Chasing faith

*Editor's Note: This article has been revised from its original version to expand on some of the thoughts expressed. 

“Faith is a gift I have yet to receive.”  Robert Langdon, from Angels and Demons.

Finding faith is often compared to walking a path, but my trek is more like the streets of Columbia: Full of potholes, and lined with confusing lane markings.

The faith I’ve searched for is Christianity. I grew up in a family that attended a Protestant church every Sunday, and we participated in all the activities. For the most part, though, I was just going through the motions, doing those things because I was supposed to. Once I went away to college, religion faded away. In my mind, I’d already “done my time” as a Christian. From childhood through high school, I had dutifully participated in every church function whether I wanted to or not. Now, I could do anything I wanted on Sunday mornings. Sleeping was a favorite.

When I got older, I attended a worship service every now and then. They were usually Protestant services, but of different denominations; a “belief buffet” of doctrines to sample.  Once I accepted an invitation to a midnight Pagan winter solstice event, but the extreme December cold in a northern state sent me home in a hurry. Everywhere I lived, I tried a local Methodist church at least once, because that was my family’s church.

The time came when I decided to work harder, with true sincerity, at Christian belief. I involved myself with worship services, Sunday school, Bible studies and daily devotionals. I prayed for conviction. I prayed for faith. 

I reached my hand out to God, but He did not take it.

I often pondered the situation while walking the MKT trail. I wasn’t angry or sad. Bewildered, maybe. What else could I have done? The answer found me as I walked: I was not meant to follow Christianity. I felt immediate peace, an understanding that there are many paths to God.  I’d been following those confusing street lanes, falling in potholes.  

Leaving behind my childhood religion to seek a more personal spirituality was uncomfortable. I knew what was behind; it was familiar. What lay ahead was a complete unknown. There were no steps to follow, no map to guide me. Somehow, I had to forge ahead, trusting in this different kind of God.

Weeks passed. My daily walks on the trail were cherished times for contemplation. Spring turned into summer, and in my thoughts I thanked a mysterious God for the green-leaved trees, blooming flowers, and trickling creeks encountered along the way. I never asked for anything; not for myself nor anyone else. I wasn’t praying in a conventional sense; I spoke in personal monologues, offering a simple “thank you.”

I had discovered God, and gratitude, in nature. I realized that I’d always felt closest to God while out in the woods or the mountains, awash with the glories of the physical world. Even the bleakness of a winter forest had its own wonders. Holiness was all around me.  I could see it, I could feel it, smell, taste, and hear this world created by a God in charge of the universe and everything in it.  It felt right in the depths of a soul not touched by traditional religion.

Surely I wasn’t alone; there had to be others who had found a spiritual relationship with a God of the natural world. I wanted to know if It had a name. I wanted to know what else It meant.  It…was Deism.

Next time:  Deism explained.

 

Kris Katarian

About Kris Katarian

Kris Katarian is curious about everything and an expert in nothing. She's especially interested in the history of science, the influence of religion on early American history and current scientific studies. She believes in personal spirituality free of dogma; her current belief system is that of a Modern Deist/Freethinker.

5 Responses to “Chasing faith”

  1. William R. Dickson

    This is not the Deism I’m familiar with. Deism as I understand it is the belief that a creator set the universe in motion, but then withdrew to allow it to run on its own according to the laws the creator had designed. What you describe sounds more like a form of pantheism or animism.

    But of course, many people disagree on many of the definitions of the words we use in these discussions. Certainly, an awful lot of people use the word “atheist” in different ways. Indeed, back in the beginning of Deism, Deists were often called atheists by other theists!

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  2. Kris Katarian

    Hi, William and thanks for your comment. As you stated, definitions can be very closely related and in the case of Deism, overlap somewhat. Classic Deism, which you described, is the belief that God created the universe, then abandoned it to operate according to the laws designed by such Creator.

    My reference is to Modern Deism, and I probably should have used that qualifier. One difference is that to the Modern Deist, God did not abandon His creation. (I use “His” as the pronoun, just to simplify.) Instead, God is an observer, with nuanced involvement in the established laws of the universe. I can see why you thought of pantheism and animism, as there is some blurring of the lines with those belief systems and that of Modern Deism. I will be writing more about it in a future piece.

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  3. Kris Katarian

    William, in my desire to respond to your post in a timely manner, I neglected to include that in Modern Deism, nature, both in the physical sense and in the human sense, is both God’s creation and a part of God. We are never separated from God, because He is in everything and everyone. Inantimate objects are not considered sentient, but still part of the inclusive abstraction that is God.

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  4. William R. Dickson

    Thanks for the response. I hadn’t heard of modern Deism, and it’s interesting that it bears so little resemblance to classic Deism.

    I’ve come to think that we (the whole world, that is) could cut these discussions in half with greater clarity if only we didn’t all have different understandings of what the words mean!

    I’m interested to hear more about why you feel modern Deism is more plausible than the various other forms of faith you’ve examined. To me, that belief in one or more deities is the Big Kahuna as far as obstacles to plausibility go — once you’ve accepted that, everything else seems like insignificant details. (Which is largely why I find the battles fought between different religions to be so incomprehensible…and in no small part is why I’m here!)

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