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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Redefining Belief

Belief. What is it? What is the standard answer? The best defintion I could find on dictionary.com says that belief is "confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof." How about that? I'm especially a fan of the idea of having confidence in something exists, yet I can't immediately and rigorously proove it. So what is belief then? What's the correct answer? If by a standard grammatical definion we can't proove what a belief is, then the word cancels itself out by default. Doesn't it?

I don't think so. When I think of belief I have to go way back in my life to a time when I thought the only thing anyone was supposed to believe was in Jesus as God. I don't know why, but I always had this walking-on-eggshells feeling whenever I went to youth group or church with my best childhood friend. For some reason, I thought that God had blessed these buildings where people gathered one morning a week and sometimes Wednesday nights for youth group. Warped as that was. Thankfully this wasn't my parents doing, as I feel I would have grown up feeling a lot more guilty, albiet a lot more insincerely so.

As I grew, I started realizing that these church youth functions that I was attending with my friends weren't church functions at all. They were social gatherings. They were opportunities for me, the socially awkward, self-confidence lacking nerd from a small school in a small town, to go to the big city or to summer camp and meet girls who had no knowledge of how nerdy I was. I loved that part. I'd be lying if I didn't feel some sort of inspiration from them playing the delightfully emo songs that made everyone emotional. It's like Dashboard Confessional wrote all of the evangelical teenage hymnals, except the songs were about you breaking the heart of Jesus, not the heart of the girl you loved or had your summer romance with.

The part that offended the most about the big city social gatherings, events like "Acquire the Fire" or "Shake the Nations", was how much I didn't get at the time. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have stuck around. It's fun to get into joyous shouting matches with 10,000 of my new closest friends about how much "I love Jesus, yes I do! I love Jesus, how about you?!" and meet all of these beautiful Katherine Heigl-looking 17-year-old evangelist girls from nice suburban schools. I loved that part. But the parts that didn't register at the time were the stories about the American Christian Missionary who went to Iraq and told people they would burn in hell for not accepting the gospel. He cried recounting the torture he recieved, the ill treatment he was given in return for his generosity in sharing the word. He mustered up all of his strength and courage to talk about how he wanted to turn Islam into Was-lam. For some reason, I glazed over this.

I feel that when you're a teenager, you don't get lots of things. You think you do at the time, but all of us old fogies know that we knew nothing until we were almost 30. The only exceptions are the people who have had major life-changing things happen to them in the past, people who had lost their parents at a very early age or people like me whose only child dies before their first birthday. Or there are the soldiers who come back from wars after serving their four or six year tour, having memories of having to shoot a child who could have had a bomb strapped to them; the young men hardened by years on the streets of the biggest cities, seeing death, some causing death, before they're old enough to drive a car.

So much chaos in the world.

We grow up, and we see things differently, regardless of the positivity or negativity of the things that impact our life. It changes our perceptions. It allows us to grow. We see what seemed like a social gathering of friendly teenagers in our youth turn into a bigoted hate-mongering speech against not just a nation or a civilization, but an entire religion, a religion that shares it's roots with the one preaching it's destruction! It's amazing what a few years can do for changing one's perspective.

As I mature, I see that my parents did, in fact, take me to church every weekend. My church didn't have four walls and a steeple outside. It didn't have someone reading from some book. It didn't have a steeple outside. My church had a breeze with the scent of juniper berries. My church had the smell of a wet dog. My church made me tired and fed me sandwiches and trail mix.

So what do I believe? What do I have confidence in that exists or isn't immediately susceptible to rigorous proof? Well, maybe the answer is in the question. Spiritually speaking, maybe it's not good to know what you believe in. Maybe I believe in not knowing what I believe in. Maybe I don't believe in a thing, but it's how I believe it that is even more important than what I believe. I do believe what I believe in respect to the planet and everything living on it. I believe that beyond a shadow of a doubt. I also believe what I believe in respect to everyone else. Maybe I'm not putting this as eloquently as I would like, so I'll try again.

What do I believe? I believe that we are all tied in together. You. Me. My dad. Your brother. That guy. This lady over here. That one dude on the bus that one time. I believe that we all believe something, and I believe we all believe it together. I believe that we are all tied in to this planet, which is tied in to the galaxy, which is tied into the universe. Even simpler? I think I have this pegged now.

Belief, to me, isn't a philosophical matter. It's scientific. We are all matter. Belief is energy. When we cease to become matter, we become belief. Our souls are pure belief. Things that are destroyed become beliefs in our memories.

I will redefine belief here. I believe this: belief: n. purely positive energy created through will-power, prayer, meditation, and death.

So what is it that I believe? I believe that every thought and feeling I have is feeding into this world, so I will do my best to have the best thoughts and actions I can. And when I die, I believe I will become pure energy, and that I will be a part of the force that creates, nurtures, and protects the universe. The name for this belief, as best I've found, is Universalism, but you call it what you will.

Just believe it.
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