The reason for my question is must FAITH be defined in terms of a RELIGION? Do I have to commit to saying I am religious, attend Church each Sunday, follow all the formal structures and beliefs in order to have true Faith? Are Faith and Religion unable to be separated or do we need to separate them in order to really get to grips with our own individual paths and find our own internal compasses to being human?
Today is Pentecost Sunday in the Christian calendar - 50 days after Easter, 10 days after the Ascension of Christ and was the breathing of the Holy Spirit into the Apostles and believers. In short historians would mark it as the beginning of the movement of the Church as such. A very important date in the Christian calendar for some sections for example Catholics. I was raised Anglican and although the Church also celebrates it to be honest I didn't know what it was until today. Goes to show how much attention I paid at Sunday School.
The reason I now know this information is because I did a walk around my city today to look at different places of worship within the city and how they connect and interact. Pentecostal Sunday being the leaders date of choice as we would see worship in action. This got me thinking about religion in a broader scope during the course of the day.
I did a quick Goggle search to see how many religions there are on this planet we call home - apparently roughly 4200. Okay then.... so something for everyone I think. But of course you can't drag a horse to water and make it drink, nor can you make the non-believer a believer. The scientist who believes in the Big Bang Theory has a real issue with a kindly old man up above the stars creating it all in 7 days, I get that, and I'm neither a scientist or a particularly religious person.
So I simply cannot define my faith at this point in my life. Can you?
Lets whittle down the 4200 to something more manageable - the 5 major religions of the world (and in no particular order!)
- New Age (yes people it is a religion)
http://www.everystudent.com/features/connecting.html - for more reading at your own leisure and I think all of us should consider reading out of tolerance and humanism if nothing else!
Most of us will fall somewhere into one of those 5 majors unless we are an outright atheist (which is probably on that list of 4200!). I know there are people who say they are but you have to believe in SOMETHING, even if it is the Big Bang theory so I don't quite buy into atheism.
My issue is with 'blind' faith.
I was baptised as a baby but choose not to be confirmed in our church (Anglican) as a teenager. Already I had issues with the suffering I saw around me and today it is still my biggest stumbling block when it comes to what I call Blind Faith. I cannot understand how a loving God, of any of the religions, could subject the innocent to the suffering and heartache he/she does. That is my bottom line on it. I simply cannot reconcile it in my brain and that stops me short of saying I can just believe and have faith. I also see too many hypocrites who hide behind religion (not faith). Those faithful who attend church on a Sunday only to name and shame the rest of the week, never giving a thought to the less fortunate. Sorry I do call it like it is and we all know how much truth there is in that statement. It is one of the main reasons I will not attend a formal church of any sort.
This is my personal perception and I don't claim to be right in my way of thinking. Nor do I judge anyone who is able to have complete faith despite the suffering and hypocrisy they see. In fact I envy them (oops broken one of the 10 Commandments already!) - it is simply for an untainable goal for me and perhaps always will be. Perhaps I am too questioning and demanding? Something which religion has never really taken kindly to if we look at history.
Having kids who have reached the age where they started to ask deeper questions about what is religion and who is God I've often looked at different faiths and wondered if they were not more closely linked then we assume. The world has seen many wars fought in the name of religion over the centuries. Would the ultimate irony be that they were all fighting over the same God?
My reasoning goes back to Sunday School and the story of the Tower of Babel where God saw man building a tower to heaven and working as one and so scattered them across the globe and created different languages. From these scatterings and languages they surely would have found ways of worshipping God, and evolution, as it does, would have potentially created different ways of worship in different places... thus one God.
Certainly a possibility isn't it?
It still brings me back to the original question - how do I define my faith?
If I had to given an answer then it would be spiritual. Possibly something between New Age / Buddhism beliefs but without labelling it. I do believe there is something. While I cannot reconcile myself to the suffering, I am not blind to the miracles. The daily magic of life. The beauty of new life in the womb. The truth of love. The gentleness of the rain and the magnificence of a new dawn. All of that speaks of a higher Spirit which I acknowledge yet I am unable to define for myself.
But I am okay with the undefined faith for now.
I know I am always going to question, investigate and challenge. Perhaps this will lead me to a stronger faith in time but for now I believe that faith should be defined with the following criteria :
Tolerance, acceptance, love, humanity, compassion.
If we are able to embody the above five in our dealings with each other we will give humans faith in each other. That is the first step in restoring humanity's faith in itself.