My journey to shoot for the moon.

Posts tagged ‘Religion’

The Religion Contradiction 

Yesterday I attended a celebration of life service for a former co-worker. We were never particularly close, but friendly colleagues and I genuinely enjoyed working with her. We stopped working together, were Facebook friends, and lost touch after her cancer diagnosis; I did reach out several times to offer support for her boys (my boys are all too familiar with the “my parent has terminal cancer” situation and are actively involved in a support group for kids who are dealing with a parent who has cancer) and was gently told that she didn’t need it for her kids at that time.

Honestly, dealing with my own life situation, I do not have the reserves to be a dependable source of support for anyone dealing with significant long-term issues. So, while I thought of her (and her boys) often, that was the extent of my support. 
When I heard of her passing, I wanted to pay my respects and attended, with much anxiety, her celebration of life service at a local church. For the most part, I felt that the service did celebrate her life. The Pastor was visibly emotional during the service, the stories told were funny and described my colleague, much as I remembered her. It was emotional and I cried at the loss of a beautiful, passionate educator who touched so many lives.

And I was struck by the enormous contradiction being told – there was a larger purpose, a plan for my colleague. She trusted G*d and she felt that her cancer was a gift because it helped her see the larger purpose of her life. She wrote, the Pastor shared, that she felt extremely selfish that she wanted to stay on Earth, rather than receive her heavenly reward because what was more important than her relationship with him? 

I was raised in a culturally Jewish household. I have raised my children to be Freethinkiers and to come to their own decisions about their beliefs, but to be accepting of others. I have learned and grown from my desire to have my children determine their own understanding of the concept of a higher power, and my beliefs have evolved and changed as a result of their journeys. And I have experienced my own crisis of faith – and have tried on other religions to see how they feel. At almost 46, I do not feel any closer to resolving my beliefs than I was at 18. While I truly respect those who have different beliefs than I do, and am sometimes jealous of those who have faith in a higher power, have found acceptance within a community that believes the same things that they do and understand the purpose of religious beliefs, I cannot help but question.

We know from Mythology, that men created gods to explain events that they could not explain, in an attempt to make sense of their surroundings. How is belief in a single god any different? It is comforting to know that there is a greater purpose for our suffering, that there is an all-powerful being that hears and answers our prayers. That he forgives us for our mistakes (sin) and loves us unconditionally, if we accept him. But, if he loves us unconditionally and is all-powerful, they why have us suffer? Why are innocent children abused? People starving? For what purpose?

Yes, I realize that that the purpose is not to be understood or questioned, as that is faith. But why not? We are intelligent creatures, with extraordinary minds. We are curious, creative and resourceful. So, if there were a higher power, wouldn’t he (or she) expect that we would wonder and question and require some answers?

Why do we accept things from this higher power that we would not accept in other areas of our lives? For example, if a company claims that their cleaner will perform in certain situations and it didn’t, we would stop buying the product. We wouldn’t accept that we didn’t understand how the cleaner was supposed to work or that the cleaner worked in ways that we couldn’t see. Although this is a simplistic example, it follows the same logic – if a higher power doesn’t answer our prayer, why do we think that we are asking the wrong thing or that our prayers are answered in ways we might not yet understand? That there is some purpose we cannot see? We are intelligent creatures, but we cannot understand what G*d has in store for us? There is no logic that can explain that kind of thinking.

If I accept that G*d meant for us to suffer for a higher purpose, than I cannot accept that he loves us unconditionally. I have watched my children struggle and it result in understanding and growth. But to watch a child suffer, in pain and agony, that results in death – I cannot believe that any parent would stand by and believe that it was necessary. As a parent, I would take that kind of suffering away from my children, if I had the power to do so. So why would we accept that an all-powerful being would choose to allow us (his “children”) to suffer?

If we were to talk about a ruler that allowed this to happen to his subjects, there would be outrage, there would be a coup; people would rise up and demand justice. But from a higher power, we just accept that this is the way of things? It does not make sense.

As a result, I find that I am no closer to understanding than I was. I question organized religion and anyone who tells me that they know what I should believe. I question societal understanding of a higher power. And I haven’t even discussed questions of morality.

I do believe that my purpose is to be the best person I can be, here and now. I believe that I should do good when I can and touch as many lives as I am able. I believe that I should do these things, not because I am told to do so, but because they are just and right. I do not believe that there is anything beyond my life here on Earth. And you know what, that is ok because if I do it right, there isn’t any need for anything else.

