I was raised in your average middle class, all white part of Chicago of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our family was not overly religious but my folks made sure my younger sis and I had a good dose of religious training with the Sunday school thing and church-on-Sundays thing, and of course confirmation class. We were raised Lutheran.. and my dad was also active in the various choirs of the churches we attended. I suppose what I am alluding to is that I’ve had the “proper” Christian doctrine education and influence that didn’t become all encompassing in our daily lives.
As I got older and more into life I realized my developing a tolerance for others evolved into more having a patience for others; and empathy, and a desire to understand humanity itself. The idea that humans behave as a composite of the idea of nature vs. nurture that dictates who we are and how we behave. I have also evolved into the idea that science and faith can co-exist as I believe they represent the two planes of human conscientiousness.. a reality and a spiritual. Historically man has always assigned to a spiritual “unprovable” those aspects in life that were mysteries; a kind of file of the unexplained realities. Example, the sun rises and sets each day for some unknown reason, so man assigned human icons, or images… gods… with assigned human-based stories and themes. Science has since proven why that happens so now it becomes part of the explained reality.
Religious.. or spiritual… ideology also represents that which we cannot explain; the faith in a Creator. While I have drifted away from my Lutheran ideology over the years, and I surely am not a church-on-Sunday kinda person, I do hold onto the idea that there very well could be a Creator.. God… and I do still have within me some semblance of my religious education imprinted from the past… so I am not without some measure of acknowledgment in the Divine. In fact, I hold far less personal interest in an organized religion… and the tendency of religious teachings to be a bit too concerned with sin, guilt, and the hypocrisy of striving to live life by some Biblical interpretation. But my differences are not one bit intolerance, I do not debate one way or the other, and I have counseled others using my knowledge of Christian doctrine to support their particular emotional needs. I feel my belief system is between me and the Lord… and I know what He expects and I know He knows me… so I make no overt displays of worship. If He is indeed all-knowing then He knows what and how I feel… my intent and my motivations.
In recent decades I have had less of a personal emphasis on Jesus as the martyr for our sins. I suppose that raises some doubts that I am not a Christian. Again.. this goes to the idea of a formal religious dictate that humans are all sinners… and the Biblical teaching that Jesus was sent to earth to die for our sins as the Son of God. Well… I guess I refuse to acknowledge that any “father” would watch as his own son is tortured and crucified and not intervene.. especially given He already knows the outcome.. before and after the event even happened. It rather confuses and boggles the mind to try and comprehend the logic of that interpretation simply for human benefit. Here’s the whole point… I am only human, hence my perceptions of my belief system convey human thoughts and traits as my sole point of reference. I don’t deny that the Crucifixion occurred insomuch as I question as to why it had to occur, albeit I know full well the implied spiritual reason that it did occur.
I am also of the ilk that if God knows all, sees all, before it even happens.. and if teachings will contend that God gave man free will… I mean.. the complexities in trying to understand that at all is well beyond me. I am simply a human being. If some entity knew/knows well in advance of all the death and destruction man inflicts upon himself and stood by and did nothing.. that poses an issue for me. My inner humanity prefers to assign cause and effect reasoning to life… and death. Yet religion, simply by it’s nature, exists to assign un-human explanations to things. I firmly believe that for me religion need not be that complex in it’s interpretation.
I am a science-based person in that our human existence we owe to science as much as we may owe to a Creator for having created science. As humans it’s our Divine/divine purpose in life to explore.. to be curious.. to reach out and seek that which we call the unknown. This is how we evolved.. and this seems to be the idea the Almighty had in creating the universe… of which man is a part of.
In an attempt to illustrate the gift of evolution.. the Creator… God… assigned to man… I use the following example.
If you are early man.. searching for his next meal after three days of no food… you spot a rabbit on the other side of the Grand Canyon. There is no way to get to that rabbit as it’s across a big hole in the ground.. impassable. That big hole becomes a barrier to your next meal in order to survive. You sit back, cursing, frustrated that the hole is going to cause your death because it’s in the way of getting to the rabbit meal. You sit back, resolved to soon die looking at the rabbit beyond your reach.
Then suddenly another rabbit hops by right in front of you. You make a lunge for it, capture it, and it becomes that welcome, long-overdue meal that assures you will live another day. Your stomach full, the feeling of satisfaction that no longer do you have hunger pains, you sit back against a tree… and your eyes fall onto the panorama of that big hole in the ground… suddenly you see the canyon’s majesty; the beauty of the colors along the cliffs, the sparkling of the sun’s rays off the waves of the flowing river at the bottom of the great gorge. What once was a curse to your existence is now a thing of beauty. Another rabbit hops by in front of you… and now you want to give it love and compassion for its own existence.
Experiencing all that is what man is. Filling my head with that wonderment and curiosity about my environment and my existence.. and being able to perceive the value of beauty and experiencing love… that’s the gift from God and for me that’s all I need. I see no need to make life more complex beyond our own humanity.