Having lived in the West for decades, and having witnessed how religion is used, misused and abused by every corrupt, arrogant and greedy, I understand and sympathize with the views of atheists and agnostics who tend to throw the baby with the bath water as a reaction to such malevolent behaviour by some of the so called religious people, institutions or entities.
In my approach and personal experience, I beg to differ with the observed generalization, blame and hostility against religion.
When George Bush claims for example that “God told him to attack Iraq”, and when I read that Jesus said “love thy neighbour as yourself”, unlike the former, the latter resonate in my most inner being as meaningful, Godly, profound, beautiful, and true.
When discussing Belief Systems (including Atheism), one must distinguish between the principles of a given ideology and the practice of those principles by followers or those who claim to be followers.
The ideals and principles are the pure form of a belief system, and the practice is the human interpretation and implementation of those ideals.
The existence of people who try to justify their bad deeds, control or manipulate others by hiding under the banner of religion does not pollute the principles, nor does it change the fact that their deeds are in contradiction with these principles.
Abusers and fanatics of every ideology exist; criminals and those who act evil for their self interest or out of ignorance also exist in every society.
Coming from a different background, with different exposure, understanding and experience with regards to religion and faith-related matters, I certainly have arrived to and hold a different view, which is not as hostile to religion as yours.
Allow me to explain:
Arriving at where we are in our understanding of the world has much to do with our long painstaking quest for answers through our diverse and profound personal experiences, and of course directed and predisposed by our intellectual capabilities, emotional capacities, cultural influences and psychological tendencies.
We all arrive to this world without a choice of our own, and as soon as we open our eyes to the wonders around and within ourselves we are driven to question, and to long for meanings that explain our existence.
Our curiosity is magnified as we grow.
Drawing on my personal experience, this inquisitive curious mind was no different from anyone else, as a little girl I parched and yearned for answers.
I started asking questions and thinking about the world and later on about my very own existence, and about God, at a very young age.
As a toddler I lived in a small village in Palestine, I was fascinated by my surroundings, the trees, birds, flowers, people, but more so the sky, how vast! How beautiful! How perfect!
It was always urging me to look at, at first to admire and then to question. I spent endless hours staring at it day and night.
As I grew a little older my fascination and curiosity grew deeper, I started to look for meanings and explanations, trying to make sense of what’s around me.
“What is all this? … Why is all this? … Who am I? … Do I really exist? … How and why I can comprehend the fact that I exist? …. Why am I here? … Is there a purpose to my life? If there is, what is that purpose?”
Endless questions burned in my little head.
I thought and contemplated for many years, I used to be drawn into this inner world of mine searching for meanings and answers.
The only explanation and conclusion I was ever able to arrive at was always that there must be a mastermind, an intelligent power, a supreme Being, a perfect designer who is greater than I, who is more intelligent than I, and who is more loving than I.
My perception of that Being is what I call “faith”, “spirituality”.
Later, and as I went through certain spiritual experiences I came to feel God in the real sense.
(By spiritual experience I mean an inner awareness or realisation which might be described as a profound feeling in which you are overwhelmingly moved to a state of boundless joy and serenity, with a sensation of total awareness and nearness of a Sublime Most Loving Presence which is far Greater than you are and far more Loving than you are, to whom you are ever so grateful, as well as being intimately close to all what you perceive in this vast universe).
As I prayed, an overwhelming, sublime, gentle, subtle, loving, magnificent presence engulfed me.
Words always fail me and fall very short, for I can’t put that feeling in words.
God for me was as real -if not more- than my own reality. So in my own perception God is a certainty; however, that does not give me the right to impose my perception upon others.
Now then, if faith and the concept of God provides a logical explanation to my existence, and if it helps me understand myself and the world around me in a rational manner, if it can give me a sense of fulfilment, contentment and satisfaction, if it enables me to survive adversities of life with minimum trauma and more patience, grace and sanity, if it fills my soul with love, joy, peace and tranquillity, if it makes life more fun, more enjoyable and my experiences more real and intense ; then how and why should I complain or deny?
After all there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. My logic concludes.
As seen from above, and taking me as an example, my embrace of faith was an organic evolvement and a natural outcome to my specific circumstances and life-journey; I did not find faith through indoctrination or manipulation; but rather through genuine inner quest for meanings and thirst for answers.
Through my fascination with this breathtaking beauty that I see all around.
Through my amazement, astonishment, and wonder at my ability to think and use logic and reason.
Through the heart melting awesome feelings that engulfed me as I felt my baby’s hand wrapped around my finger.
Through the superb fabulous sensation as I caress a soft velvety rose and as I fill my being with its sweet scent that leaves me speechless and awe struck.
Through the marvellous, splendid and magnificent sensation of love that captures my soul and overwhelms me with infinite joy and bliss
Having said that, I also found that my faith helps me through my suffering, it enables me to rise above and overcome hardships and adversities
My faith gives me inner strength; I don’t need rely on anything; people, things, or mind-blocking substances to cope with the adversities of life, pain, worries or sorrow.
My faith is my inner strength.
It gives me a sense of purpose, it gives my life a meaning, it gives my mind a sense of direction, it gives my heart endless fulfilment and fills it with boundless love, and it gives my soul overwhelming sensation of joy and delight.
My faith brings to me none but the most pleasant, most amazing feelings of contentment, tranquillity, peace; that life could be raging around me but I am sitting there ever so calm, ever so still, ever so safe, as if sitting in the eye of the storm.
My faith enthuse me with hope, happiness and bliss that nothing, absolutely nothing in this life I’ve ever experienced can be weighed against, measured up to, or compared with those intense wonderful experiences.
It is like trying to describe the feeling of your magnificent love to some one who’s never been in love before.
The feeling of exhilaration of intellectual stimulation, the joy and delight of being in love and feeling loved pale into insignificance compared to the overwhelming enchantment and ecstasy that the soul enjoys in one moment of closeness and inspiration.
Can I ever give it up for anything? Can I ever swap it with the entire material world and all of what’s in it?
Not even if I were to be chopped and diced into pieces or burnt at the stake.
Finally, I consider my choice to have faith as an essential part of my Human Rights and my right to Freedom of Though in as much as I see it anyone’s right not to have faith, as long as neither of us impose his/her belief of others, nor cause others harm through it.
This article was born as comment in response to Jonathan Blakeley’s comment about religion. I thought I could share it.
If I was to use all the words
Of all languages
Ever used by poets
Since time began
I’d never be able to describe
If I was to collect all the masterpieces
Of all the works of art
By man’s imagination
I could never repaint
If I was to live
All my past, present
In pain, fear, and sorrow
Absorbing the suffering
Of all humanity
Since life began
It’s a price worth paying
Thank you for giving me
A taste of paradise on earth
If only for a moment
Thank you for opening a window
In my confined heart
In the here and now
Into eternity and infinity
If only for moment
For blessing me with
Aware of it all
There I am
In the eye
Of the storm