Seeking Faith In An Uncertain World.

The Pope is in Australia. Pope Benedict XVI is here in the land of Oz to mark the celebration of World Youth Day where almost 150,000 of the faithful will congregate in the city of Sydney, culminating next Sunday in an open-air mass with up to half a million people.

As someone who was brought up as a Catholic I should probably be jumping for joy right now. Some people have said they can feel the positive energy in the streets, that the city is shining in its spiritual journey, that this event, is in fact, bigger than the 2000 Olympics.

I am ambivalent about this whole world youth day thing. I feel myself stepping back from religion the older I get. It seems to me the major problem with any religion is the lack of respect shown to other religions. Surely that’s not what it’s all about. Religion should be inclusive not exclusive. I met a guy at the bus stop yesterday who told me how excited he was at the prospect of the Pope’s visit and the city being awash with Catholics. ‘For a whole week I’m going to be among my people,’ he said. So what about all the other people he’s with at other times? Are they just making up the numbers?

For those of you who read this blog regularly [and I thank you so much **hugs**] you will know that I am presently experiencing a crisis of faith that has been going on for a number of years. Recently, I decided I would not be returning to the Church. Yes, I am officially one of the fallen. I have varied, solid reasons for this but as many of you know the major reason I have grappled with this is because my cousin was abused by a Catholic priest and later as an adult took his own life.

I believe in forgiveness. I believe it is necessary to move forward and to grow, but I cannot get past what happened. The Pope is supposed to apologise at some stage this week to the victims who were sexually abused by priests, cardinals, and so on; but I think too little, too late.

Yet Benedict XVI is the only Pope in recent history to openly acknowledge sexual abuse within the Church. I actually admire him. He is tackling issues previously ignored by the Catholic Church. I applaud his stance on the environment and on issues like the unequal distribution of wealth in society. But I don’t know if he can compete with the consumerist society we find ourselves presently enmeshed in. Personally, I think it’s going to take more than several hundred thousand Catholics praying in the streets to stimulate a spiritual awakening in my city. There is only one God that rules here. The almighty dollar. And he has a firm grip on most of the inhabitants. The only God that counts.

In some ways these are desperate times we live in. Times of uncertainty, times where hope is hard to come across. I have friends who have young adult children who can’t afford to move out of home, who face a shrinking job market, econonomic uncertainty, and a housing crisis. Not to mention environmental concerns. It must be difficult to be on the brink of adulthood in 2008.

Pope Benedict XVI is urging young people to seek faith amid the tumult, saying that our world needs a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that young people are the instruments of that renewal, and that it is only through seeking Christ that a better world will be attained.

Is he right? I hope so. I hope this week points all of those young people in the direction they need to live a fulfilling life, I really do.

And for those who feel the need to protest such events –

let them.

Their voice needs to be heard if we are going to come to a mutual place that is going to benefit all of us. Annoyance laws have been introduced for this week, giving police the power to fine people deemed to be annoying or hampering the pilgrims, with fines of up to $5,500. A large price to pay for voicing your opinion.

I’d like to end with a quote about religion made over 40 years ago that still inspires me –

The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.


Amen to that!

24 thoughts on “Seeking Faith In An Uncertain World.

  1. I don’t have anything insightful to say, it’s too early on a Sunday morning for my brain to be functioning.

    I do remember when I had my son, almost 29 years ago, that two of the three women I shared a hospital room with also had boys. They both named their new sons John Paul, because Pope John Paul was visiting Chicago that day. I don’t know why I just recalled that…I think I need to make a pot of coffee…



  2. You know what’s really interesting? I actually went to that Rael website and even though I don’t agree with it, I thoroughly studied it just to know what it is all about. That seems to be the thing I do lately…learn about new religions as much as possible.

    When I first started doing this, it was after a crisis of faith (raised Christian) but I feel like I took most of my spirituality back by opening myself up to what was out there rather than bashing any religion that did not mirror my own. The church still makes me sad when it looks down upon other religions and I have since refused to go. My faith is a mixture of a few different things now but all of them boil down to kindness, love and forgiveness. How can that be wrong?

    Sorry to ramble! This is such a great post and I applaud you for asking the questions of yourself and seeking the faith that is right for you :).


  3. I am going to use the following, an excerpt from an email that I sent out just last evening to one of my children who questioned me about something I said in regards to religion.

