Monday, June 2, 2014

Love is the what

I'm wondering why lately I have allowed myself to comment at length about my spiritual beliefs, where they coincide with another's and where they don't, when in fact, I long ago promised myself never to get drawn into religious pissing matches or any kind, that nothing good could ever come of asking someone who doesn't believe as you do to acknowledge your perspective.

So I'm really stunned by my impulse to respond when my beloved Mary Moon, who knows very clearly her reasons for not believing, sets them down, as she did in her brilliant and searing post yesterday. In some crazy part of myself, it made me want to say to her, but you are one of the most Godly people I know, you are goodness and honesty and courage and radiant light, you welcome everyone onto your porch, you bless us all.

But maybe it's just semantics. Maybe Godliness is just a word some people use to label a certain way of being in the world, and Goodliness works just as well.

I do believe in God, but not the fire and brimstone God of the Old Testament, who Mary aptly calls an asshole, which made me laugh out loud. My mother is a religious woman. Her faith has been a great comfort to her, and as advancing age takes more and more from her, I am grateful she has it. But while I was growing up, she gathered us each morning to read the Bible as a family, the four of us kneeling around my parents' bed, reading the scriptures of the day. Some of those verses horrified me. How could we worship a God who would permit a man to offer his daughter to random men, who would condone genocide and other atrocities? And yet, I have always felt the presence of a loving spirit in my life, and so I decided that the Bible was merely a book written by flawed humans with an agenda, and as I got older I learned that this book had then been revised again and again by men in positions of power, who deleted and added to the stories in ways they thought would achieve their own ends.

Don't get me wrong. There are verses of great beauty and poetry in the Bible, alongside the murder and mayhem. But for me, it is still just a book, not the unfiltered word of God. For me, God is love. That is the beginning and end of it. The words God and Love are synonymous in my understanding. God, for me, is not a deity in the sky with a flowing grey beard but rather the Love we express in the world.

I could get into all manner of other beliefs I flirt with, the possibility of past lives, of parallel universes, karmic ties, conceptions of life after death, but I won't. For all I know we're all lying hooked up to virtual worlds via electrodes a la The Matrix, creating our own realities for reasons only we can know, and sometimes not even consciously. I mean, anything is possible, which is why belief is personal. We have no absolute way of knowing what is true or not anyway, and it could be that whatever we believe becomes true for as long as we believe it, because our thoughts are just so powerful as to make it so.

I am not endeavoring to convince anyone of anything. Not at all. I have always resisted it myself when someone tried to proselytize to me. I am merely trying to understand what has driven me to engage in religious discussion when I so explicitly promised myself decades ago not to do so. I think what I have arrived at is that I am sometimes overcome with loving, and in those moments I feel such a powerful sense of connection and oneness it is as if the external realities are illusions, a parlor trick rooted in our limited human understanding, and if we could see fully, we'd know that we have never been separate at all.

See what I mean? Why am I even writing this here?

Happy Monday.


  1. Yes! And it is that shared connection and oneness that is at the base of it all and when Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself," (if he really said it) I think that he meant not just to treat everyone nice but that we ARE our neighbors. We ARE all, in fact, one. And not just with our neighbors (meaning every human being on the planet) but with the trees and rocks and water and stars and planets and black holes and all of it. And somehow, in some way that I cannot comprehend but believe most truly, it is all fueled and fired by love. A love which we only know the merest reflection of the shadow of a shadow of. It is too powerful for us to really know except in the merest glimpses but boy, when we get those glimpses- it's so damn beautiful.
    Yeah. I love you, Angella. I purely do.

  2. Yes, this is as beautiful and true as Mary's post.
    God is love. Thats the only thing I'm sure of. All the rest of it? Not ours to know.
    Anyone who claims to know can't possibly, can they?
    And yes, the Bible has some awful stories, but history is full of awful stories.
    Thank goodness for love to balance it out.
    I'm glad you wrote this here.

  3. The connection, the fact that we are all one thing with everything else, is at the center of Buddhism, too. Whether there's a deity involved or not seems almost beside the point to me!

  4. Your beliefs parallel mine. I'm 35 years old and finally coming to grips that it's okay that I'm not a Catholic anymore, and also that it's okay to hold some of those traditions close. If I must give myself a label, it would be Unitarian -- we talk about these things in that philosophy, openly and with clear heads. I just made it sound like a cult.

    Anyway - thanks for this. xo

  5. really great post. I was bought up a catholic in NZ (my auntie was a nun, my parents worked in a mission hospital in Papua New Guinea) but am not now and sometimes not sure what i believe. We actually are sending our first two boys to a catholic school which is incredibly diverse and kind and accepting. Except NOW the bishop (old and out of touch) wants to impose a "morality clause' on the teachers. So now the ugly old face of religion is rearing its head,just when we got the school how we wanted it...

  6. I love this post. Religion is something i've wrestled with over the years, but i think--as you mentioned--is something people hide behind, seek comfort in and are protected by. So, in that sense, it's a fascinating topic.

  7. You are writing it because it's pretty darn perfect, and you're summing up my thoughts so much more eloquently than I could. I was never (well, very rarely anyway) taken to church as a girl. I went as a teenager and found Jesus, as it were, and I still feel strongly there is a loving presence with me. I have been slowing moving away from the idea of one diety, one way to Heaven, etc, and I've ended up..well, I'm not sure really where I've ended up, but I do still pray.

    I have SO often thought the same of Ms Moon and I know I've told her at least once--she is truly one of the most spiritual people I know, and you've hit the nail on the HEAD with coining the phrase "goodliness". I sure do adore your goodliness, too.

  8. I am just so very grateful to know both of you, to have my tired mind sparked and encouraged and illuminated and inspired by what you dear women write.

    Thank you.

  9. I love you, Angella. Sometimes I feel compelled to write a memoir of my spiritual life, but I wonder why anybody would care to read it. My point is that I feel torn like you do, between the desire to share and the desire to shut up. But mostly I just love you, and I can feel that love and compassion radiating off of you like light.

  10. This left me with a sigh at how lucky I am to have such people as you, Mary, and Elizabeth in my life. Eloquent, all of you. Filled with love. Unfettered by dogma.

  11. I'm in the midst of 'Living With a Wild God', the new Barbara Ehrenreich book. She, a professed atheist, solipsist and brilliant writer, had an ineffable experience as a young adult. Most excellent and thoughtful book about god, no god and the spaces where we actually live.

    Mary Moon isn't a saint but she sure is the goddess of love.