Why Don't You Believe?

There are all sorts of reasons why people follow a religion or subscribe to a spiritual paradigm.  Christian?  Muslim?  Sikh?  Jew?  Hindu?  Yes, for the vast majority of adherents, it's geography and family-of-origin that play the largest part in determining what we believe and how we view the universe.  But what about the folks who deviate from normative culture?

Why would someone choose to do that?  Why does a Pakistani become a Hindu?  Why does an American choose Buddhism?  Christianity in Japan?  

Isn't it just easier to go with the religious paradigm of one's family?

All of this presupposes religion as an inevitability.  There are people who don't believe; who won't believe; who can't believe.  So before determining WHAT to believe (which evangelists spend a lot of time on) it's important to determine IF you believe in the first place.

A few questions to start with:

  • When you close your eyes, in complete silence, are you alone or is there a "presence" there with you?  Who's watching you over your shoulder?  Can you sense anyone/anything there?
  • In the hardest crises of your life, have you naturally turned to prayer, or even then do you find it difficult to conceive of a higher power?
  • For the loved ones you've lost: can you envision some sort of postmortem reunion, or do you see that as sentimental catharsis?

The reality is, some of us simply have a harder time believing in anything spiritual/supernatural, regardless of the particulars of theology or moral teaching.

Sometimes folks like me get overly-focused on wrestling with theological issues, without taking into account all of the people who don't speak this language in the first place.  The power of cultural norms is exemplified in how many people who don't believe subscribe to avoid making waves, hurting feelings... upsetting their mothers?

When you close your eyes, is there something there?


David Golden said...

Great topic, great perspective, great questions. Please sit down this afternoon and expand this post into book format, then send me a copy.

Devin Mc said...

Very interesting post. For me, I grew up in a family that was always questioning religion and leaned heavily Unitarian. Without a clear direction, I have wrestled with my beliefs. I explored many religions (mostly in an academic way). What I have come recently is a humanistic/agnostic world view. I am open to something more than human existence (an afterlife or reincarnation) but for me it is less important then taking care of our brothers and sisters who are on Earth now.

Peter J Walker said...

David, care to edit? ;)

Devin, thanks for sharing some of your journey, bro!

I loved meeting your Unitarian father years ago - a truly gracious man (much like you!).

With all sorts of provisos and disclaimers, I think I could pretty accurately define myself as a humanist/agnostic/liberal/mystical/evangelical... the more words I add, the richer I find my definition of my own spirituality.

I like your conclusion - orthopraxy versus orthodoxy. To have that openhandedness requires that we believe the universe (and God) is good enough to affirm the lovely things we care about.

Eruesso said...

I find myself drawn to all of it and not exclusively to any one faith.

I love story.

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