Me and God
I just discovered that a well-loved fellow traveler seems to be on the path to miscarriage. The heartbeat is gone at 10 weeks. Amid all the thoughts, this one kept recurring: I’m glad I don’t believe in God. If I did, I’d struggle so mightily with understanding how He could subject a good person to this experience. It would seem like such a complete betrayal. I’d feel that He was so unloving.
I hope so much I don’t offend anyone by expressing my thoughts on this subject. I know it’s a touchy one. I have great respect for people of faith. In fact, I was not always an atheist.
When I was four, my parents divorced and my mother moved us to a tiny town in northern New Mexico. She decided we should become Catholics. She grew up Catholic, though she had morphed into a sort of pagan by the time we were born, so for her it was partly a return to the fold. But I think her main motivation was not a resurgence of her faith but a desire to avoid complete social ostracism. Everyone else in town was Mexican, Spanish speaking, and Catholic. We were the only non-Mexicans within a good 50 mile radius. (In case you object to my use of Mexican rather than Hispanic, this is how they referred to themselves ’cause they traced their lineage from Mexico, not Hispañola.) To be white and not Catholic would have been too much, I think. So we were baptized. My mother even managed to find me a gay godfather, which is pretty awesome given that the population of the town was about 300.
Church in this town was a remarkable experience. The tiny church was decorated in what asshole academics like myself would refer to as folk art. It was beautiful. Mass was in Spanish. I still remember the prayers and say them to myself sometimes. I particularly love the second half of the Hail Mary: Santa Maria, madre de Dios / Ruega por nosotros, los pecadores / Ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte, Amen. Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Very goth.
I was a dedicated Catholic. I was always searching for Grace. Apparently I was quite a little martyr, too, always wanting to sacrifice things to show my love for God. But my faith disappeared when I was about 10. I don’t know why, but I no longer believed. I remember crying because I realized I’d never see my father in heaven–that once he died, it was over. I don’t expect my faith to come back. I am also angry at the Catholic church for many of its teachings. It seems to emphasize shame and guilt so much, rather than love and kindness. But my goal is not to criticize the church, simply to say that I’ve had the experience of faith, and I’ve had the experience of no faith.
If you do believe, how do you draw strength from God? I know the standard line: you tell yourself that you are not always able to understand His plan, that you just have to give yourself over to Him. But there must be more to it than that. If you are willing to share your experiences, I would find it helpful to hear them. Maybe it’s not something that can be put into words.
And if you are not a person of faith, what do you do in your darkest hours to comfort your soul?