February 23, 2016

Believing in Belief

I saw the following quote on some material sent to me by the folks at Olderhood.com, an excellent site for retirees.

If there is some sort of existence
Beyond what we experience here on earth,
Neither believing in it,
Nor not believing in it
Would change the fact of its existence.

I like that. As a believer, my faith convinces me there is something good, very good, after my existence on earth ends. I cannot prove it, I have no way of verifying my beliefs, and I don't expect God to audibly speak to me to verify what I think is true, or even that he really exists. I am either right or wrong
But, what I think will not change whatever the reality is. 


That is the definition of faith - a firm belief in something for which there is no definitive proof. Certainly, there are historical records, both written and physical, that appear to support my faith. Many of the places, people, and events described in the Bible have been confirmed as factual. 
What moves this all into the realm of faith is whether the words in the Bible are inspired by a God that is real, the future that he promises believers is coming, and the existence of a real force known as evil is part of the world. 

Numerous studies indicate a link between spirituality and health. Faster recovery, fewer complications, or lower blood pressure seemed to follow regular prayer or meditation. Marriage stability and longevity have been positively linked to a shared religious or spiritual mindset.

Of course, there are other factors that could explain these outcomes. Getting sick and then deciding to cover one's bet with a period of prayer or mindfulness is probably not what these studies suggest. Rather, the mindset that accepts that there is something greater than oneself in absolute control, and with a greater good as part of a plan, may be an attitude that allows the body to heal and recover more quickly and completely. I don't know if this is true, but it seems logical.

Speaking from a personal standpoint, I know my life has become much fuller, more comfortable, more relaxed, and more in tune with what I believe my purpose on earth is since my spiritual life became important to me. Those who know me have seen sides of my personality that weren't evident before. As a recent post on my marriage demonstrates, my most important human relationships have only grown stronger over the years. 

I don't even come close to the type of relationship with God that I know He wants. My prayer and study time remain too sporadic. Too often I do not treat others without the respect and love they deserve. My tongue and temper can get the better of me. I am a flawed human being and will remain so until I die.

Sometimes I am appalled at what others who follow my belief system say and do in God's name. Apparently, we are not reading the same Bible. Which one of us is wrong? Is it my responsibility to try to correct them? That is a tough question. 

People, operating under the mantle of organized religions, have caused tremendous damage, death, and destruction. At the same time, they has given people hope, a moral code, and a path to a life more in tune with what is perceived to be God's desires. The problem comes when they begin to act as if the religious organization is the purpose and specifically endorsed by a supreme being. 

I guess the answer is simple: it is not my place to condemn or to force my beliefs on others. It is my responsibility to speak out, to offer an interpretation that I believe is more representative of the intent of God, and then let Him work it out. We are all humans made in the image of God. I think my faith is correct, but as the quote says, I may be wrong. 

In all humility I must remember one simple fact: I am not a god, just a pale and flawed representative of the one who started it all.





15 comments:

  1. It is interesting to consider how each of us defines faith. At one time, a discussion about faith was often linked to a church/denomination. When I was a girl, there was a definite "us vs. them" mentality. Although some may disagree, I find it refreshing that many individuals question what was once carved in stone. Churches have an important role, but having the freedom to carve out one's personal belief system is priceless. Recently, I've attended several baby boomers' funerals. Instead of following tradition, they were very personalized tributes. We've seen changing practices in weddings, also. Refreshing.

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    1. Does our faith or belief system (we all have one) guide us forward or pull us along? I think there is an important difference.

      I am reading Pope Francis' new book on God and mercy. He strikes me as a believer who understands compassion and mercy better than most and is not afraid of change. I would hope my faith walk can more closely model his.

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    2. Interesting. My church group just finished the encyclical(sp)on caring for the planet and humanity.It has foster .many a discussion

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  2. I think of myself as a spiritual person and not a religious one. The evangelicals some of the current political folks support scared me off religion as a child. I believe in a higher power and have had brushes with it. I may read the Pope's book, too. I have never been a catholic but I love that man. He sets the best example I've seen in a long time.
    b

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    1. Pope Francis is quite an inspiration. His humble and openness are very powerful statements to his faith. I am not a member of the catholic church either, but his thoughts resonate with anyone.

