How would I describe my faith in a deity and my relationship with religion?
Simply, I do not.
I was trained as a child, by kind parents, that a God exists. The religion they desired for my devotion is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Commonly addressed as Mormonism. Love and dependency upon my mother and father for food, clothing, housing and education made my devotion absolute. As we each must, I obeyed and behaved as the hands who fed me directed.
Thus, I became a devout soldier in God’s Army. At age 19 years I donned the armor of God and served a two-year Mormon mission. Later married ‘for time and all eternity’ in an LDS Temple. Completely in step with the Plan of Salvation while smartly saluting banners, repeating words, and adopting styles to gratify influential leaders of ‘the only true and living Church on the face of the earth.’ And, of course, my mom and dad, family, neighborhood friends and the insulated Mormon communities of Idaho and Utah, where I grew. Much like Jewish, Christian, Islamic or other faith-based groups.
However, events challenged long held beliefs. I was encouraged by an admired professor while in graduate school at Brigham Young University to read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic tale The Brothers Karamazov. This occurred after we had finished a class-discussion of the chapter known as The Grand Inquisitor. Thereafter, my perceptions of faith and religions were understood in a wholly different perspective.
Although my staunch LDS professor was throwing darts at Catholicism in his references to passages in The Brothers Karamazov, I saw those darts striking at the core of every religion, including Mormonism, which, at the time, was dear to me. Each religious creed, I concluded, was complicit in regard to three primary evils – Racism, Homophobia, and Gender Bias. My life changed.
Sandra’s Syndrome, these many years later, contain my own darts to toss. However, it now includes bows and arrows, hand grenades as well as artillery. I am nowhere near the atomic powers of Christopher Hitchens, Steven Weinberg, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Sam Harris. Nonetheless, I concur with their principles, arguments and conclusions regarding faith-based organizations, beliefs and behaviors.
I sustain the U.S. Constitution and First Amendment separation between Church and State. I strongly detest when individuals are asked to state their belief, or disbelief in God, as a qualification for election and/or selection to any office within a constitutional republic. Hopefully, faith and religion have been set aside by our Founding Fathers in matters of governance.
I urge faith and religion be replaced with tolerance, compassion, and most importantly, reason. Good, honest, and well-researched reason. Argued and debated.
His Majesty, King Charles III, the reigning king of Great Britain, is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. King Charles appoints archbishops, bishops and deans of cathedrals with advice from the Prime Minister. It appears male dominated, does it not? Considering the scurrilous background of King Charles, I question his appointments of men and people that are placed in charge over women and children. I, as well, challenge his personal attributes to govern spiritual pursuits. Additionally, Middle Eastern countries should build walls between religion and governmental authority just as the United States did when we gained our independence from Britain and ratified our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Leave religions to do what they do best—confuse, contradict, and exhibit conflicted silence, most apparently, when challenged by science. Which is often followed by inane arguments that intelligent individuals are expected to accept without shrugged shoulders. Religions have immense difficulties answering questions that deal with belief, archaism, history and dogmas. Notably when scripture and verse are cited as verification to support disorderly arguments. Afterall, printed scripture is a billion-dollar business!
‘You’ll be blessed buying and reading holy texts and following religious leaders. It will make you a happy person.’
‘Paying tithes and offerings will bless your families. Increase the bonds within your marriages.’
‘Following the holy words of God is a heavenly protector.’
Or so it is said. – Greek Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Mormonism sit on hundreds of billions in U.S. dollars. Are they financing care facilities for working mothers with those dollars? Hospital care for people in need? Affordable housing? Medical research? Medicines? Food and clean water in Africa and third world countries? Building hospitals, schools, training facilities? Providing jobs for good folks with remedial through executive skill levels? Establishing equity?
I’m not sarcastic when I admit certain religions are budgeting their wealth for the maximum benefit for each member’s needs. I’d just like to see the numbers. Including pie charts of earnings with distribution and costs for the good they do on behalf of those they minister, including the righteous leaders, themselves. Profit and loss statements. Distribution, bonuses, travel expenses . . . well everything. I want to say to these men, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I have read every word of the Bible (Old and New Testament, several times), Book of Mormon (At least a dozen straight reads), Doctrine and Covenants (Memorized more than I care to admit), Pearl of Great Price (ditto); struggled my way within the Quran, and haven’t tried with any other texts of holy writ.
(Ugh! And ugh again!!) Scriptures, at one time, shined.
But no longer.
Like most everyone, I fear death. But not really. I have come to terms that the final time I lose consciousness, I will never escape the ultimate anesthesia of life. No more pain, anguish, or feeling the thrill of hearing someone say, ‘I love you.’ Particularly should that someone be a person I’d love to kiss. Never again will I have the opportunity to hit a ball hard into the right-center field gap and run like hell for a triple or an inside-the-park homerun.
Life’s ups and downs is an adventure. At the final moment of consciousness, I’ll be gone. Anger, happiness, loss, accomplishment, failure, joy and hope will finally escape my awareness. But I won’t even care anymore.
Only living, conscious people feel the stress for life beyond death. Their hoped desire to live forever in a caring relationship with an almighty deity. I say, until you can no longer care, ‘Make the most of what you got.’ Laugh heartily. Play enthusiastically. Give the best you have. Never stress over the demands of religion or what a bunch of ancient characters with the rudimentary gift of alphabet and lettering first began to write 3,700 years ago. Their claims of gospel truth are . . . well, as mentioned, ancient.
They didn’t know how or why rainbows appeared in the sky. Look at what the James Webb Space Telescope is showing us! Those unenlightened old-timers of the past couldn’t see that far, not even into our day and time. You and I see light years into the future. We also look back to how our universe began. Again, ancient wisdom thought the sun moved around a flat Earth, while today we study the mapped human genome and possess an understanding that explains our behaviors.
Keep your eyes upon the future and not ancient scriptures. It is more glorious to look ahead and not focused upon the past.
We have reasoned sound explanations for human behavior. Not all behaviors are choices as suggested in Sandra’s Syndrome.
“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 1:18 – As we reason, with microscopes and telescopes, which includes far greater knowledge
and far more experience, we can answer questions the ancients never had the capacity to ask. We respect their limited literary written history; however, we have more questions, received more answers, with many more answers yet to be received.
I just wish I could remain long enough to discover more answers.
God has revealed very little.
Microscopes and telescopes have revealed more wonders than scripture. I admire manmade tools and hope humanity has the wisdom, along with reason, to shape a future that is free of bias, intolerant behavior, or lacks compassion to learn what humanity fears most.
Let’s open those discussions, shall we?