I’m Kath, the token Christian of N.L.T. However, hopefully I provide more than a standard interpretation of the Christian faith. I am a socialist, feminist, queer Catholic and just to make things a little more exciting my best friend is involved in black magic and my partner is an Orthodox Jew. I like to believe that this colours my understanding of Christianity and concepts such as God, faith and religion.
This post is in the main a response to the much loved, token bastard of N.L.T: Reuben.
I would like to provide some definitions before I begin. I acknowledge that these words, like many in the English language have many meanings. For the purpose of this post however this is what I mean when I use the following words.
Faith: A personal and spiritual belief.
God: A higher being-“begotten not made” which means essentially that God has no creator.
Religion: A specific faith, held by a group of people and usually with some sort of hierarchy and rules. (You can be religious, or associate yourself with a religion without necessarily respecting or following all elements of the hierarchy or all the rules)
I provided these definitions because there is no point getting into a debate about the existence of God or religion if everyone involved in the debate is thinking of a different thing when they use the word religion, we all need to be on the same page, that said I aim to set out an argument suggesting that such a debate is pointless. (I know, it seems like a bit of an oxymoron)
What is God?
Well the above definition was merely a Christian text-book definition. That is, it is the simplest was of describing the Christian God, in accordance with traditional Catholic teaching.
It is this concept of God that I believe in. I do also believe in God, as the creator, but that does not necessarily make me a creationist! The Catholic Church has always supported the big bang theory as it supports the Christian theory that there was nothing until God created the world. Strict creationism I suppose (though I have limited understanding of creationism) would state that we are all decedents of Adam and Eve and that God created all animals and plant matter as we now see it in 6 days. Clearly this is factually incorrect. It is however possibly that 7 days did not really mean 7 days as we now think of it, but rather 7 different time periods (allowing for evolution) and who knows, perhaps those time periods are not yet complete? However this is a whole other religious/philosophical theory/debate, I mention it only as a way of providing an alternative to strict creationism. I believe that evolution and natural selection make sense as scientific theories, explaining the world around us. However I don’t rule out the possibility that this is a process that God may have begun and may continue to guide.
One thing that can not be denied of most mono-theistic religions, is that they can be incredibly patriarchal (as is the society we live in) However I remember my year 8 RE (Religious Education) and home room teacher (I attended Catholic school from prep to the completion of year 11) beginning some morning prayers with “Dear Mother” rather than “Dear Father”. God can be whatever form we choose it to be, God is whatever you want it to be and as real as you believe it to be. My teacher saw God as a hamster; I have always seen God as a large, queer, black woman with many arms.
Is God Real?
Now evidently I can neither provide you with proof of God’s existence nor her non-existence. All I can do is attempt to explain to you, why I personally have faith in a higher being.
I was baptised as a Catholic and attended church and a Catholic school. Therefore to some extent it can be argued that my faith relates to my upbringing. However I would like to point out that my parents are not particularly religious, and are not regular church attenders. when I was young I used to have to drag them to church on Sunday mornings.
I love Jesus Christ and my love for and faith in him has always been strong. The stories we read and discussed in class depicted him as a Good man, and of course as more than man, as the son of God. He went around healing people, now whether or not this is possible or real is not the point. The point is here was this character who’s life’s mission was about bettering the life of others. He challenged the hard and fast religious rules of the Pharisees, the leaders of the predominant religion (Judaism) of the time. He showed that the interpretation of God’s words could indeed be subjective. For me as a child the two most important things that Jesus taught us were: not to judge, and to forgive. As a child my religion was a simplistic moral code, something to live by and I suppose something which I did not question. I had total and absolute faith. However I was told by my priest that this was not true faith. Faith unquestioned, is dogma, it is not real.
Then my grandmother fell ill. She got Cancer for the first time. Why? Why on earth would God do that? My Grandmother was a good person. This was a confusing time for me I didn’t really know what to believe. I withdrew from the church for some time. I remember feeling guilty when my Grandfather asked us to pray for her, because I couldn’t. Now if you’ve never believed in God, if you’ve never prayed then the following is a concept that you will struggle to understand. I literally couldn’t pray. I didn’t have faith, but I tried to pray anyway, I suppose out of habit, and out of desperation it seemed the only way to help my Grandmother, but I couldn’t. I mean I could kneel, do the sign of the cross and talk to myself, but because I didn’t believe in God, it was like there was something blocking my path. I believe God watches over us all and listens to us all, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack there of but my lack of faith prevented me from feeling that ever so special connection I had once felt…Anyway, my grandmother is a fighter, she fought it and won! She thanked God for her strength and told us that without us, our prayers and the strength God gave her she would never have made it. Again, with my young and simplistic understanding of God, I felt guilty because I didn’t think I had truly prayed or that God had heard me. The night after Grandma told us this I prayed, and I felt the connection. God was real!
