A question of faith....or not.

Discussion in 'Alternative' started by Winged Wolf, Jan 17, 2005.

  1. Winged Wolf

    Winged Wolf Therian, Psion, Mom of 2

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    Not sure that there's any particular best place for a post such as this, but I was wondering if anyone had any opinions:

    Years ago, I practiced eclectic paganism (a lot of elements of Wicca, a few other tidbits), and I was very happy with it.
    Then I began studying psionics, and I guess I learned too much...I lost my faith. Not my belief that deities exist, or that there are good reasons to venerate natural cycles, or any of that--but my conviction that I had a good reason to be practicing rituals and working with those deities.

    I no longer feel that I need them. Perhaps I don't entirely trust them, any of them. Certainly I don't, and never have, needed absolute faith.

    So, I ought to be happy with that....but I MISS it. I miss all the fun aspects of religious ritual and celebrations. I feel I've lost something.
    I can't simply go back and pretend, however--going through the motions when I don't feel that connection/sense of purpose any longer would strike me as hypocritical, and I don't feel that is what religion SHOULD be about.

    So...what would YOU do?
     
  2. Ryuuko

    Ryuuko Member

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    Dear Winged_Wolf,

    I don't think it would be purposeful for either you or anyone else for you to go back and pretend like you don't know better. Right now you may be experiencing growing pains which are forcing you to look inwards for a future direction. Remember though, those experiences have brought you to this point in your life and although you're not finding joy in the present time doesn't mean that it will be like this forever; that's what a growing pain is. This emptiness you're feeling right now could be interpreted as an opportunity to find what DOES bring you joy and which also takes into consideration the spiritual growth you have done.
     
  3. Winged Wolf

    Winged Wolf Therian, Psion, Mom of 2

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    Certainly...but am I depriving my children of the opportunity to grow up with what I believe would be the beneficial experiences of seasonal rituals, simply because I personally have lost trust in the purpose of religion?

    In fact, am I rejecting religion due to something that I should seek to overcome, rather than due to something which is a positive change?
     
  4. Ryuuko

    Ryuuko Member

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    Dear Winged_Wolf,

    Before you teach others the way, you must find it for yourself first. In other words, how will you be able to support their faith if your faith itself is undermined?

    What is it in religion exactly that you seek to overcome? If you haven't done so already, perhaps it would be a good opportunity to vent out these issues on these forums so that we may be able to help you with what you're going through. As always, this is up to you, and this is only a suggestion.

    Also, when you say that you "have lost trust in the purpose of religion", what exactly are you saying? Are you talking about religions in general, or specific ones?
     
  5. mirrorinthefog

    mirrorinthefog New Member

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    Hi Winged Wolf,

    I'm going through the same thing myself. I always considered myself a believer in divinity, in whatever shape or form, but it seems the more I look into the various forms of expression religion and the divine takes, the more I feel alienated from it and from others.
    I was raised to ask questions and seek out the answers for myself. My parents encouraged me not to be satisfied with one answer, to consider all the alternatives. But increasingly I am discovering that this way of thinking, and their manner of practising their chosen faith is unique. I applaud my parents for this, it takes fortitude and courage not to conform to the status quo, especially on such matters. It's much easier to yield to the majority, despite what you personally believe, rather than swim against the current and be at peace with your conscience.
    It does make one feel like an outsider. But when I look at the alternative, feel no remorse for my situation, and I don't think my parents do either. I would rather be the way I am now than force myself to play a part.
     
  6. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    It sounds to me part of the problem might be that there is a fixed idea of what one's philosophical outlook must be in order to be a participant in a particular religion.

    In Wicca, for instance, we actually have a huge amount of diversity regarding what people actually believe and what they do to express those beliefs. If we look at just the idea of deity, you'll find some Wiccans who believe

    A) ... that all gods are one God, all goddesses are one Goddess, and the God and Goddess are just two manifestations of a single essentially unknowable Divine. That one Divine manifests as an infinite number of manifestations, some which we can actually hope to understand in some limited way. This view is sometimes called "soft polytheism."

    B) ... that all gods and goddesses are distinct and separate and are in no way mere manifestations of a single larger deity. Thoth in this view is definitely not the same entity as Hermes even though they might have many similarities. This view is sometimes called "hard polytheism."

    C) ... that there is really just one Divine and there is no need to bother with any of the other deity names. This is essentially a monotheist view.

    Within a more mainstream context, there is a surprising diversity as well regarding philosophical outlooks even if we look just within Christianity or Judaism. There are also relatively mainstream religious groups like the Unitarian-Universalists who have very open and inclusive philosophies. Perhaps the fresh approach needed to revitalize a connection with whatever religion you felt close to in the past is to broaden your experience by finding out about the diversity in that particular religion or spiritual path. Or perhaps it is time to look outside the particular religion you practiced in the past and look for the things you need (whatever they are and however you define them) in other religions.
     
