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February 8th, 2005


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08:46 am - Questions about faith. . .
I'm gearing for another update of Chronarchy.Com in the near future, and was going through some of my old journals and such. I came across an entry that I thought I'd share, perhaps as a teaser to the update. The indented sections are direct from my journal.

There was a time, probably toward the end of 1999, that I was having a real crisis of faith. You can kind of see it in my journals (as yet incomplete on the website), but more to the point, you can see it in something very specific I wrote in one of my notebooks on magic. It probably speaks for itself, but I'm going to introduce it anyway:

I was having issues contacting the Gods. It was like they weren't out there, or they weren't listening, or I wasn't doing something right. Everything was wrong. And I mean *everything*. Nothing seemed to be going right for me. Tina and I had a major fight at some point during that year (though it was quickly over and we were made up a couple nights later), the Pagan Student Association didn't feel right anymore, I was falling behind in classes, fencing was putting pressure on me, and I was kind of in a funk for most of the year.

And somewhere in the middle, I bordered on Atheism.

I didn't want to be an Atheist. I didn't like them much (admittedly, I still don't, but I take them on a case-by-case basis). Anytime the question of the Gods' existence would pop into my head, I would banish it rather angrily. The conversation often went like this:

Seed of Doubt: You're not getting anything out of this.
Seed of Hope: But I'm doing it.
SoD: But nothing you ask for happens.
SoH: That's not why I'm doing this.
SoD: Then why are you doing this?
SoH: I don't know. It feels right.
SoD: You don't know, but it feels right? Tell me, when's the last time you felt something? Anything? Even a tickle, like they were paying attention?
SoH: A few months.
SoD: I think you're deluding yourself. They don't exist.
SoH: I don't believe you.
SoD: Why not? The proof is in the pudding, and in case you didn't notice, there is no pudding!
SoH: I'm doing it because I have faith.

And thus the conversation would end. The Seed of Doubt, of course, could not ever counter my trump card: faith. I didn't need another reason, and that was a comforting thought. More comforting was the statement that "faith that is proven is useless". It was somewhat childish, but it prevented me from needing any sort of proof. And that was very, very comforting.

For a while, though, I began to look into alternatives to Druidry that I had not explored before I decided to embark on this path. One of the key religions that kept turning up when I had these thoughts was Catholicism. I had spent a full summer attending Mass in St. Peter's Cathedral in the Loop in Chicago in 1997, and had really enjoyed it. Druidry seemed similar to me, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could replace it with Catholicism.

But then I woke up one morning and wrote this little peace, and every so often, when my faith faltered, I would read this bit and remember why I was a Druid, not a Catholic or a Jew or a Moslem or a Protestant or any number of other religions. I was, perhaps, more attached to magic than I am now: it was central to my life, and now it sits at the outskirts, replaced with love and devotion to the Gods. But then, it was a powerful and wonderful thing to me.

So here were my thoughts that one day, the ones that then sustained me through the rest of that questioning time:

Why Not Catholicism?



Because I can't leave the Magic!

Maybe it's the Magic I truly love.

I pray it isn't.

My loves are simple now: Gods, Tina, Magic.

Any more complex is dangerous.

Or maybe I'm the danger?

Magic is not compatable with catholicism.
My Gods are.
Christ is a good Idea . . . But not for me.

---

I can see the darkness.
My light shows the way.

---

Worrying about evil gets us nowhere.
Doing something about it might kill us, but that's somewhere.

---

Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: "Please Come to Boston", -JB

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From:chronarchy
Date:February 8th, 2005 02:23 pm (UTC)
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I have a conversation about that in my journal, as well. Sorta about that, I guess. It's on the list of things to get onto my website for the update :)

btw, sorry I missed your IM yesterday. It's been occasionally crazy around here.
From:silverwitch
Date:February 8th, 2005 02:27 pm (UTC)
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I've definitely experienced things similar to what you're discussing here. And you're right, the only comfort is the idea of faith in those moments. It seems like those periods are natural...I've come to think of it as just the ebb and flow of things, and when the spiritual connections are on the wane, that usually means it's time to focus more on a time on more mundane things that I may have been neglecting as of late. I guess what I'm saying is that it helps to find a pattern or meaningfulness in it. It might be a massive delusion, but how much of reality really is just that anyway? ;-)

Thanks for posting this. It was a nice thought provoking way to start Tuesdsay.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 8th, 2005 04:41 pm (UTC)
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All Tuesdays should begin with thought-provoking things. Unless Monday night was spent drinking hardcore. Then it should begin with some vitamin I.

