I grew up with mixed experiences of religion, my mother being a Catholic and my father being Protestant. I was dedicated in a Baptist church where my father and his father grew up in. I was barely a year old then. Growing up, I went to a Methodist school while going to Catholic church on Sundays. That was until highschool and college when I went to universities run by Catholic brothers and the daily practice of Catholic faith.
However, it is in Protestantism in general that I found my haven during those difficult teenage years. I was evangelized during my early teens and I always look forward to summers when I can go to the province and actively participate in my grandfather’s Baptist church activities. Then, I was not only familiar with the Bible. I read it religiously, with my quiet times and devotions and daily Bible reflection journals. I prayed so regularly throughout every day that until now, prayer seems so easy to me—like my God is just beside me and He can hear my every thought, so close at times that my God is in me, in what we can call the “heart”.
I never really saw the truth in a man-made face, worshipped like an idol, like what our ancient ancestors did when they worshipped the sun or the rocks. The system, tradition and dogma of Catholicism is something I found hard to fully believe and live by. I never was inclined to unquestioning faith (the same goes with Catholicism, Protestantism and other religion) at a young age. The Bible, for me, is as close as God’s words, despite my many reservations (which may be another topic altogether). Protestantism allowed me to think for myself, read the Bible and interpret it based on my growing knowledge, my observations and experiences. I was allowed to really and thoroughly reflect; to see the preacher as a man and not as a being sacredly anointed by God. Not that I am dissing Catholicism, any other religion or other people. Personally, Catholicism is just not for me—just like some people prefer vanilla ice cream over chocolate, or R&B over country music. etc, etc. This is my personal preference, based on my experiences.
Now, I have been going to a Born-Again/Pentecostal church for years. There is singing and dancing (which sometimes brought me to tears, but I cannot bring myself to sing and dance to EVERY song without analysis of how the song relates to me and my faith). I cannot just give myself away to something I do not fully believe in, that would just be hypocritical. However, going to church helped me be a calmer, more focused me. It helped me be slow to anger, to be serene in prayer, to be thankful for my abilities and the opportunities that I see as blessings. It helped restore my faith in people as well.
On the other hand, I am a big Ayn Rand reader. You might say, I am a “believer”. However, I will not go ahead and label myself a Randist. I believe in the power of one’s own mind to reason; to be the best individual that we can be; that with our senses and reason it will be moot to rely on what other people tell us about the world we live in; that there is a scientific, rational and logical explanation for everything, even in chaos; that religious systems dictate us to disregard the validity of our own ability to reason; that man is an end in himself and no other man can dictate to him otherwise. (I could put in a few more of her philosophies and quote Rand’s books but that would make this longer.)
For this, (and being that I am pregnant and I wonder how I’d answer my child one day if he/she asks me questions about God and religion; or if I’d make him/her read Ayn Rand and the Bible) I keep asking myself, what is God’s role in my life?
During an interview on national television, a woman from the audience asked Rand, “How can you be against God?” Rand’s reply, “How can I be against God? I am against those who conceive that idea. Because it gives men the reason to function irrationally, to accept something above and outside the power of Reason, and superior to Reason.” From this and her other works, I think what Rand detests more are the people within a religion, people who, instead of greatness seek lowness, instead of life chooses death.
“…you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. ” —Rand.
Like Rand, I acknowledge the ideas/things/belief systems that other people hold on to as their God, but it doesn’t mean I have to approve, and/or be like them. I have my own reasoning mind.
But unlike Rand and many Randists out there (I do not label myself a Randist for the same reason that I do not want to be a blind religious follower—I have my own mind), I believe in the goodness in the world and of people, that people can be great. Transcendence: That is my own personal God.
That I go to church every Sunday and open my mind to a positivity that will help me be better and still discern that not everything is as it seems and that everything still has to be dissected…this is the kind of person that I am. If I can call it faith, so be it. Nevertheless, it is most important to me because it is a faith that I can call my own.
So what will I tell my child, years from now, about God?
There is a greater being and it is IN you. In your ability to develop, to be better, to transcend. Do not let other people bring you down, or tell you what to believe in. Reflect everyday and see where it takes you. Be analytical. Discern. Read the Bible, read Ayn Rand, read whatever it is that you want and that supports your personal philosophy, even those that doesn’t. Read whatever drives you to be a better you. Most importantly, just read! Examine your personal philosophy everyday. Challenge it. Do not be blinded by what you see (or not see), hear (or not hear) or feel (or not feel).
Ayn Rand teaches us to cultivate our mind, to be the best that we can be without letting other people or beliefs dictate on us, to trust in our abilities and in the values and aspirations we live and work hard for, to be proud to be a reasoning being, to use our minds to REALLY THINK. On the other hand, the Bible teaches us to be perfect as our God is perfect; that we are made in the image of God and therefore strive to be like Him; that we are given the greatest gifts that sets us apart from animals: reason and free will.
I will not impose on you. I will simply tell you to “THINK. REASON. DISCERN”. And if you should have faith, base it on what you know and not what you’re told.
So though seen through very opposite lenses, to me—to my own mind—these two worlds can marry.
…if devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking….the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind. [Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]“
**You may see contradictions here but I don’t think I can explain any further what my thoughts are. I can only dissect each topic I raised, each question other people may raise. Also, I mentioned prayer—it’s a whole new lengthy writing I may share someday.