  7. Winged Wolf

    Winged Wolf Therian, Psion, Mom of 2

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    Well, I was speaking of all religions, not just one in particular.

    My outlook on deities is that there isn't one all-encompassing overbeing...I just can't accept that there's a man behind the curtain, as it were. <g>

    I think that deities are all individual entities of great power, but not necessarily omniscient ones. I think most of them are "honest", but that they have their own agendas. A relationship with one is an alliance. What I seem to have lost is the sense that such an alliance is...desireable or satisfying in some way. I'm still fond of several of them, but I wouldn't want to "marry" them, if you get what I'm saying.

    But seasonal rituals aren't necessarily part of "faith", are they? I feel I should be able to practice these sorts of rituals for the benefit of my children, and because I have enjoyed them, without feeling that I'm being hypocritical--but I do feel that going through those motions would be a sort of hypocrisy.

    I don't think exploring other religions is likely to make much of a difference...different deities, different practices....and those not the practices I became so fond of.
    Same story, though, regardless of the religion. I'm 100% certain I'm not going to find a religion to exactly match my beliefs, and I'm not capable of altering my beliefs to match a religion--it's just not in me to do so. My beliefs still fit into a vaguely Wiccan/eclectic paganism mold (sans beliefs in karma).

    I suppose I'm going on the assumption that if I'm not entirely happy, then something's wrong. I'm just having a particularly difficult time picking out exactly what it is that's wrong. It's been more than 6 years since I've practiced any religion, and the discontent is still there.
     
  8. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    It's not just that there are different names used for deity, or different qualities attributed to deities. I was hoping to point out that even just within Wicca there isn't just a single overall philosophy of deity. Personally, I'm a "soft polytheist" who embraces panentheism (the Divine is in everything in the physical realm and is therefore immanent, and is also present in nonphysical realms and is therefore transcendant -- at the same time.) I personally believe that the Divine is so vast and complex that it's impossible for we mortals to truly grasp even a tiny understanding of that Divine. All the multitude of deities (Isis, Diana, Zeus, Brigid, etc.) are just different manifestations of the Divine, small portions that are limited and specific in their own way but approachable by humans.

    That's just my own view as a Wiccan. I'm sure there are others who think like I do, but there are also many who do not.

    My thoughts on deity are similar to some of the philosophical messages in at least some branches of Hinduism. They explain that ultimate deity as Brahman, who is so vast an unknowable humans can only approach it through its lesser manifestations, which include all named and described deities including Vishnu, Krishna, Siva, Kali, etc.

    There are all sorts of reasons to observe seasonal celebrations. Sure, they could be part of a system of honouring whatever deity might be the focus of worship, but there are lots of other perfectly valid reasons why someone engages in seasonal celebrations.

    I incorporate my concerns for the environment and ecosystem into my Wiccan practice, but even if I were an atheist I'd still be an environmentalist in some form. Paying attention to the cycle of the seasons (regardless where in the world I live) and doing concious things to acknowledge the cycles and my place in them can be a very nonreligious thing, or it can be extremely spiritual. Routines like annual celebrations help us to anchor our lives... we are a very time-sensitive species in many ways. Honouring the change of seasons can also help us to build a sense of connection and responsibility towards our part in the ecosystem.

    Seasonal celebrations are also often very social events, either at the family or larger community level. I'm a Wiccan and I call my winter solstice celebration Yule, but I still am very active in my nominally Christian extended family's Christmas celebrations. Those celebrations, at least to me, are more about the connection to family and community than they are about any particular religious philosophy.

    Other ritual occasions, like milestones to honour changes in life status (coming-of-age, becoming a new parent, becoming an aunt or uncle, funerals, etc.) can be ritualized and made more significant through the use of careful symbolism without having to be overtly religious too. If you do have a particular religious philosophy though they are perfect times to incorporate it.

    My point is that you don't have to abandon ritual and cyclical celebrations because you're unsure of your spiritual philosophy. Ritual and celebration are not exclusively about religion.

    It's perfectly acceptable to practice your own ever-changing and unnamed spiritual path. Personally, I think each of us are on unique spiritual paths anyways -- we just have this tendency to band together with people who have similar (although not always identical) ideas and give the group a name. It's a way to build a (perhaps false) sense of security and belonging. Do we really need labels for our spiritual path to have validity? Personally, I don't think so.

    I wonder how much of this discontent is the result of the consumerism of Western culture. We're conditioned to feel unfulfilled and to desire all sorts of instant-cure products. Ads rely on this discontent -- they almost all portray their product as a panacea which will turn our miserable conditions into "perfect lives" where we have ideal lives, ideal homes, are popular, and sparkling smiles.

