Yes, I Have a Faith
Faith. That word brings to mind religion for most people. Merriam-Webster defines the word faith in several ways. There are the expected references to religion and God, but the #3 definition reads:
3:: a system of religious beliefs
That third definition is the focus of my discussion. I have written pieces discussing my philosophy on religion, its origins, and its evolution on numerous occasions. I wrote a book dedicated to that evolution titled, Religilution - The Evolution of Religion, available on Amazon books.
I will try to describe my faith and how it gives me what I believe is the same comfort that others might find in traditional religions. I think of my faith as having parallels with the Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans and subsequent indoctrination into the Christian beliefs. To save keystrokes, I will refer to the Native Americans as Indians, recognizing that there were many different nations and geographical locations throughout the Americas where Indians lived and evolved before the introduction of European ideas.
Today, you will hear in discussions of Indian religions references to the "Creator." Before Europeans reinvented Indian beliefs, I wonder if they talked about or believed in a Creator. I know in some native cultures, the Raven played a role in the establishment of night and day; various spirits or gods were considered to have played a role in the beginnings of humans. In other cultures, like the Norse, a cow played a role; for Hindus, cobras and lotuses are involved, and for the Mayans, the gods created man from maize dough, and on the stories go. If you are interested, here are some of the earliest beliefs; historycollection.com
Most of the indigenous beliefs I'm familiar with, and I'm no scholar in that area, had multiple spirits, often in the form of animals they revered. These gods were credited for rain, good hunting, fertility, all the things we humans needed to live a good life, and a few gods brought us misery. The Indians also respected the earth, water, sun, all the elements that we today refer to as our environment; they understood the connection between life and these elements. And, despite our claiming these elements as "ours," we treat them with disregard and disrespect.
To sum up the native beliefs, they believed they were one with the world and the universe, as they knew it, and all things therein. That is my belief. Unlike the natives and modern theists, I don't believe a raven or any other creature or entity, superhuman or not, was responsible for my birth, nor will one be responsible for my death. Just because I'm human does not endow me as being something greater or less than a bird or squirrel or the family pet. I will share that same fate as everything living thing on the planet or in the universe when I die. And, I have a responsibility to live in harmony with all these things to the best of my ability.
One of the significant problems with religion, as humans have defined it, is the elevation of humans to a godlike status. I talk about this in my book. As the ancient ones tried to deal with the unknown, earthquakes, lightning, disease and pestilence, etc., they attributed all that was unknown to them to the gods, gods they created out of their imagination. And, since evolution and education limited their imagination to only what they knew, they decided that the gods looked like people, only bigger and more powerful. In other words, we became almost the children of the gods, which gave us godlike powers.
In the beginning, some gods were seen as other animals, but over time, that evolved into the single god theory to the point where the current God looks like us, and we like him or her. No other animal enjoys that privilege in our imaginary world. Thus, we elevated humans above all other living things, permitting us to invent the notion that God put all those other things here for our enjoyment and for us to destroy or consume as we saw fit. Unlike the native beliefs, most humans feel no obligation to be part of or revere all life. If we were created in God's image, it logically follows that we are the blessed ones in this God's design.
I hold no such notions. I believe that my life came into existence like all other living things, plants, or animals. My parents ate and breathed all the elements around them, drawing energy from what they ate, drank, and breathed, including the electrical or magnetic forces that appear as the basis for existence throughout our universe. What they consumed turned into the elements, nutrition, and energies that went into my body as I was conceived and developed in my mother's womb.
If my mother picked an apple from a tree on her way to the market and ate that apple, part of that apple became part of me. That apple had derived its nutrients from the soil, rain, and air that fed the tree that was its parent plant, and thus that became part of me. If my mother smoked or drank alcohol, or walked past a manufacturing plant belching smoke and fumes from its processes, all that and more became part of my being. Traversing life, I did the same thing. I consumed what was near me or offered to me, and I passed that on to my children. I became the product of many living things that gave off energy or other nutrients.
I will give everything back to the planet when I die. I've chosen cremation. Regardless of how you disposition your body, it will deteriorate and give back all that permitted you to exist in the first place. And all that will be consumed by other living things beginning or on a journey in their lives. In my case, there will be gasses and other elements exiting the crematorium's chimney. Perhaps a pregnant woman will unknowingly inhale some of the gasses from my cremations, and I will become a tiny part of the new life in her womb. Depending on the decision of my wife or my children, my ashes might land on the ground and provide sustenance to a growing flower or grasses. I will be giving everything back to the world that gave me life so another life can flourish.
I will live on, but not in the modern religious sense of an afterlife in some heaven with past relatives, etc. I will live on in the next generations of living things that follow me on this planet. I will have no awareness of all this, but I will know with my last breath that I will be contributing to the continuance of life on this planet. And, that is my faith and one with which I am entirely at peace. I do not fear an almighty anything, nor do I fear a burning hell.