Monday, 19 October 2009

Is there anybody out there?

I kind of underestimated the importance of spirituality to me in connecting with other people, and writing last night has reminded of its impact for me in relationships and attraction.

Of the encounters below, I've had two conversations on the subject – from completely different perspectives. One with a man who, in his early forties, has decided that after all he does believe in God, and hasn't quite decided what that means for him yet. He is open to exploration and acknowledges his views will grow and change.

The other was an adamant atheist. An atheist who was scornful about those who do hold religious views, have a faith or any kind of spirituality or curiosity. He's made his judgement, and believes himself to be correct and all others wrong. This was a huge turn off.

Until my parents became ill about five years ago, and caring responsibilities kicked in with full force, I did believe in God. I haven't ever rejected God, but instead found myself abandoned. That sense I had of a dialogue disappeared. I was upset by this, and sad that when I needed someone, something, anything to bring relief to my life that that solace and refuge had gone.

I'm not a great fan of religious dogma and I've always struggled with the church as a formal institution (although I do appreciate the community that it offers). Over the years I've explored my faith (or lack thereof), read and discussed the issue with many. I've engaged with it. I've listened and I've challenged my views. I respect the choices and beliefs of others. It is not for me to judge, which is why the staunch atheist's dismissals irritated me. It told me more about him as a person and his limited degree of empathy than many conversations might have.

The uncertain believer was open to listening, sharing, acknowledging and not judging, which in itself surprised me. I've known him for many years, ordinarily he's man of very strong views - politically and otherwise.

So, where do I stand on all this now? I would loosely describe myself as Christian's the closest I can get to something that makes sense. But, labels are only labels.

A sense of spirituality exits for me, in that I do think about these things and I'm overawed by moments in life that go beyond and by beauty in its many shapes. These moments, however, are often very ordinary.

If spirituality is a journey of understanding, seeking wisdom, value and hope, looking harder and deeper and acknowledging that there is more than the individual, then it is important to me and the connections that I make.

The 'Christian' simply acknowledges the faith that I once had and the cultural paradigm I grew up in. I also think Jesus seems like he was a good guy, divine or otherwise. As a friend puts it 'Jesus was a social worker'. I like that.

Humanism makes sense to me, although I'm agnostic rather than atheist. It is postive and inclusive, seeking out meaning, purpose and takes responsibility for the common good. Weirdly, I quite like going to church. I like the quiet meditative moments, beautiful buildings and the singing.

So, I guess I'm open to sharing my life with people of all views,as long they respect mine, but not those who belittle. Bigots – it seems atheists can be as closed as any religious fundamentalist - are not welcome in my life. That particular atheist would be shocked to learn that's how he appears.

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