The Thing No One's Supposed to Blog About

— July 14, 2010 (17 comments)
Welcome to Day 2 of Lurker Week here on Author's Echo. I really enjoyed reading your answers to Monday's random questions. I loved learning more about the regulars, and I'm so happy to see the poking heads of folks I've never met, or haven't heard from in a while. Hi, guys! Glad to meet you and/or see you again!

Today's topic is a little tougher than having tea with Gandalf though, but I think it's important. See, I'm aware that a lot of the blogs I read are written by quiet Christians, quiet Mormons, and more. Their faith is a large part of who they are, but they don't talk about it online, just like I don't. There are many, many good reasons for this, but just once I'd like to tell you what I believe, and hear what you believe, about this crazy existence we're all stuck together in. (For the purpose of this post, atheism totally counts by the way).

Some ground rules:
  • This is NOT about converting people. The point is to learn about each other, not to prove a point.
  • Likewise, this is NOT about who is right or wrong. Please don't put people on the defensive about their faith (and if I do so without realizing, please tell me).
  • DON'T be a meanie head. Nasty comments will be summarily destroyed.

Here are some questions to help voice your thoughts. Feel free to use them or skip them as you want.
  1. What is your religion (just the label here)?
  2. What's one important way your personal belief differs from what people normally think of when they think of that label?
  3. How does your personal belief impact your daily life?
  4. Most religions agree that the world sucks: people are hurt, get sick, die. How does your personal belief address that?
  5. Why do you believe what you believe?
  6. Anything else you'd like to share about your beliefs?

And my answers:
  1. Christian (non-denominational Protestant, I guess).
  2. I'm not your stereotypical conservative (not conservative at all, actually). I don't froth over the mouth about issues like gay marriage, for example. I tend to believe that loving people is more important than making them follow "the rules."
  3. Little ways: I go to church. I teach my kids to love Jesus. I read the Bible and pray most days. Big ways: I believe God called my wife and I here to Thailand to do what we do.
  4. Short, short answer is that I think it's a combination of sin and free will. That is, God gave us life and the ability to do what we want with it, and a lot of us (all of us, really) have screwed it up. I have a slightly more in-depth answer here, if you're interested.
  5. For years, I was Christian just because that's what I knew. I grew up in the church, a Christian family, everything. When I left home, I realized I had to decide for myself if this was my religion or just my parents'. Over the years since, I feel like God has proven himself to me in a number of ways, to the point where I trust him.
  6. I really think the most important thing is to love God and love people, not beat people over the head with their sin (nor make laws so we can punish them for it, for that matter). Beyond that, there's still a lot I'm trying to work out for myself.

I know this is scary (it is for me), but I do really, really want to both share what I believe and know what you believe. We put on these internet personas that are really only part of who we are. Sometimes I want to know the whole person, you know?

Likewise, I understand if you need to protect your internet persona by NOT talking about this. That's okay too. Feel free to say as much or as little as you like.

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  1. This is scary but here goes...
    1. Christian
    2. It isn't about following certain rules or fitting into a mold... or about hating people for percieved sins. To me it's about having a personal relationship with God
    3. In decisions I make and the way I treat people. Also, the feeling of never being alone.
    4. Corruption comes from selfish decisions that eventually hurt people. The bad out there comes from our choices. But who would want to exist without choice? Death is not a bad thing... just a new beginning, and when we miss those who are gone it is beautiful. It shows love, the very essence of God.
    5. As a teenager, I was suicidal. Bad things were happening and I couldn't handle them on my own. In my despair, I called out to God, and He heard my voice.
    6. I don't speak about my relationship with God, unless invited. Even though Jesus is the most important thing in my life, I recognize that a lot of people have twisted His name until it has become affiliated with hate and narrowmindedness. It is scary to talk about what you believe when you really don't want to be preachy or hurt people! I hope that I followed Adam's very wise rules!

  2. Thanks for sharing, aspiring_x. I think you followed the rules quite well. I really like what you said about death too.

  3. You really are going for the big ones!

    1. I don't like the term "atheist" because it defines me by what I don't believe, so I tend to go for humanist, or materialist, or maybe I should try WYSIWYGist.

    2. I'm not sure that there is a standard non-religious type to diverge from!

    3. I have the feeling that we justify our actions by what we believe, not vice versa. The main things that differentiate me from a Christian are that I don't go to church, pray, etc.

    4. Not an issue for me. There is only a problem about the world being as it is if you believe in a benevolent deity.

    5. It seems to me to fit best with the observable facts. (I don't want to get into details as I don't want to be a meanie head. Brilliant term, by the way!)

    6. I'm really happy to meet Christians like you online, who believe that love is more important than getting people to follow the rules of their religion.

  4. Awesome, fairy. I like the term WYSIWYGist. I'm going to have to find a way to introduce that into normal conversation, or a novel (acknowledging your contribution, of course :-).

  5. I love the gentle, open way you have approached this!

    1. Catholic
    2. I'm a practicing Catholic, but was called (pulled, really) to Catholicism as an adult (as opposed to being a "cradle catholic").
    3. My kids attend Spirit Camp and Gathered at the Table (Sunday School) and we attend mass and pray together, but mostly I feel centered and anchored through a prayerful community. The scandals in the church were an early and grievous test to my newfound faith, but in a way helped me see the church as a laity more than a hierarchy.