A few years latter Grandma fell sick again, I was in late primary school at this stage. Ever morning before school I would go to church and kneel, on the kneeler in front of a statue of Marry. In front of this statue there are many plastic candles with slots in front of each. I put money in a slot in front of one candle and it would light up, I lit a candle everyday for Grandma. I would pray for her and our family and I would say the Hail Marry. One night, I overheard my parent’s talking about Grandma. Dad told mum that the Chemo wasn’t working, and that the doctors had said it was only a matter of days before she died. They were debating whether or not it was appropriate to take my brother and me in to see her before she died. The next morning I went to church once more before school, but this time was different. There was desperation in my prayer, as though if I prayed hard enough I’d save her. I remember crying and concentrating really hard on the face of Marry. Then, and it’s hard to explain exactly; I saw a change in the facial expression of the statue and I felt some sort of feminine, maternal comforting presence. I stoped crying and went to school. Within days Grandma turned a corner, the Doctors didn’t expect it, and couldn’t really explain it. Not that we cared. She got better! Since then we’ve had eight years with Grandma. She’s seen four births in the family, her son got married and her eldest grandchild (me) graduated from high school and many other significant and fantastic events.
Just recently Grandma, has again been diagnosed with Leukaemia, we now rely on modern medicine and prayer. If you are religious I ask you to include Helen and her family in your prayers.
I do not present this as evidence, more as an insight into my personal faith. Since that time I have questioned my faith and my religion, as two separate, though related things. I have periodically flittered in and out of the St Joseph‘s community, (my local parish).
Clearly as a feminist and a political queer I do not agree with or like all elements of Catholicism. However my belief in God remains strong and I love my parish.
Does it matter?
In my opinion the existence of God is relevant only if you believe in her. I believe in God, and God is important to me, though I might not be a crucifix wearing, abstaining, hetro. I have learn that the bible like most religious texts is all about interpretation.
Reuben has in the past argued that it does matter because religion and faith must be held accountable.
I would disagree. My faith does not need to be held accountable because it doesn’t hurt anyone. It is not faith or religion itself which needs to be held accountable but any religious authority i.e: the Pope, or theocracies.
I do not HAVE to defend or explain my faith to believe. However when religion takes a place of political authority, any decree made by a political ruler in the name of religion or God that person must be held accountable.
The most used example of this is the former Taliban rule of Afghanistan. However it should be noted that the vast majority of actions of this supposedly Islamic rule were directly contrary to teachings of the Koran. It is not religion which is to blame, but the people who choose to distort religion for their own gain, manipulating people through religion.
Another example is that of the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church. In more recent times the Catholic Church has come under fire for their involvement in Aids affected Africa, promoting the use of abstinence over “unnatural” contraception to prevent aids, maintaining that with abstinence Aids could be eliminated in a generation. Wom*n who remain virgins, until marriage than die as a result of aids because their husbands were H.I.V positive have been heralded Martyrs for the Christian faith. The Catholic Church has even been accused of spreading myths about the effectiveness of condoms and even stating that condoms were the cause of Aids! For this and the resulting deaths of course the Catholic church must be held accountable! Though it should be noted that what happens in Africa as a result of Papal preaching goes against EVERYTHING that Christianity stands for; manipulating and exploiting the poor and murder! Many nuns in parts of Africa are keenly aware of this hypocrisy and have been found to be handing out condoms and educating people about contraception, including “non-natural contraception”. While I don’t deny that the Vatican as a religious authority must be held accountable, I argue that these actions are not in keeping with the scriptures but rather a desire for control and power held by members of the Catholic hierarchy. I also argue that it is necessary to hold accountable the wealthy, western nations of the world who have not been prepared to give adequate aid money, money which they do indeed have!
I did my best to keep this post as ordered as possible, and not just a total rant. Essentially my conclusion is that faith and religion and a belief in God are three separate though connected concepts and that they are purely personal. A debate about the existence of God seems unnecessary. Believers believe and non-believers don’t. While both may change their belief I don’t think any belief change either for or against the existence of God will occur through debate. I also see there as being no real point to the debate-such debate achieves nothing, and even if it were possible to prove that God didn’t exist, it would not change the world in any significant way! My faith in God does not affect Atheists; it does not rock or change the world. So who cares. The existence of God is irrelevant unless you believe.