Sunday Morning Musings: I recently listened to a program talking about ministers who have lost their religion (faith?). The show was very interesting but I have to admit that I was less than pleased with the idea put forward but these ministers. My reason for dismay is simply that it seemed to me that to say one has lost something is never a good reason to give up looking for it. In fact, my experience is that religion/faith (and I am not convinced that these two are synonyms) fluctuates in everyone. Sometimes we can do anything and other times we can’t get out of bed.
Maybe I need to separate religion and faith now. There are many who have given up on religion (at least the institution) but still have faith (which includes doubts). Such an idea has given rise to the newest denomination SNBR (Spiritual But Not Religious). One of the things the SNBR idea can mean is that people are still believers but are not happy with the institution. Such unhappiness or disillusionment can be traced back to a dislike of the hymn choice, a comment made that may or may not have be taken out of context or misunderstood, a deep hurt to which the person felt let down by the church. The list is virtually endless and may or may not be considered valid; but then again perception often trumps reality.
Back to the issue of losing one’s faith! It is my belief, and I only can offer anecdotal proof, that we all have faith. Some will call themselves “atheist” indicating that they no longer believe in a “theistic” being. When I hear a definition of the “God” in which they have lost faith, I often would call myself an atheist as well. Many attempts have been made over the centuries to put God in a box (or book!) and as a result of our attempts we create further confusion in our minds no matter what we might understand with our level of intelligence.
Each of us is imbued with the divine. Sometimes the spiritual flame burns brightly, often it is only a spark and we sometimes may feel that even that spark is gone out. A Willie Nelson song says: “Love is like a dying ember, only memories remain”. Yet faith remains in the memories too. Even when we cannot feel or believe that faith remains, or that faith even matters, we are never left alone.
It seems very rare to me that there exists anyone who has not experienced the absence of the divine within. Ministers may refer to such an experience as a “dry spell”. Biblical references call these times as “wilderness” experiences. The bottom line is that even though we may not feel the presence, it doesn’t mean it is not there. A quote I recently used says: “Absence of proof is not proof of absence”.
I believe that we do not lose our faith but sometimes we just can’t be bothered looking for that presence that is mystery. We don’t want mystery we want something more absolute. Yet that is the very paradox of God – that which we call “absolute” appears anything but. So I have to challenge those whose faith is feeling gone, to keep living, to keep searching.