    4. Free will is a precious gift, freely given. Although with it we sin, without it we could never love, and that's the most precious gift of all. We wouldn't be human without it.
    5. When I was very young, I wavered between atheism and agnosticism. There were several people along the say that I see now, in retrospect, as guideposts, small nudges from God, pulling me towards Him. My conversion as an adult was a conscious decision to stop resisting the pull, take the leap, dare to believe.
    6. I'm amazed (and delighted) by the number of people-of-faith I have found in the writing community. My critique group has several Christian writers, whose writing is explicitly driven by their faith. Some of my favorite writerly friends are Mormon or Christian, with just as many whose faith is unknown to me. In a way, I like this veil that we draw in our internet personas, because it gives us a chance to know one another, without the preconceptions: young and old, all around the world with all different faiths. We give each other a chance online, because we share only the essence of ourselves: words and thoughts and deeds and hope. I think this is how God sees us all, his children, without pretense, without trappings, the people that we are inside.

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  8. 1. Baptised Southern Baptist, but like you're label better (Christian: Non Denominational Protestant).
    2. Southern Baptist are notorious for their alleged perspectives on the female/male roles in the household. I'm not a role model for female subservience, but then I think the notoriety is based on misunderstanding.
    3. I pray, a lot and I'm actually concerned with the impact my behavior has on my afterlife.
    4. I don't pretend to understand why the world is what it is. I think to do so would be arrogant. But I do believe in His plan, and to pretend to be in on that would be presumptuous at best. Having faith in Him, though, helps to stand fast even in the face of the impossibly painful.
    5. You know my parents didn't push religion upon us. My mother wouldn't even allow us to be baptised until we were old enough to make an informed decision. But I've always had faith, as far back as I can remember.
    6. I too think God is more about love than some religions put out there. It is hard for me to picture a God that would categorically write off entire groups of people, which often time religions do. But, I guess the answers aren't to be known to us during this life.

  9. btw..I do know the difference between you're and your. It is just one of those days.

  10. Oh dear, you've given me an excuse to blather. You may regret this. :)

    What is your religion (just the label here)?
    Nominally Christian.

    What's one important way your personal belief differs from what people normally think of when they think of that label?
    This universe is over fourteen billion years old and functions on every level from quarks and leptons, to molecules and compounds, to organisms, to societies and ecosystems, to planets and stars, to galaxies and superclusters of galaxies.

    I do not believe any creator who could make all that would be so petty as to say there's only one true religion. That's the sort of thing human beings say.

    How does your personal belief impact your daily life?
    This will sound weird, but I try to live as if I don't believe there's a God. This is so my actions are undertaken for the sake of the good they do in this world and not because I'm thinking there's a carrot or a stick waiting for me.

    Most religions agree that the world sucks: people are hurt, get sick, die. How does your personal belief address that?
    It doesn't. We have to try to alleviate suffering because it's something we cannot ignore or accept.

    Why do you believe what you believe?
    It's just what makes sense to me. I'll listen to what any religion (or atheist) has to say, but then I'll pick out what I find persuasive and what I don't.

    Anything else you'd like to share about your beliefs?
    God didn't give us religion; he gave us a conscience.

    Also, I too love FairyHedgehog's self-identification as "WYSIWYGist"!

  11. Adam and jj, I can see I'm going to have to stick with the term "WYSIWYGist"!

  12. Technically I'm a Methodist. According to Belief-O-Matic, I'm a Unitarian.
    I'm working on the Golden Rule. I figure that until/if I master that the rest is a moot point. ;)

  13. The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was check these comments. I was so afraid somebody (though I have no idea who) would get all uppity and "How can you believe that?" to somebody else. A foolish fear. I have the best readers in the world. To every one of you who shared: thank you.

    Susan, I think you're right about how internet personas allow us to be friends first, and believers second. I wish we could do that more in real life.

    Bane, religion doesn't make much sense to me either. It's interesting to see how each of us responds to what we don't understand.

    Renee, I don't know that I've experienced the impossibly painful (only the regular "very painful"), but I like what you said about faith helping you to stand fast in the face of it.

    jj, so far, I don't regret doing this one bit :-) I love your answer about the universe. The supposed dichotomy between science and religion has never sat well with me.

    Carrie, you've had quite the pan-denominational upbringing! I like your intention to live a "purposeful life". I need to keep that in my mind more.

    melissa, I think the Golden Rule is critical for all of us. Hey, the Belief-O-Matic says I'm "Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestant". That's about right!

  14. This won't be lengthy because I'm really tired, but I had to try the Belief-O-Matic thing. What an interesting tool! I came up as Mainline to Conservative Protestant, which I guess I was expecting. :)

    Take care, everyone, and thanks for these questions, Adam. It was so interesting to read through the variety of answers and beliefs.


  15. Wow, the Belief-O-Matic has me as 100% Orthodox Quaker...among other things of course. Not what I was expecting, but ok. Lol.

    This is all really hard to answer because I've never really put it into words before. I'm not going to just spout out my answers here, I need to think about them. But you've given me a project: to answer on paper what I really believe.

    But to put it simply for you, I believe in the Bible and being a good person.

    I really like JJ's answers. Everyone has really made me think here. So I'm taking my notebook outside with my tea to figure out what I really believe.

  16. I agree, Amy. I love reading everyone's responses. I need to ask hard questions more often ;-)

    Amie said: "So I'm taking my notebook outside with my tea to figure out what I really believe."

    That alone makes this entire post, week, and probably even this blog totally worth it to me :-)

  17. I don't have time to answer all of this, since I'm just here from your new post from today, but I'll just quickly say that my belief system is sort of a hybrid of Judaism and Buddhism.

    I was raised Catholic, but I couldn't hang. Kelly and I raise our kids as Lutherans, and I'm fine with that, as long as they are given the option to explore other paths.