A Crisis of Faithlessness

I never thought I would end up back here again, straddling the worlds between belief and non belief. I had thought that once I had abandoned faith, that would be it, nothingness – I was the mistress of my own destiny, I did not cower to a higher being, once I died that would be it. And yet … the nothingness took shape into an emptiness and that has always remained.

The emptiness has affected my writing in a big way – I even did a whole play about it called AVA, where the lead character was unknowingly given a final chance to redeem herself as episodes from her life flash before her … It wasn’t quite the play I wanted it to be, but it’s a step towards writing my great epic.

My atheism was odd, bourne out of anger more than anything else. At times I felt both abandoned by God and unable to be a proper believer, I even held onto the belief of having a God for a grandfather (I’m not even going to try and explain that to you, no it’s not from a ritual, my mum had a real life human father, but she also has one who is a God – scoff if you like, it’s true), but all the while thinking that there is nothing to pray to … complex girl, what can I say?

What happened? Well, the turn off began a while back when I discovered that atheists can be as horrible as some theists … Indeed well known atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who go out and decry those who have faith are just as abhorrent to me as so-called religious leaders who use religion as a justification to hurt others. If you don’t believe in God well that’s just fine but don’t go and beat up on the people who do and call them deluded … it’s not nice. I also started running Diwali and being forced to return to your culture and community which you try so hard to keep out of your life (I have never known a fully private life – since birth the community has always known my comings and goings, with community leader for a father there is a price the whole family has to pay) meant that I was at times an advisor and ambassador for what Wellington would see. I knew something was starting to change a couple of years back when Cathy and I picked up the Ganesh idol that we borrow every year for the event. He’s huge and bronze and we wheeled him in on a trolley a couple of days early, we were sharing our space with HR and they left some cases of beer and alcohol, something inside got me very upset about it and I cleared the area, and made sure that it was kept well away – it was just an idol, right? Why was I feeling this anxiety to treat it as if my mother were in the room?

And then, I got older … Ok, I know, I’m only 29, wisdom is still very much a stranger to me and I don’t profess to know the answers to anything, although I do know now that I never will know the answers, answers are an illusion. I have learnt about my own failings, a little bit about forgiveness and a lot about humility. I have started actually believing in Fate, it’s certainly meant that I’ve been able to let the small things not bother me any more and that has brought me a lot of peace. But then Fate has thrown me in some interesting directions this year, in particular three shows based on Hindu epics, two of them on my favourite one, The Mahabharata. And tonight I finally saw Peter Brook’s film version which has lead me to this musing. I thought I’d hate it but instead I was completely moved to tears, something in his staging and the episodes he chose reminded me of what it was that I loved about that tale and oddly, don’t know why, what it was like to feel what faith was like when I read it.

I’m kind of shaken … but in a good way I guess.

The problem comes down to religion. Obviously if I am going to go back, my faith will have to be Hindu, there’s no two ways about it – I can’t imagine being monotheist, but how can I reconcile with a religion that has a caste system, or priests and believers who tell you that fasting for this or the other will help your soul? Am I allowed to pick and choose and form my own construct of a Hindu-like religion? Am I allowed to use some rituals, like Ganesh pujas, house blessings, wedding rituals (however unlikely that is to happen) and completely ignore others (of which there are many) particularly ones that I think are cutting into my personal freedom?

I just don’t know if I can even live up to the standards of what I think a believer should be … all I know is that I’m back on the fence.

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10 Responses to “A Crisis of Faithlessness”

  1. I love you and this post.

    I consider myself a Hindu and a monotheist (sorta) at the same time.

    I’m not much into “societies” but this describes pretty well my thoughts on the matter.

  2. P.S. I joined Facebook. Talk about needing God’s help.

  3. I don’t know anything about the Hindu religion at all (Catholic school = no interest in religion whatsoever), but personally believe that the truest way to really believe something is to consciously pick and choose and what you want to believe. This is what noveau Christians do, for example in choosing to disregard bigotted elements of the bible such as homophobia and misogyny, but whilst still 100% believing in the Christian God and Jesus. But then I guess in a way that becomes not so much a religion but a personal sense of belief so perhaps it’s a semantic issue…

    Or actually perhaps I don’t really have the foggiest idea.

    I just rock along being atheist figuring that either belief will hit me one day or I’ll just stay atheist…

    If belief does hit me, I’d prefer it to not be of the Catholic variety (hear that, God?).

    So, in summary, um, learnt anything new about corn?

