Faith, Family and God: Dancing with Atheism as a Person of Faith

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bible_smBy: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—

It may surprise some readers of this column, but I struggle with faith. There are days I’m a Christian and others when I lean toward deist, or “c”hristian-atheist—a person believing in the principles of Jesus, without a belief in Christ’s divinity, an afterlife or higher authority.

Intellect gets in the way. It’s always been a problem in love, faith and career. I over-think.  Sometimes you need to let things be. [pullquote]I’ve been to hell many times. I try not going there but am drawn to it like bugs to fire. Zap. [/pullquote]

My opera buddy and his longtime partner have honored and humbled me by asking that I officiate at their October wedding. He is a committed, weekly attending Episcopalian who at times keeps some of my jadedness in-check. We sojourn to experiences at the Metropolitan Opera (The Met) several times each season, which I find a cathartic imperative. Sometimes I read while he drives us to Manhattan, a scriptural reflection. By the way, it is not easy finding a person who will happily sit through a 5 plus hour Wagner music drama. Try suggesting that to someone for date night.

My opera friend is a wonderful, sensitive, compassionate guy who joyfully will ask rhetorically during our drives, “Isn’t life amazing?” He sees the mystical work of a loving Creator in subtle, easily overlooked daily encounters. This Southern gent, like another good friend in Kentucky, is a Godspell-Christian. I’m referring to the musical with happy Jesus. It’s not my theology, but I’m somewhat envious of those who have it.    

“Isn’t life amazing?” conjures different things from my jaded perspective like injustice, lack of fairness, and superstition cloaked in religious righteousness to justify abuse. I reflect on whether things actually happen for a reason. Is there a reason for AIDs, cancer, homelessness? Bad things happen to good people and bad people get away with bad things. Why? No theologian, philosopher or great-thinker has ever come up with anything I find plausible. [pullquote]“Isn’t life amazing?” conjures different things from my jaded perspective like injustice, lack of fairness, and superstition cloaked in religious righteousness to justify abuse.     [/pullquote]

I’ve never been angry with the Giver of Life. Faith is about being engaged, asking questions (sometimes unanswerable), and leaving comfort zones. Faith is finding the face of God (defined gender neutral) in persons we don’t like, who may hate, are different, or challenge our thinking. I have wondered about a supreme being since a kid going to church asking about the meaning of life, or lack thereof. 

Dante wrote “Hell is an endless conversation with one’s self.” I’ve been to hell many times. I try not going there but am drawn to it like bugs to fire. Zap.  [pullquote]Bad things happen to good people and bad people get away with bad things. Why? No theologian, philosopher or great-thinker has ever come up with anything I find plausible. [/pullquote]

So why do I believe? I’m not sure. It’s not because I fear death or an afterlife. I am without a belief in hell or Satan, hence, I’m not afraid of eternal punishment. If there is nothing after this life, then I’ll never know it. Any good works I may do are not with an expectation I’ll be rewarded. I do them for the sake of it.

Perhaps I choose to believe in transcendental holiness because I have faith in humanity’s goodness. In Dostoevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov,”  a character says he doesn’t like individuals, but believes in humankind.

Ultimately, this might be why I pray. I want to believe in us. In doing so, it seems logical to have faith in the Creator who made us part of the mystical, unfolding cosmos. Some things are best left and accepted as a great, beautiful and divine mystery.

*Paul is an attorney, seminary trained priest and founder of CorporateChaplaincy.biz, a firm committed to the spiritual wellness of professionals.  He also is author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically.”

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