I welcome your comments and responses to this post. Please remember I respect your right to voice your opinion and beliefs in a respectful manner, as I believe I have done so.

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Going to Kindergarten and (Apparently) Hell

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When David was in Kindergarten, we lived in Zion, Illinois.  Zion was originally founded as a Christian haven.  In 2000 (the year before David started Kindergarten), the median household income was $48,000 and the median home value was $115,000.  Approximately 30% of the residents were African-American and 30% Hispanic.  Chris and I knew this when we moved there and it really didn’t matter to us.  I thought that the diversity in the community was a positive.

Beulah Park Elementary School reflected the population of Zion, when David started Kindergarten.  When David started school, he was not sure of his religious beliefs.  He identified with being Jewish and I would say, was more Jewish than Christian, but he was still working on figuring things out.  Chris and I didn’t have a problem with this, as we were raising him to think for himself and to seek out his own beliefs.

Now, my memory is a bit foggy on some of the finer points, but sometime after Winter Break, David came home with some interesting stories.  Prior to break his class learned about different cultures and religions celebrating winter holidays.  David must have contributed some of his knowledge about Chanukah (we celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah in our house) because his classmates learned that he wasn’t Christian.  After Winter Break, David informed me that he was being told by several of his classmates that he was going to Hell because he didn’t believe in Jesus.  I was surprised that this didn’t appear to upset David.  However, when I asked him about it, he told me that he didn’t believe in Hell and Jews didn’t believe in Hell either, so how could he be going there.

While David was unperturbed, I, on the other hand, was very concerned.  Why were 5 and 6-year-olds telling their classmates they were going to Hell because of their religious beliefs?  Why were they doing this on the playground?  And so I went to visit the Principal.

It was my first visit to the Principal’s office as a parent (and unfortunately, would be the first of many, many trips to the Principal’s office – the most recent being just before Fall Break this year).  Going to the Principal’s office as a parent can be an anxiety producing event.  I didn’t want to be THAT MOM, but I did want to make sure that David was not intimidated at school.  It is tough to find the balance.  Thankfully, the Principal was understanding and sympathetic.  She did handle the situation and the majority of the time there was no one telling David that he was going to Hell.

David learned about prejudice and discrimination at the tender age of 5; much earlier than I would have wanted him to learn about such things.  In hindsight though, it seems that his learning to deal with such difficult topics at a young age gave him insight and maturity he may not have gained otherwise.  As a parent, it was painful for me to see David’s exclusion because of his religious beliefs.  But, to my surprise, he took it in stride and didn’t seem to care that much.

Around this time, David  formed a belief that he holds to this day:  there are educated religious people who will respect your right to have your own beliefs, even if they don’t agree and there are uneducated religious people who preach fire and brimstone.  The uneducated religious people do not think for themselves and only “believe” what they have been taught.  They don’t understand the background and history of their  own religion and cannot explain it.  Those who are educated understand the history behind their religion and how their religion progressed to the point it is at currently.  They have come to the personal beliefs they hold, not because they were necessarily raised that way (although many of them were), but because they have asked the questions and found the answers that has led them to their religious beliefs.  They respect that each person takes their own journey and comes to their beliefs in their own individual way.  They may not agree, but they respect the process of self-discovery.

During David’s kindergarten year, he met uneducated religious people (some of his classmates) and a very educated articulate religious man.  Both experiences, in my opinion, shaped David’s opinions and interests in religion.  It’s been quite a journey and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to go along with David as he explores his beliefs.

I’ll be writing more about David’s journey according to my perspective.

Responding to Dear Abby – Advice for Non-Believers

Recently, there was a Dear Abby column where the writer asked about how to respond when someone said (in response to hearing about a serious illness or death), “I’m praying for you.”  I did write a response, but who knows if it’ll be published.  And then I started thinking that I was quite qualified to write my own blog post on the topic. (more…)

Raising Children without Religion

As I wrote yesterday, I believe that raising children without religion is more difficult than raising children with religion.  When you embark on the journey of raising children who are freethinkers, you head into the unknown.  There are no set answers about beliefs.  It is scary, very scary. (more…)

Raising Critical Thinkers

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to remember my first conversation with David and/or Michael about religion. And I can’t. I do remember that Michael went to a friend’s house (he was quite little – maybe 4) just before Christmas and he saw a nativity scene. I remember him asking about it in the car on the way home. Of course, both boys were in the car with me, and while I don’t remember the details of the conversation, I would imagine it went something like this… (more…)

G*d In Our Schools?

