid he joined the Adult Bible Ed (which was going on at the same time as Sunday School) and then he decided to become a reader. My mom attended church more sporadically when I was little and today probably goes once or twice a month (she works every other weekend, so there’s not much opportunity for her to go more often).
My dad insisted that we go to church and Sunday School when we were little, though I was allowed to read rather than pay attention. He never took away my book (which was never religious, though I would try to read the children’s Bible my brother’s Godparents had given him sometimes) even when I was in my early teens. There were a few times that I went to church and paid attention, but it was always as part of a deal with my dad so that I could get something I really wanted.
I guess his method of encouraging belief is through osmosis. We’ve never really discussed his beliefs in depth, though in passing I’ve told him I’m a Deist and explained what that is. He’s never been one to force his beliefs on anyone, so while he’s obviously disappointed that I’m not a Church Going Catholic, he respects my decisions. I’m not sure if he realizes that I’m not Christian, but I won’t go into that with him.
Anyway, after years of not gaining belief through osmosis (I have no memory of ever believing whatever I was supposed to get out of Church or Sunday School), I was finally old enough to stay home by myself and didn’t have to go to church anymore! Woot, woot, party! Nah, I just did the same thing I’d always done in Church, except my butt wouldn’t fall asleep because my bed is a lot softer than a pew (or the kneeler I’d use as a seat sometimes when I was little).
I can’t say that I was an atheist when I was a kid. I was probably just agnostic: I didn’t care one way or another. Maybe I was “spiritual”, though that still seems silly to me.
Anyway, when I was about 14 or 15, I was in history class (in a public high school) when I had my religious conversion. In the year or so before I’d started wondering about Church. My dad had convinced me to apply to go to the big Catholic High School because it has a reputation as being a good school and lots of kids from it get great scholarships to college, something I knew I’d need. That was in 8th grade. I think that was around the last time I went to church because I remember mentioning to someone in my Sunday School Class that I’d taken the entrance exam. Obviously I didn’t get in.
Anyway, back to that history class. We were studying the Enlightenment and the teacher was telling us how the great thinkers were turning their backs on Christianity and were becoming Deists. Deists, you see, believe that there is a God, but he is like the clockmaker of the Universe, having put all the pieces together and letting it all run itself.
For any spiritualists out there who aren’t quite sure that they’re Deists, there is such a thing as Theism, which is exactly like Deism, but that God, instead of letting the universe run itself entirely on its own, will at times, “rewind the clock” and interfere.
When I heard this, I instantly knew that I was a Deist. It worked to explain everything that I believed. And it still does. Truthfully, I wobble between Deism and Theism and end up falling somewhere in the middle when it comes to miracles. I see no reason why God has to keep himself not involved, but I don’t think he’s got his hand on every little detail.
I am not a Christian. I do not believe that Jesus was divine. Yes, he existed, but I believe that he was just a good man out to change the world.
I do retain some of my Catholic roots.
I like that there is a church hierarchy. I think it is kind of ridiculous that there are churches preaching whatever they want to preach without any oversight.
I also like the idea of Saints. I think it’s arrogant to think that God wants to speak directly to me, so it’s fine to use a mere human to act as intermediary. But, I don’t really pray, so this point is a bit moot. But, I will say a Hail, Mary on occasion because it makes me feel connected to a higher power–I particularly like that it only really asks for her to pray for us. Course, I like the Beatles song “Let It Be” for the very same reason.
By the way, speaking of those “common prayers”, it was kind of awkward at my husband’s father’s funeral when we were asked to say the Lord’s Prayer and as Catholics, my mom and I were literally at a loss for words when the Prayer keeps going for those two more lines. It was kind of sweet to see my husband continue to speak because I know he has Methodist roots even though he’s now a Deist/Theist just like me. It was a glimpse into his childhood to know that he has it memorized.
Anyway, since becoming a Deist, I’ve become more interested in the Christian faith and how really messed up it can be. One of the earliest theological thoughts I remember having is “I cannot believe in a God that requires me to be mean to another person”. And that still holds true for me today. When faced with Pascal’s Wager, I find comfort in the thought that I will happily walk into the fires of Hell before I act towards another person in a way that I think is barbaric. Of course, this also translates into the real world in that I do not fear whatever harm another person can do to me. I do not carry a gun and if someone were to murder me, I do not want them to suffer the death penalty. Life in Prison is enough punishment for them if anything should happen to me. When it comes to the death penalty, there are two reasons I don’t agree with it: first is the affect on the people involved in actually carrying out the act and the second is those who are sentenced to death but are actually innocent. I feel that both of these reasons align nicely with my “do others no harm” mentality. I have a lot of faith that God will punish anyone who deserves punishment and if there isn’t a God, well, then there isn’t any other form of afterlife either, so it really won’t matter anyway to me. What really matters is how we live this life we have and I choose to be happy and nice and considerate. And I have no patience for people who are extremely negative about everything. I will be polite, but won’t spend much time around them.