    Dear *******, Religion destroyed me as nothing else did. I survived the first farm to which I was forced to follow your father. I survived that hell of a partnership between your father and his brother. I survived that barn of a house in Susquehanna County. I survived that witch of a mother-in-law I inherited. I survived it all: poverty, back breaking and useless labor, BUT, I did not survive religion and how it affected my entire life during the 1950s, the 60s and into the early 70s. By then, it was too late for me to keep from becoming what I became for far too many years.
    Beginning with our move to Susquehanna Count—1960—I know what it’s like to watch a speeding train come racing toward me and wish I had the courage to step out in front of it. I know what it is like to stand on a moonlit beach at two in the morning and wish I had the courage to swim out until it was too late to return.
    At one time, while cleaning your Uncle Jack’s bedroom—1955 or 56,I came across what I thought to be a “suicide capsule”. I assumed he had brought back from his World War II service in North Africa. I had read that some soldiers carried such capsules. I held on to that capsule from the day I found it until after our move to the Harrisburg area in the early 70s. I finally destroyed it.
    For me, I began to grow up the day I cast off all religious belief’s. . . the day I no longer allowed others to do my thinking for me.


  4. Religion is like truth, in a way. As Jack Nicholson once said… “You can’t handle the truth!” Humans aren’t capable of handling religion the proper way either. This is because of our innate characteristic of having diverse opinions. Even the Bible speaks clearly about acceptable religion (James 1:26-27)… and shockingly, it didn’t mention Christianity; or any denomination, for that matter.

    Anyhow, for what it’s worth, I’d like to say that I still believe and practice ancient religion myself. Mine’s called Humanity. However, we need more church members as our number’s been dwindling since the dawn of time.


  5. I liked Chris’s reply.

    What can I say, I was raised Catholic as well. My son isn’t baptized. He won’t be unless he chooses to as an adult, we’re not married (because of feminism and laziness), and my grand mother calls us heathens. (Good Catholic that she is, she still likes us more than she does my sister and her parter because they are lesbian AND god knows that’s worse /sarcasm.) The Youth summit I felt, is sort of like the iPhone. A lot of hype but at least, with the iPhone there the chance of a reply.

    As for Benny being in town, not sure it makes much of a difference except for the traffic jams.


  6. >>A large price to pay for voicing your opinion.<<

    (Ta-ra!!) NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition …. 😀


  7. Aw, dang it! Travelrat took my reply… or part of it, anyway.

    You’ve done it again, making me think long and hard. I love the quote by JFK, and agree that it is truly inspiring.

    Religion… I was there once, swimming in that safe zone of non-denominational-christian-almost-fundimentalists. I studied my bible and memorized verses; I listened to the teachers, the preachers, and the elders. They all said pretty much the same thing, “We’re the only ones who are right. Everyone else is going to hell.” Um, this happened in every church I attended.

    Oh, they’d reach out to the unsaved, but if you questioned what they taught, then you were looked down upon as one who would not be joining them in their great reward. tsk, tsk, NEXT!

    I remember refusing to even consider the possibility that other beliefs are just as true as mine. One evening during a weekly bible study, someone mentioned that her neighbor didn’t believe in hell or the devil. The leader of the group said, “Well, how convenient for her. She’ll have quite the surprise when she meets him and ends up spending eternity with him in hell.”

    Peace never came to me until I finally gave up on trying to follow the christian dogma and just let my Spirit lead the way. I must admit, there are times when it is hard for me to be civil to bible-believers, but that only happens when they try to convert me, and/or tell me where they think I’m going.

    I wonder if religion is keeping us from truly becoming a global society.


  8. I was raised Episcopalian, and attended Catholic schools during my entire education. When I was 16, my mom – who never missed church on Sunday – had our astrology charts done, and insisted that I accept the annual invitation of one of my Jewish friends to celebrate Passover with her and her family. Mom wanted me to decide for myself which spiritual path I would follow.

    After much exploration, I would say that I have created my own spiritual belief system that works for me. The foundation of which is love and compassion, with some metaphysics thrown in for good measure. I would never presume that my beliefs would suffice for anyone else on the planet, and, frankly, have never understood how anyone could truly assume or expect such a thing.

    On a side note, I have lost three people very close to me through suicide in my life. I am deeply sorry for the loss of your cousin.


  9. It was World Youth Day? Normally the Catholic Church are so good at advertising!

    Mmm. Being a member of a church that was only created so a Kingcould get divirced and get his jolly on with someone more fertile I have no trouble separating the religion and faith thing. Sometimes I do wish we had a little more conviction though. I was having a moment of pride today though with the congregation that sung out a heckler at a sermon today. Just for a moment it felt like the Church of England was united. And then I remembered we really aren’t.