  4. Well actually it’s Sonal but Mum sent this via email so I’ll post it here

    Yes darling you are allowed to pick and choose and form your own construct Hindu – like religion and use the rituals that you believe in. That’s how the rituals were created and still been created.

    I don’t believe in caste system nor in priests, and as I always say God works in a mysterious way, your Bapuji and I were married in Shiv Mandir by a merchant (He had a shop opposite Silk Museum, can’t remember what he use to sell).

    So there you are, you don’t have to follow others beliefs or rituals.

    Mum xxx

  5. Tamasha – love you too 🙂 Interesting link … there was a time where I figured that if there was I was ever going to be religious, I’d probably become a Buddhist probably for the same reasons as you link to. Oh, I am still so confused …

    Lou – You have a point about the Nouveau Christian movement (is that real, or did you make it up yourself?). I think the point of difference between you and I may come from the possibility that I was once a very religious child, by my own choice. So leaving it was a very big decision to make and it did change everything. Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve ever had this discussion – was religion (aside from school) a big thing in your life? It’s a whole side of you I don’t know about. I found that once I had left, I had an appetite to learn about the other faiths. As it stands I’m still on the hunt for a really good translation of the Quran (if anyone knows a good one, please tell me). I also have maintained that my kids should learn about the faith of their forebears and then when they are old enough, leave it for them to choose – if you’re going to rebel against religion, you should know what you’re rebelling against. Er … corn … it’s yellow … and I think the husks can be used to make stuff … like corn chips? *shrugs*

    Mum – Yeah, I see what you mean … but I do remember you pointing out that I can be a Hindu atheist too (which I just think it cheating). I don’t think I’d ever have a mandir like Bhai, nor would I ever want one. I wouldn’t do regular diya like him or have vegetarian days, I’ll only visit mandir’s on holiday, and even then, it will probably only be the real monuments. IF I were to follow again then I think the only things I’d have would be a Nataraja and a Ganesh – as those are the two that have followed me everywhere whether I have liked it or not. I’ve been won over by Fate, we’ll see about the rest …

    Wee thought just occurred to me – am I possibly one of the first atheists to be sent back to religion thanks to the efforts of Dawkins and Hitchens?

  6. As a theology graduate turned Salvation Army church leader turned confused bi/homosexual or something who spews green stuff at the thought of pentecostalism… couple of brief random thoughts:

    I thought it was surprising and ironic that a couple of my gay agnostic mates thought it was a great thing that I’d gone along to church the other day – that I was ‘reconnecting with my spiritual side’.

    Right now I reckon that God would rather have people not talk directly to him/her but be good/godly people, than people have a lot of talk and ‘right’ beliefs but not a lot of love. My theology degree side thinks that it could make a pretty decent argument for that God.

  7. I made up the title Nouveau Christian. I assume that ‘Born Again’ is a misnomer, and that if you asked they would say Christian plain and simple, so myself refer to it as Nouveau Christian (is that even spelt correctly).

    I got first in Religious Education twice at high school. Which was sort of a joke as I used to sit there asking perfectly valid but intentionally obnoxious questions that the teachers couldn’t answer. In 7th form I did a theology paper called Beginnings of the Early Church. I take a lot of exception to the evolution of the Catholic church into what it is today. Since leaving high school I have forgotten everything I learnt and retracted into a state of complete disinterest and atheism.

    So yes, you are right in saying your situation is different – very different!

    I don’t believe for one minute that those are things you have learnt about corn recently, and that perhaps you learnt them maybe like 25ish years ago. But good on you for answering.

  8. I think you have an excellent argument on your hands there too Kat.

    I’m still confused by this sitting fence-dom I find myself in. Why do I feel this yearning for faith? I believe that your actions should be governed by love because it’s makes the world a nicer place to live, I’ve always believed that regardless of what I did, or didn’t believe in. What is it, that I’m looking for as I climb off the atheist wagon and back onto my perch, that I am looking for?

  9. I don’t know what you’re looking for, but i think for me it’s a sense of direction and purpose – typical post break-up issue perhaps?
    One other thought I had was that I didn’t really think my beliefs were all that clear until my brother had a bit of a mental flip out and was just talking all this utter bullshit about life and meaning – i found that my disagreement with him was totally based on a fairly orthodox (don’t read that to mean conservative or funbutmental) Christian view of the world and how people should treat each other.

  10. If you are interested in exploring, check this out in NZ: http://www.medini.dhamma.org/

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