One of the things that has me perplexed is that people are claiming that if G*d was in our schools, then Sandy Hook would never happened.

Thinking about this, you can take it two ways.  First, if G*d was allowed in schools then the shooter would have had a religious foundation and never would have brought a gun into the school with the intent to kill.  The second way you can take it is that if G*d was allowed in schools, he would have protected the children and teachers from the shooter.  This second thought is outrageous and worthy of its own post. (more…)

What Not to Blog About and Wedding Etiquette

When I decided to start blogging, I thought how difficult could it be? I mean idiots blog all the time.  I consider myself to be a fairly decent writer (thanks NIU – B.A. in English) and a compassionate, intelligent person.  However, I’m finding that there is much more to blogging than I originally thought.

First, David has asked me not to blog about him.  This removes about 1/4 of my material from my daily life.  That is, if I respect his wishes.  And he asked so nicely, how can I do otherwise?  I believe that I am a fair parent and I wouldn’t want to antagonize my own son.  However, we have agreed that there are some things relating to him that I can blog about (such as a story I am working on about me being a cool and awesome mom that relates to him).  But honoring his wishes complicates matters.

Next, I can’t write about my former employer (I am officially unemployed) as my future employers could read my blog and decide not to hire me based upon what I have written.  Also, I am still applying for positions with my former employer.  Furthermore, I can’t write about my some of my opinions on current events, for the same reasons I can’t write about my former employer.

I also can’t write some things about my spouse, parents, in-laws and friends because it may result in them divorcing me or disowning me.  And truly the web isn’t the place to air dirty laundry.  On the other hand, some dirty laundry can be aired on the web, but I really need to be careful.

The issue that I’m having difficulty not writing about today is my friend’s wedding present.  My friend, Erica, is getting married in a week and I am making part of her wedding present.  I would love to blog about it, but if I do, it won’t be a surprise to her.  Now, I can blog about it and then post it after her wedding, but it isn’t the same.  And her wedding present it taking up the majority of my free time because I didn’t get started on it when I should have because I’ve been sick.  But, I’m sitting here blogging about things I shouldn’t blog about instead of working on her gift, so I guess I can’t complain about not having enough time.  I did really need a break as it is labor intensive – but more about that after the wedding.

Speaking of weddings, I was reading about etiquette regarding weddings in Colorado.  Apparently, Colorado is considered to be a laid back state as far as weddings go.  The one wedding that I’ve been to in Colorado was a formal affair so I wouldn’t know about that.  Although, Erica’s wedding reception will be somewhat casual as it is a second wedding for her and her husband-to-be.  Back to etiquette regarding weddings – did you know that the one biggest complaint that brides have about wedding guests is that they are Tweeting, posting on Facebook and texting about the event without permission.  And the posting of pictures of the wedding on Facebook is, I guess, a major issue.  As one who got married when there weren’t computers in every household and video games were a splurge, I wouldn’t know about Tweeting and posting on Facebook during a wedding (or reception).  I guess I am wondering, is it ok to post pictures of yourself at an event, if you don’t post pictures of the bride and groom?

The second biggest complaint, according to the article I was reading, of brides is that guests are taking stuff that they have no business taking – like table decorations that have been rented.  Is it that guests feel entitled to “stuff” after buying a gift, getting dressed up and attending the wedding?  These days many guests don’t bother to attend the wedding and just appear at the reception.  I wonder what their reasoning is for walking off with stuff.

And why is it that many guests don’t feel that they need to attend the ceremony?  Is it because many people aren’t religious and don’t feel the need to attend a religious ceremony?  I’m not a church going person (WAIT – stop the presses!!!   – Religion should have been included in What Not to Blog About)

SIDE NOTEPlease stop reading if you are going to be offended or if you are a future employer who may hold my religious beliefs against me.  If you are going to give me points for my religious beliefs, please keep reading.

As I said, I’m not a church going person and my actual religious beliefs are irrelevant to this blog.  However, while I would rather not spend an hour or so in a church participating in rituals that don’t have meaning for me, they generally mean something to the bride and groom.  As such, I am honored to witness a ceremony that holds meaning to them and make a point of getting myself to the church.  If I can manage it, as a non-church going person, those who do hold religious beliefs that result in them going to church should get their bottoms in a pew.  But, maybe this isn’t something I should blog about.

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