Glad you enjoyed it.
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From:romandruid
Date:February 8th, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC)
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Ah, now here's where I tend to be much more laid-back than you, dear. I don't think religion or faith -- or even magic -- are really all that important in the long run. Who really cares what god(s) you worship or how many rosaries you said this week? Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Roman, Discordian, whatever -- it's only relevant that you believe in something that impels you through your brief existence in this universe.

All that really matters (IMO) is that you be as happy as you can while working to leave the world a better place than you found it. You might call that magic; I just call it living life well -- "correctly," even. Buddhists, I believe, call it "right action." It's what gets me out of bed in the morning, makes me work so hard for ADF and TCG, drags me off to ritual when I don't feel well, compels me to vote, to give blood, to pick up trash when I see it, be a good employee, etc...
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 8th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
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Well, the entry was written in 1999, so it reflects how I felt then, rather than how I feel now. Right action is more important that faith in most cases, I think. . . but it's often the faith that keeps me acting right.

I think ADF calls it "right action" as well. You get 3 guesses as to where we started calling it that from, and where that person got it.
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From:romandruid
Date:February 8th, 2005 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Ian? I'm sure he must have written it into the Dedicant Program, but on his own, or did it come down from Daddy Isaac?

It's the "fourth factor" of the "Eightfold Path" -- Zen Buddhism.
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From:tlachtga
Date:February 8th, 2005 03:33 pm (UTC)

Why I'm No Longer a Catholic.

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Having grown up Catholic, I can say that it has magic, but it won't call it that. Being a priest isn't much different from being a druid--that is, the rituals are essentially a form of magic. I'm sorry, but what else is transubstantiation? Even if you think it miraculous, it only happens because of the will and actions of the priest. The sacraments are not much different from magic. Being about to wipe clean a person's soul through baptism, pennance; being able to make two people one in marriage; being able to make a person an adult in confirmation; these are magical rites.

But these things can only be done by priests. And being a priest is only the right of men who study many years at seminary. Women cannot perform any sacrament, except for baptism (and that's a rare instance which almost never takes place, and can only take place when a priest isn't available, and the baptized is probably on his deathbed). Women cannot perform any rites, they can only recieve, and occasionally aid (such as a Eucharistic minister, like my mother, who cannot consecrate the hosts, but can give them out). This is one of the reasons I'm no longer a Catholic--it's a religion which relegates women to a second-class status.

But in other ways, it's a beautiful religion. The rituals, the traditions. The Mass has informed the way I view religion, and why I don't understand the point of going to church as a Protestant or Jew or Muslim--nothing happens. There's no magic at these services, only preaching. Admittedly, I'm playing a little reductio ad absurdum; my stepfather is a Methodist, and I know he gets a lot out of going to church. But I wouldn't.

Beyond all this, there is a lot of folk magic in Catholicism. Every time we know someone who needs to sell his house, my mother recommends that he bury a statue of St. Joseph in the front yard. And it works--due that, and you'll sell the house in a week. Prayers to St. Anthony: "Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around; something is lost and can't be found." And, with any luck, the lost item reappears. Or placing a statue of the Virgin Mary in the front window of a house in order to bring good weather. All folk magic, all embraced by the devout Catholics I know and grew up with.

But I'm not a Catholic. Why?

First, I don't believe Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the only gods out there, nor are they the gods for me. That covenant was with the Jews; I'm not a Jew, so I have a choice whether or not I want to enter in that covenant. I don't, because there are a lot of things I don't agree with.

