Faith in Unbelief

I am one struggling to have faith in unbelief.

Contrary to many, I feel that religion is a positive force in the world.  Where else will a person find teachings that oppose the excessive consumption, greed, and vanity of western capitalist culture?  Where else will a person be valued not by the clothes they wear, but by who they are?

The May meeting of the Faith and Order Convening table of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA just concluded.  There are 38 different Christian denominations that are members of the NCCC USA.  I think that we do a pretty good job of working together considering the differences among our 38 denominations.  Some may find it hard to believe that there are 38 different Christian denominations–and I don’t think that there should be.

As a Swedenborgian in the NCCC USA, I have an uphill battle.  Despite the good will we have for one another, there are still religious prejudices.  Although there is an impressive list of poets, philosophers, and literati who have been avid readers of Swedenborg, the Swedenborgian connection has been actively suppressed.  Scholars and theologians don’t want a Swedenborg in their world.

For things like this, and other division-causing reasons, some have turned away from religion.  Perhaps many.  As a believer, this concerns me.  Religion has taught me so much wisdom, and has guided me out of hellish behaviours that I can’t imagine life without it.

But spiritual people, who aren’t religious, do find guidance and a higher power.  Where, I wonder, and how do such people find their way to God?  I know that God flows into every heart and mind and guides.  Even without God, people live good lives and have conscience.

I would have to have a trust in humanity to believe that without the nurture of religion, people will find their way to a life dedicated to others, and not themselves.  To believe that unbelievers have it in them to save themselves and the world around them, and to care.  Robert Frost puts it well, “Whether we have it in us to save ourselves unaided.”  It’s that “unaided” that gives me pause.  Without God, without religion, where does humanity find that power to save–save themselves, and the world?

I am one struggling to have faith in unbelief.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. audrey brooks
    May 14, 2017 @ 23:02:57

    There is a spiritual aspect in all humanity that calls us to seek the sacred. That this finds expression in a religion is part of that search. As a person who has spent a lifetime seeking to understand creation and our place in it, and who has come to realize that a set of traditions or beliefs in an absolute omniscient and omnipotent god that knows every hair on our heads, and can judge, save, and resurrect, is kind of an insurance policy in times of adversity.
    However, that same god seems to play silly buggers with humanity, is capricious, allows pain, war, disease, starvation and spiritual death, supposedly because some woman ate an apple. This literal explanation as to why evil came into the world, no longer serves most thinking people. Perhaps it is also simplistic to think that a loving god would not let even one infant to suffer unnecessarily for the sin of Eve and Adam.
    There are no rituals, prayers, or other observances that border on alchemy and magic,which can change the adversity that all humanity is heir to, in my opinion.
    What faith we have, what questions we have, we take to the door of the church, where we find people like us who form an intentional community to explore
    theology and spiritual questions together. If the church imposes strictures that do not nurture our quest, or if it denies our sexuality, intelligence, human rights,race or social position, we must not stay there. Religion and faith are two different things. Churches teach religion, faith is in the soul, it burns as a sacred fire which insists we embark on journey of self reflection, leading to both moral and ethical action in all relations, including with ourselves.
    As a chaplain of 28 years, I am called to the bedsides of the dying. In this role, I am able to be Christian with Christians; Jewish with Jews and so on. I know that deep within each person is the understanding that they have a personal connection with god as they understand god to be. I honor that by being prepared to nurture and support the dying within their belief system. Because my world view is inclusive, I enter the sick room with no religious biases.
    My Higher Power is the sacred and undefiled spirit of humanity in all its manifestations: it is the relationship of each of us to each other, insisting on the worth and dignity of all in the here and now and in the larger community.



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