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  3. Hi Bob Thanks for your continued support of Olderhood. I loved this article. I too am a big believer in a divine force and that there is something more in store for all of us once our time here is complete. I try not to focus too much on what that will be like, and instead focus on learning as much as I can while I am here.

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    1. With the state of the world at the moment, looking toward eternity does make me feel better! But, God has work for me to do while I am here, so I stay busy and hope I am using my gifts properly.

      Thanks, Robin.

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  4. I was raised Catholic but left that behind long ago. I consider the Bible historical fiction "inspired" by historical events. So as you can see I'm not a particularly spiritual person -- perhaps a thread or two here and there, but nothing that binds me to religion -- but I do believe in the quote you found from olderhood.com. Of course that's self-serving, but so are a lot of our beliefs. Regardless, thumbs up for Pope Francis!

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    1. Maybe we should draft Pope Francis to run for president. If a growing segment of our population wants an "outsider," he would fit the bill.

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  5. In thinking about faith, I believe it may be more solid than just a belief in something for which there is no definitive proof. The Bible defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). So faith is basically having a firm belief in something that we haven't experienced yet, while resting in the trustworthiness of the one who has experienced it, and has told us about it. And so, like you said Bob, since many of the places, people, and events described in the Bible have been confirmed as factual, it is reasonable to me to assume that what it tells me about Jesus is factual. And if Jesus really is who he claimed to be in the Bible, then he is ultimately trustworthy and there is no better place to put my trust.

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    1. Jesus was either who he said he was, or the worst liar in history. There can be no middle ground.

      Personally, I try not to get hung up in some of the Bible's obvious contradictions or worry about the exact meaning of a particular word or phrase. The Bible has been translated by men so often that none of us really know what was originally written. But, no matter. I believe in the overall message and intent - the specifics that provoke much discussion and disagreement are not worth fretting over.

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  6. Interesting thoughts in your today's column. I have been waiting for you to write more completely about your move and today's words hinted to the religiosity of your move.

    My specific questions that I was hoping to read is that now that you are in your home for awhile how are you 2 doing? Was it a good move? Why? Was it the right move? Have you made new friends? Have you found a satisfying church? Was the move more expensive than you thought it would be? Are you spending more time with your children/grandchildren rather than making new friends or in activities at your new church? Are you spending time at the former church?
    Not being nosy but we are planning to move to Charleston, SC to be closer to half of our children/ grandchildren. (The other half lives on Camelback in your area.) so I just wanted you to write about your "satisfying journey" to your new home and life and give your readers a hint as we and others begin to make our satisfying moves. Thank you for letting me interfere on your writings.

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    1. Hi, Jack,

      While the faith aspects were not the reason we moved, things are beginning to fall into place with our new church home. We left a mega church in Scottsdale and settled on a 600 person church close to our new home. We attend with our daughter's family and son-in-law's parents so we manage to take up a full row every Sunday! It is so special to be at the weekly services with everyone. Betty and I have joined a small group, and have begun to volunteer for various needs the church has.

      The move was smooth and uneventful. It cost what I expected and things timed out well. We stayed in our RV for a week before moving in so the inside of the new house could be painted. It is hard to believe but we have been here almost 10 months already.

      I love this home. We get together with the family at least once a week, usually more often. The home is open and sunny with a huge back porch and yard. Being single story versus our two story home before is a welcome change. We like the area quite a lot and feel very much at home.

      The move has been completely satisfying and one we don't regret for a second. In fact, we wonder why we didn't do it sooner!

      Thanks for asking, Jack.

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  7. I'm a believer and there are moments when I know. This quote sums it up for me: "It is true, we do not know what is happening in the deepest sense. And if we can stay with that not knowing, and trust it, and enjoy it, we will be able to experience our life in some fundamentally different way. That's our miraculous power." - Katherine Thanas

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    1. Great quote.

      A lot of the problems in the world would be solved if people stopped trying to figure out an unknowable God or make him fit a human description and just followed his instructions.

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