In one of my earliest posts, Please Don’ts, Please Dos, and Can’t Stands, I wrote briefly about how I had my beliefs, but they didn’t include a cruel god.
Growing up, I went to church with my family like most other kids I knew. I was baptized in one denomination and confirmed in another, and for the most part, I liked church. I liked that for me it was always a family day — we’d go to church and then walk down the street to my grandparents’ house to have lunch together before we scattered to tackle homework or whatever else needed to be done before Monday. As an adult, I realize how lucky I am that the pastor (I’m not even sure that’s the right term) of our church was who he was, because he’s a big part of how I view God today, and how I’m not ashamed of it.
We called our pastor Ben, even as young children who had been indoctrinated to call ANY adult Mr. This or Mrs./Miss That out of respect for elders or something. We called him that because that was his name and that’s the only way he ever introduced himself. He was a great orator, and I had heard him curse and seen him drink a beer at church picnics (which at first shocked me because I didn’t know he was allowed to do that), and he was very human. In my church experience, none of us sitting in the pews were ever made to feel less or wrong for being so human, never called to repent our sins and beg God’s forgiveness. God was never presented as this all-knowing deity that judged us from on high and punished us as he saw fit. He was never out to get us. God was actually presented as rather human as well. As a being that laughed with us, cried with us, hoped with us. God was a being who existed to love us, support us and guide as as possible. And the Bible was never THE BIBLE, but instead was used as metaphor. Fables, almost. Stories with morals at the end.
All this, plus the belief firmly held by my mother that hell was not in any way an actual place a soul was banished to, shaped my beliefs. As a child, I believed in GOD (capital letters) the way he was taught to me, still kind of thought that even though he was benevolent, God had omnipotent powers over everything, and that there was a heaven but wasn’t an actual hell. I just accepted it all. Which, of course, is totally fine. As I got older though, my acceptance wasn’t so easily taken for granted. I questioned. I got pissed off. Difficult things happened, and I couldn’t reconcile the fact that God loved us with letting bad things happen.
What I landed on is this: If you asked, I’d say I wasn’t religious, but spiritual. I don’t believe in hell, but I don’t believe in a physical heaven either. When my baby died, there wasn’t a single part of me that clung to the idea that my grandmother in heaven would take care of my baby there; I just believe their souls are at peace.
I believe in science and in faith. I believe in something, and for lack of another term I call it God. I believe that God is not cruel, but also that he isn’t all knowing and all powerful. He loves us, and he tries to help us when he can, but he is not the cause of good things or bad things that happen. He, very simply, just is. I believe that believing in something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our place on this planet, is important.
I believe in believing.