Second, the woman thing.

Third, I'm bisexual. Not exactly embraced in Catholicism.

Fourth, I'm liberal. Kinda touch-and-go here when it comes to Catholicism. Some stuff fits, some doesn't. But frankly, I don't need celibate old men telling me how to live my life.

OK, so I'll quit my rambling.
[User Picture]
From:romandruid
Date:February 8th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Why I'm No Longer a Catholic.

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I was raised Catholic, too. I finally convinced my mother that I didn't need to go to Confession because I talked with God all the time. I think at first she thought I was just a slacker, but the more we talked about it and the more I told her about what I believed (or not, as the case may be), she finally admitted to me that if those were the things I truly believed, then I was no longer a Catholic. At first, that really hurt me, because I felt like I was being kicked out. (This all happened when I was about 17 years old.)

I still believe in the "magic" of Catholic Mass -- transubstantiation, communion, sacraments -- and I still pray to St. Anthony whenever I misplace something. I consider Jesus one of *many* deities, and he always lets me know I'm welcome in His house and at His communion, even if the rest of the folks there wouldn't understand. I never really rejected Christianity, per se; I just rejected all those parts of it that make it exclusive -- monism, papal infalibility, misogyny, failure to recognize that homosexuality is not just in someone's head, "the chosen few", etc. I figure if Jesus showed up here today, he'd be running around going, "NO, NO, No, no... that's not what I meant AT ALL!!!!"

I guess to me, "religion" and "church" are useful constructs only inasmuch as they help make productive connections among people and the cosmos. It doesn't really matter what else they do, as long as they don't screw around with anyone else's religion (and yes, most religions nowadays do). Connection, community, cosmos -- those are the really important things, and to be honest, what has faith got to do with ANY of that?
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From:smithing_chick
Date:February 8th, 2005 08:12 pm (UTC)

Re: Why I'm No Longer a Catholic.

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I, too, was raised Catholic.

For a while in High School, I started calling myself a Liberal Catholic, because I was finding myself at odds with the Church on a number of issues-- status of women, gay rights, etc. Right about the time I started college, I realized that I had more exceptions than rules I was following & thought maybe I wasn't really Catholic anymore. I stopped going to Church, which was sort-of OK with my folks once they believed that I wasn't doing it just so I could sleep in on Sundays after stay out & partying all Saturday night. :)

I just didn't feel a connection. I do feel a connection to the Celtic Dieties. And that's what it all comes down to. :)
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From:weya
Date:February 8th, 2005 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for posting that. It's cool to read that other people, especially those highly visible and highly involved in ADF, have crises of faith at points along their spiritual path.

Reading your entry and your additional notes on it was like reading my thoughts & self-arguments that have happened along my path. I've persevered but it has sewn a seed of self-doubt about my commitment to pagan religions (like "If I was truly convinced paganism is for me, then I wouldn't think 'Hey, maybe I should be a {insert Christian denomination here|' ..."

But yeah, it's about the magic for me too. That and the vision ....
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From:mlleelizabeth
Date:February 8th, 2005 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Very thought-provoking entry! Your next update should be interesting.

I've been through two crises of faith fairly recently (one in 2000 - 2001 when I left truly broke from Christianity and one pretty much now) and I've discovered they've both been tied to periods of depression. It's like everything I had faith in has been sucked out of me and there's this big, empty void where the Devine used to be. I try to convince myself that it continues to exist at the heart of my questioning, but that doesn't always work.
From:healing_coyote
Date:February 8th, 2005 05:03 pm (UTC)
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I have crises of faith exactly like that. I have wanted some sort of ecstatic drawn-down experience for a long while (8-9 months). BUT, I never seemed to get that sort of energy when I did rituals, magic, or just thought about the Gods at my altar. I started questioning it, and began my constant battle with "Is what I'm feeling real, or did I make it up b/c I am a pathetic excuse for a pagan, and I am a poser?" So yeah, crappy thoughts.

