Essay on Faith
(published on this website in 2015
Copyright 2015 (all rights reserved)
and written as a guest column/op-ed piece)
Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who has a list of ten things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of them, he’ll send you to a place of fire and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you, and he needs money. Thus was the late comedian, George Carlin, reputed to have said.
In A Pocket Mirror for Heroes, Baltasar Gracián wrote:
Nature was crafty, and perhaps even dishonest, when she brought us into this world. We come darkly, even blindly.
I am persuaded that, were it not for nature’s ruse, no man or woman would want to enter a world so deceptive, and few would choose to go on living. For who would knowingly set foot in a false kingdom and true prison, only to suffer so many different punishments—pain, scorn, dishonor, sadness, and despair?
What these references impart, at least to me, is an absence or loss of faith, not only in God, but in the world and indeed, in life itself. Despite faith, which may elude us as we go through life, there is no one, I believe, who hasn’t at one time or another questioned the existence of God or has lost his or her faith in someone or something along the way. But in the end, many of us reclaim that faith and, in doing so, make possible a fulfilling life.
In his book, Living a Life That Matters, Harold Kushner addresses an issue that should haunt every one of us at one time or another: Do we consider ourselves insignificant? Do we matter to the world? Each of us, Kushner claims, needs to know that our lives mean something. We need to reassure ourselves that we can indeed make a difference in the world.
As a rabbi, Kushner helped persons in the last moments of their lives. Most of them, he claims, weren’t afraid of dying. But the ones who had the most difficulty with death “were those who felt they had never done anything worthwhile in their lives.” It wasn’t death alone that frightened them, he says, “It was insignificance, the fear that they would die and leave no mark on the world.”
But we mustn’t equate significance with power or wealth. That isn’t the purpose of life that Kushner addresses. As a religiously committed person, he says that he “live[s] in the world of faith, the world of the spirit.” And it is through those worlds, he believes, that a person can live a life that matters.
I too believe that it is faith in God that will make possible when we reach the end of life, our having lived a life that mattered. It is this faith that has blessed me with strength in my struggle to become a better person, to make a difference in someone’s life, and to obtain an inner peace. This is the mark on the world Kushner speaks of, I believe, and to which we should all aspire. Those who achieve it will have received a special gift that will surely free them from the shackles of despair and an unwillingness to live life as it should be lived, spiritually. Of course, there are countless questions not answered. But isn’t that where faith comes in?
I don’t presume that agnostics or atheists can’t or don’t share my resolve to become a better person; nor will I accuse them of being misguided. They may not experience a lack of self-worth and may have found another way toward achieving peace with themselves and with others. I only speak for myself and won’t judge others who choose a different path.
I can’t prove that there’s a God. I know one thing, though—my faith in God will allow me to live a life that matters to me. But I must note that my God is a loving, spiritual entity, not a vengeful, angry physical being who looks down upon us in judgment from somewhere in the universe. The God I believe in isn’t the same God that they or you may not believe in.