    I wish the youth who attended the event all the best but hope they take only the good away and try to remember that it is only a religion and not the be all and end all.

    talking crap today? Why, yes I am.


  10. LINDA – that reminds me of a schoolfriend who loved our Geography teacher, Sister Annunciata. She toyed with calling her first daughter that but eventually changed her mind and called her Katie. What a relief!

    HILLY – you are making me cry a bit here. It means so much that you get it. Kindness, love and forgiveness – three words that could change the world. I am so grateful for your comment. XX

    MARY – that letter is so powerful. I feel for you going through all the difficult times you’ve had. It is interesting that you felt you didn’t feel you had grown up until you left behind your religious beliefs. There is a part of me that feels that way too. Thank you so much for sharing it with me, Mary.

    CHRIS – I would worship at that Church for sure, in fact, I think I already do. And that quote from James : “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:26,27) says it all. Thank you, my friend.

    NAT – that’s the analogy of the week right there. ‘Youth Day is like an iPhone except with an iPhone you’ll get a reply.’ You crack me up. 😀

    TRAVELRAT – “our chief weapons are fear and surprise and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.” How I love that Monty Python skit. Travelrat to the rescue once more!

    KAREN – your final sentence is one of the most profound things I have read in a long time. I have no doubt that it is religion that is stopping us from being a truly global society. Wow, Karen. Sometimes you just blow me away!


  11. HOLLY – love and compassion and metaphysics. You are truly wonderful. All the comments today have really inspired me. The most spiritual people I know follow a personal kind of religion as you do. They act in a ‘christian/religious’ way without having to preach about it. I was actually worried about doing this post because I thought I might offend some people or people might not get where I am coming from, but I am delighted right now. DEEEELIGHTED.
    And, Holly, I am sorry you lost people close to you to suicide. It is enormously difficult to deal with. I know.

    BEC – you never talk crap, my dear. That’s my domain. I hadn’t heard about the heckler in the church. It could have been worse, it could have been a streaker. Ha ha ha.


  12. I’m finding this post and all the comments just fascinating. I love hearing about other peoples’ spiritual twists and turns; I have rarely met anyone who had a straight journey.

    I tried very hard to be a good member of our church as a child, but something wonderful (it’s not always a negative that turns someone) happened to me at 13 that proved to me that I was in the wrong religion for me (not wrong for everyone, just wrong for me). I didn’t tell anyone, I just adjusted my thoughts and quietly observed. It took me until age 20 to finally find the courage to realise that I could no longer attend a church service because it was confusing and depressing me. I made a New Year’s resolution to not attend church for a full year and to try and find some answers myself, without complication. It didn’t take a year – just a few months and the fog cleared, and I felt the most peaceful and serene I had ever been.


  13. This is a topic that could be discussed for days….I too was brought up RC but lapsed on that many years ago.

    It would be wonderful to feel that religion of any kind added to life. I know it is a comfort and a source of strength for many people. To me, it ended up leaving me feeling hollow and empty.

    You’ve brought up some interesting and valid points here Selma on a tough topic to tackle.

    Speaking of the faithful, I certainly am when it comes to be a SITC reader!!! Hugs back to you, G


  14. DAOINE – sounds like you had an epiphany. WOW! I agree with you, it is so amazing hearing everyone’s stories. I feel truly uplifted today. It’s brilliant!

    GERALDINE – you’re right. We could discuss this for days. I think people should discuss religion more openly without fear of censure. I thank you for being such a regular reader. It just wouldn’t be the same without you. You are awesome!


  15. This ia heartfelt essay, Selma, and I agree with so much of it. To me the perfect system would be an embracing of one’s culture – which includes the religion, I suppose – but seeing it for what it is – one version among many.
    Diversity is so important, and the best way to achieve that globally is for people to embrace the local and tolerate, and find common cause in, the global. Cooperate within our differentness.


  16. Like Chris I practice religion at the Church of Humanity and it has always been a deeply satisfying and rewarding journey. I know there are many people who find great comfort and solace in organised religions. I personally have never found it necessary. If we all just practised being tolerant and kind towards each other the world would be a better place. No preacher necessary for that particular message.

    I am deeply sorry for the loss of your cousin Selma. And that priest probably has the gall to call himself a christian man. it makes my blood boil.


