Having Faith

Another day, another Twitterstorm. This time, it is about religion and can be paraphrased this:

Richard Dawkins, in his fundamentalist crusade to rid the world of religion, tweets that Mehdi Hasan (Columnist for New Statesman, left of centre, Muslim) believes the “Mohammed flies on winged horse” story, therefore Hasan not fit to be journalist at NS.

Twitchforking ensues, with liberal charges of islamaphobia, bigotry, religious hatred and being a bit of a pompous twat.

Dawkins defends himself, situation escalates. Much self righteous muttering and hashtagging.

I don’t like this aspect of Twitter, but I do like that it makes me think. I am not a religious person, but I never describe myself as atheist. You see, none of us know. And of you were a rigorous evidenced based scientist, you can’t declare that there is no God, because you don’t know. At the same time, nor does anyone know that there is. That’s why it’s called faith. Because you believe it, without knowing it.

Most of the time, I disagree with religion – principally the aspect where those who are religious tell others how to lead their lives. Equal marriage for example. I understand that some people believe that two persons of the same sex marrying is a sin and for those people, I have this advice, don’t marry someone of the same sex. It’s easy really. But please don’t tell the rest of us we shouldn’t. Because if you are right and there is a god who detests those who fall in love and get married, then perhaps they are just happy to take their chances and face possible eternal damnation. I am also fairly intolerant of the Religious, therefore entitled to Bigotry defence. In the way people use faith as an excuse for standing outside abortion clinics harassing women. I hate the notion that religion promises people paradise in another world while teaching them to endure poverty, misery and hardship in this one. Obviously don’t even get me started on Holy Wars.

But it doesn’t bother me in any way that people have faith. Actually, I really like it. At Christmas, I wish I was religious and went to Midnight Mass. I love standing in Church and singing carols. I am moved to tears by children singing Away in a Manger. I envy the certainty of those facing death who believe eternal life is waiting. Because it seems to me that what defines us as humans is a capacity to believe in something bigger than all of us, to imagine that there can be forces we don’t understand or to have the humility that the universe is not bounded solely by what we know and can touch.

I believe in the immense powers of love, something scientists would have reduced to chemicals and hormones. I have faith in the essential goodness of people and the strength they have when they work as a community and for the collective good. None of that can be proven. When I was a small child, I thought God looked like my Uncle Bill and wore a wooly jumper, sitting at a desk in front of a classroom of angels. I have moved on that entirely – but I am happy to live in a world alongside people who believe there is much more than we can explain. In caring for L, I know the statistics, I know the science and I still every day hope for miracles. Because beyond the science of neural pathways, there is a part of L’s brain that has the capacity to want to be better and to persevere through the difficulties to recover. And part of me hopes she can do that because she realises how much she is loved, but more importantly how loveable she is. I have no evidence for this, but I strongly believe it. And that doesn’t make me a weaker person, it makes me a mother who believes that somehow, in some way, love will always win the day.

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