However, something that happened this past Imbolc (yes, I'm gonna post about it today!) showed me that I don't necessarily need that stimulant-high to know the Gods are up there. I don't need that ecstatic experience, because I probably can't handle it. And it's dangerous to want what you can't handle. :)

Wow, that was cathartic. Maybe I will post this in my own LJ... *laughs* You're so inspiring!
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From:wishesofastar
Date:February 8th, 2005 08:50 pm (UTC)
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I think you can practice magic and still be Catholic; then again I'm not, nor have I ever been Catholic, so I probably can't speak for it.

As for crises of faith, I have had a few, but they've all been rather fleeting. When I was severely depressed a couple of years ago, doubts surfaced, but I guess I never took them seriously. Perhaps the power of naming is a significant factor here. ;) At this point, I would say I don't have a religion, but I still feel comfortable calling myself a pagan. Anything else just puts to much structure on it, and I feel that spirituality should be a free and open gate. But perhaps I just haven't heard the call of my patron/ess yet...
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From:singingwren
Date:February 8th, 2005 11:51 pm (UTC)
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Anything I could say would probably be redundant, but I am going to agree with everybody here nonetheless. We all have crises of faith; in a cheesy and perhaps naive way I believe that it is much stronger and more sincere because of that. Faith, to me, is something tested -- a shield against doubt, a weapon against despair, a damn fine climbing 'beaner forged in the heat of criticism and the ice of apathy. If we didn't have moments when we were violently confronted by feelings of helplessness, foolishness, pointlessness, incompetence, loneliness, abandonment, etc, we would never get the chance to prove to ourselves that down at rock bottom (and even beyond), there IS something solid and stable. The roots find faith, and the branches too. All trees have seasons.

I think we relate to each other well as pagans because most of us have very critically and seriously questioned religion. The majority of us were not raised pagan, and had to overcome the stereotypes and habitual fears instilled in us by other religions. After all, many other religions have both a distinct punishment for nonbelievers and a distinct reward for believers, whereas paganism is much more open to interpretation and personal experience in the heart.

I understand how you felt then because I am somewhere just barely beyond that in my life now. Well, I found my faith years ago in what was basically a story-book epiphany of sudden enlightenment, but the more I looked back and examined it the more I saw it as a gradual building of events. But now, even though it's been much later, I still feel hopelessly naive and uncertain.

I do not feel uncertain in my FAITH, but I do feel so inexperienced and unwise. I am unfamiliar with magic and ritual, with the more ritualistic aspects that I find beautiful and would like to explore. I am also still a naive child reaching out for a hand, secretly wishing for "signs" sometimes and then immediately and angrily demanding that there NOT be a sign because what kind of a immature child talks to her gods like a Parker Brothers Ouija board? I no longer do this really, as I started realizing how often I had them; fireflies, moonlight, an unforgettable fey evening involving a blue bird of happiness and radiant twilight... but even still, three is always a scornful part of me that dismisses me as overly superstitious and unwise.

I guess the biggest problem is that I feel unworthy or just shy. I kind of felt like the person above who said they really wanted a blinding experience of magic to happen to them, but the closest to anything "fantastical" I have experienced is about two or three dreams and the things that come into my consciousness at ritual. But there have been times where I have felt incredible, intense power... thrumming from what I guess are called lay lines, flowing through a certain set of linked hands. But still, I am shy about magic, so wary that I will fail and be dissilussioned, despite the fact I know my faith is not so simple and fragile as that. I guess it's a complicated thing, growing your faith...

I wonder if I too will look back on this in years and smile at how earnest but generally ineffective I used to be.
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:February 8th, 2005 11:57 pm (UTC)
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Btw... I have to write two papers, one na in-class descriptive and one a big descriptive analysis / research type paper, on a local landscape element. I chose the arboretum (both parts) for my project, which means I have to visit it multiple times. The descriptive in-class essay is Thursday, so I need to try to go today and tomorrow (once at night and once during the day) so I was wondering if you and anybody else wanted to after PSA!
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 9th, 2005 12:12 am (UTC)
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*grins*

Absoposofrickinlutely.

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