  17. ANTHONY – absolutely. Accepting our differences is the only way to move forward. Yet historically, we have shown an inability to do so. Maybe that’s how the 21st century will be remembered : for the time when humankind was at last able to embrace its differences. I remain optimistic that it can happen.

    GYPSY – how right you are. There is no preacher necessary for tolerance and kindness. These are traits that should be developed in the home and consolidated at school. How wonderful the world would be if we all practised that. And thank you for your sympathies re. my cousin. It was a while ago now, but the sorrow lingers.


  18. “It seems to me the major problem with any religion is the lack of respect shown to other religions.”

    Wow. Thats really true. I suppose thats why I chose not to belong to any sort of organized religion. While I believe in god..I cant really get behind or get down with most (all) religions. I never understood the Fear Factor religion seems to use to ‘control their people’


  19. Another huge topic requiring an essay-length response. All I can say is that religion seems to make people happy, as long it’s not leading a crusade against other religions. As you know, I haven’t ever been able to find religious faith, but I don’t count myself as more intelligent or better because of it.

    The story about your cousin is shocking. I don’t have the ability to respond to any of this effectively at the moment.


  20. having had a horrific religious experience being raised a jehovah’s witness,, i joined the catholic church as a young adult… it was not long after i did so,, i realized that the name of the church doesn’t matter,, if i cannot find it in me to believe in god…

    follow your heart,, you know where you stand… and i believe that following what you know to be true,, is really the only way to be at peace with the whole god thing…..


  21. MELEAH – you are so right. The Fear Factor should not be part of the program. People should be allowed to question their faith, especially in this day and age where we analyse and decipher everything. You hit the nail on the head.

    RWHACKMAN – I think that’s the key point – if it makes you happy, then that’s great, but it doesn’t give you a right to start a crusade against people of other faiths. And I don’t know – you seem pretty intelligent to me…..

    PAISLEY – Follow your heart. The best advice ever. XX


  22. It’s so complicated, isn’t it? And it is we humans who make it so. Personally, I believe that there is religion, and then there is faith. Religion often seems so political.

    I have my particular denomination, yet that denomination is also divided amongst themselves in their beliefs.

    To me, the universal theme sounds cliche yet solid: Love, truth, faith in the One, serving others, hope, forgiveness…you’ve heard it. For me, and my family, it is Christianity.

    I heard someone on TV make the remark that God reveals himself to the many peoples in all different ways.

    Maybe so.

    I think that many people don’t lose so much faith in God, but in the people who interpret His Word. Those who present The Word have a great responsability, and when they abuse their position, they are not in his Favor, and can cause good people harm, and gross misrepresentation and abuse and outright disregard of the Lord’s simple yet solid message is obscured and that’s when people lose faith and become lost in crisis. This is when wickedness and evil find a crack slip in to those that do harm, and the tale is as old as Adam and Eve.


  23. Hmmmmmmmm. I am really, really impressed with the diversity of opinion expressed here, Ms. Selma! If only we could all be as respectful out in the world, when observing/practicing our various faiths–we should all endeavor to do so!!
    I used to call myself “a cheerful atheist/non-theist”. For about 17 years or so. But I believe I was angry back then. Hurt over the loss of a beloved grandmother(Yia-Yia, Greek for grandmother). Over time, many things occured I could not explain(intuitive connections with people I had never met, specific questions answered before I’d publicly addressed them, etc.) I even posted, many months ago, in my blog about some of this. My “re-awakening” led me to become a founding member of a Pax Christi chapter(Roman Catholic based) at St. Jude the Apostle Church(where my Mom has been a member a long time). Although I am NOT doctrinaire, I truly enjoy the ritual feel of Mass, and receiving Holy Communion. One thing I truly love about Catholicism, is that in The Catechism, it states: “Your conscience first, the Church, second.” That’s Faith, over Religion, I’d say!
    btw, I think ANY belief that helps someone cope(so long as it does not inflict itself or hurt others)is certainly valid. I often want to be Jewish, and Sufi, too(I study both)!
    Peace & Blessings to You, Selma, and all your readers. And I certainly hope that “priest” who hurt your cousin, was incarcerated.
    Suicide is indeed hard to deal with. I don’t want to reveal too much, but in one of my one-woman shows, the issue of suicide is addressed….


  24. DESPERATEWRITER – how wise you are. It’s true. The interpretation is where it falls short for me. You have really put things into perspective. Thank you so much.

    LISA – Thank you so much for sharing all of your experiences. I particularly like – ‘Your conscience first, the Church second.’ I am really glad your re-awakening has turned out so well for you. That is brilliant.


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