    Many religions market themselves the same way. They often claim to have the One True Way, which will make your life perfect (and your next lives as well!) if you just buy their product and do what they say exactly as they tell you.

    Unfortunately, I don't think life, death, and existence is that simple. I don't think that there is any religion that has The Absolute Answers to Everything, that is Absolutely Perfect and Completely Infallible. If there were you'd think it would have quickly refuted all the rest of the religions out there a long long time ago and we'd all be living in a utopia now without hunger, disease, turmoil, or natural disasters.
     
  9. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Is it not possible that there is a social element that you feel that you are missing on? There seems to be a sense of "trying to belong", and I presume that there was a social dimension to Wicca, whether in shared rituals, or even just talking to people about the practices - or am I quite off the mark here?
     
  10. Winged Wolf

    Winged Wolf Therian, Psion, Mom of 2

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    You may be right on the mark there, Brian...it's not at all impossible that's what I'm feeling I'm missing out on.
    I can get together with psi friends, but it doesn't seem to be the same. Perhaps there is something hardwired in the psyche that craves group rituals, regardless of their purpose?
    Religion is all about interaction, isn't it? Whether it's interaction with other people, or with deities/other beings, you're always interacting with other intelligences.

    Which works well for an explanation, if that is it, but still leaves me deeply confused as to what to do about it.
     
  11. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Hello Wolf,

    My, I never thought I'd be in total agreement with you on such a thought, but stranger things happen.

    I learned to appreciate the rituals, the trappings and the (pomp and circumstance) that goes with the practive of faith I've accepted. However, in time I saw them for what they are...reminders. Some of us do not need to be constantly reminded. We carry it inside. Some of us do not need the daily, weekly, monthly, annual rituals, nor do we require the "company" of other like minded souls to help reinforce our own faith.

    Else we get tired of the human foibles interfering with what we see as sacred. And then there are those of us who are bored, or not satisfied with what we hear from the same people on a regular basis, so we seek places like, like here! (Comparative-Religion), to help us meet our spiritual needs.

    I go to church (the type of church I was brought up in), once a year (Christmas). Midnight Mass, just energizes me like nothing else (not even sex). It holds me for the whole year (eh, spiritually mind you).
    I attend my wife at her type of church for Easter, because it does the same thing to her, and it gives me a sense of peace (two fold, she's happy, I'm very happy) :D

    We both go to various churches from time to time, when asked by our neighbors (we feel there is a reason for us to be there, else we would not have been asked).

    Finally, I go to a military chapel, when I feel the need to, or am compelled to (then I have the whole thing to myself for a little while).

    Some of us do not get our "steel" sharpened by going to the same places and doing the same things over and over again. So we look for that which helps us grow. Some of us are not complacent, rather we are the restless spirits looking for more.

    That is a good thing.

    Keep searching Wolf...

    v/r

    Q
     
  12. Chalice

    Chalice I am the Grail

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    It sounds to me like you have reached a point where religious ritual is just a nice, comfortable game, an easy proceedure. Everyone in every religion goes through that. I'm a Christian, and I have the same conclusion. Why attend church? Why do I need a pastory? I'm certainly as smart as any of the leaders...yet I miss going to church even though it is not worshipfull at all for me. It's to Las Vegas'y these days, and the people who lead it are empty of spirit, I truely doubt they believe what they tell us. I now the ex-pastor doesn't as he committed adultery for 5 years while taking our money - and the deacons threw him a "forgiveness party" after we, the members had to pay for 1 year of counciling for 10 people, replace doors with ones that had windows and so forth. For me, replacing comfortable rituals with a real connection and friendship with the Divine has worked to overcome the empty, yet enjoyable rituals that gave my life meaning and sort of set the times and seasons. You may need to become friends with the "All". Forget rituals, just focus on a deep friendship with that first, all-powerfull being. That's when you will develop a love for that being that will cause you to want to express your deepest feelings, and then the ritual whatever it is, will mean something again. In the mean time, study other religions that are way, way outside what you would normally study. You might find that other faiths describe things you "know" but in such different ways that the "light bulb" goes on again in a new and profound way. I love to do that, and have gained alot of inner good from reading outside my comfort zone. Doing this has not made me stray from my basic beliefs, it has enhanced what I do believe and helped me feel truely connected to other people and religions that I have traditionally been "warned" against...I have discovered that other people and other religions are actually alot like me. Since y9ou are a pagan, why not study monotheism - now there's a challenge for you. You don't have to believe in it. just experience it. You might find your spiritual self in a place most unexpected. You might find that people of other faiths are just like you are, and you might discover how they handle your quest in a completely different way. Simple conclusion, yet completely profound. Wierd, isn't it?
     

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