Monday, January 21, 2013

A Moment from the Hilltops

For the longest time, the tagline of this website was "Of Faith, Friends, and Function". I hadn't written about faith of any kind one way or the other in a while and I believe I'd decided to change it around the same time I started working on a new skin for the website. Even after changing it though, I left the word Faith in there. It's sort of near the back, sitting there quietly with much de-emphasis. From time to time, I ask myself why it is still there.

It's been a little over a year since I was baptised as a member of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, at a small, rather liberal parish within what I've come to call "fair weather walking distance" of my house. Since then, I've been to church about a dozen times: two baptist christmas services, a noon mass for last year's Ash Wednesday, my great-grandmother's funeral mass, two random masses, and two Easter services - one baptist service and an Easter Monday mass.

For the most part, nothing about my life as a potential convert (going to mass regularly), changed when I stopped. I still feel the same connection to God, which is admittedly very little, largely on an abstract plane. In fairness, this doesn't make Him any less real to me - I have no strong connection to the idea of the weak nuclear force, either, but I know it to be a reality all the same.

When I look back to my childhood, I remember church being a mechanism for marking special occasions more than anything else. My family did not have the "Sunday habit", as I've come to think of it. We deaths, mostly. Weddings too, but more often than not it was a funeral. There were a few summers where we attended bible camps during the days held at the local "Anglican Free Parish" church, down by the medical clinic. That why, for most of my life, I've had a child's understanding of the bible, where I have any at all, and I'm always occasionally surprised which stories from childhood turn out to be biblical, and which did not. Fables have been particularly bad in that regard.

When I was a young lad I took an interest in archaeology, specifically egyptology. At around the same time we moved, I became aware of the various neopagan groups, and I began to think of myself as a practitioner of wicca, though I realize now I had even less of an idea than many of why and how rituals were a certain way. Even if necromancy was within my power, I seriously doubt that using greek and euro-druidic techniques to invoke Egyptian dieties is a reliable way to contact the dead. The most surefire way would be, of course, to be dead, but that isn't exactly a practical option.

When I met mybetter half, the new-agey side of me settled down. I ascribe much of my attraction to the "new age" to my sense of curiosity and my passion for myths - I no longer have any real interest in magic as a practical, motive force. In the same way, when it was time to go away to college and the appetite for a faith to call my own returned, I can credit much of my redevelopment back to her.

I mean, sure, I independently came up with my own framework for what I think God actually is, which involved a lot of conjecture and the perpetual caveat that a mortal mind probably can't truly conceive of a diety. When it came time to find a god that fit that framework, though, Kat was an invaluable help. She kept my head screwed on upside-rightways throughout the whole thing.

She also pretty much accurately predicted that I would ultimately find myself not fitting in with Catholicism. While I consider myself a centrist in most things, when it comes to matters of Church Doctrine I am just simply to liberal. I went from not knowing enough of the bible and simply rejecting doctrine out of a desire to be rebellious or out of a place of general resentment, to knowing enough about it to reject most of the same doctrines for consistancy's sake.

In the end, however, I always have to remind myself that it isn't about your relationship with a Church as it is about your relationship with God. I'm not going to say I'm the most faithful person on the planet. I'm unabashedly free-willed and when it comes to prayer "prgamatist" might be the polite way to describe my feelings.

I believe Faith, almost regardless of what it is in, is a powerful tool. It glues a person together psychologically. Empowers them to do whatever it is they've set their mind to. Faith in a Free India and the power of nonviolence allowed Ghandi and his followers to lead a revolution without ever once instigating violence. Faith in God's will has allowed the Amish to continue living their simple lifestyles and thriving in an environment that most of the developed world has left behind.

But, like most tools, it has its abusers. Those who use relative levels of faith to exclude certain people, to condone acts of violence, and to be the aggressors or naysayers of life are, for the most part, misguided. It turns people off of the idea of faith, to be honest.

When I was my teenage self, periodically invoking Bast and Set into conversation and looking at the church off of the edge of an upturned nose, it was probably a good idea to realize that I, along with other members of my generation who are making up an emergence in the atheist community, had specific complaints. Hell, even when I was converting to Catholicism, even when I was baptised and confirmed as a member of the Church, those complaints didn't go away, or become any less valid.

For the most part, though, I lead my day to day life with fairly realistic understanding of the great influence my twenty or so daily hits has on world affairs, and I've honestly come to the conclusion I could care less. I care more about individual ideas and beliefs of individual people. I don't even really care what religion a person is as much as I care about their behaviour. If a man can go through his life with reason and understanding and passion, if at the end of the day he can sit down and find a little compassion for his fellow man, then he's my brother.

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