The Question of Belief

BILL. Do you folks have a faith?

JEANETTE. We’re spiritual but we’re not part of any organized religion.

BILL. Neil, what about you?

NEIL. My parents were agnostics.

BILL. But do you have any kind of belief?

NEIL. I’m not sure, Bill, when you say that you believe in something, it means that you’ve been given enough evidence to accept it as fact.

[Jane Anderson, The Quality of Life]

Like Neil, I am not sure that I have any kind of belief. My parents might have been agnostics, although they were Unitarians, so I couldn’t tell. I do not believe in God, gods or goddesses–unless gods and goddesses are never more than metaphors.

I do not believe in heaven or hell as destinations in an afterlife. For that matter, I don’t believe in any kind of afterlife.

Tribalistic rituals of any kind make me uncomfortable. I was never baptized.

I am not, in Jeanette’s words, “part of” any organized religion.

Despite my woeful lack of religiosity, I believe in simple ethical rules of right and wrong. Kindness is good. Empathy is good. Murder and thievery are wrong. Racism is abhorrent.

I believe that I am a good person. Like most people, I was not cut to perfection. I made mistakes. I have regrets. I never wanted to be saintly, and I imagine that I disqualified myself for a halo long ago.

Is goodness, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?

I believe that imperfections make people interesting.

I do not have religion, whether the old-time kind or new age-y. But am I, like Jeanette, spiritual? I believe that spirituality transcends religion. Spirituality seems larger than rules of right and wrong. Spirituality seems larger than morality. There is something about spirituality that I cannot quite reach.

Should I cultivate spirituality in my life? Questions about spirituality have rested unanswered in my mind for as long as I can remember, certainly for all of my adult life. Was there a now-forgotten crisis of the soul that called these questions to my mind? I have allowed myself to ignore questions of belief and questions of spirituality, and these questions remain unanswered in the final third of my life.

I find myself now in this strange landscape where there is more space to think about questions that I never need to answer.

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