What does it mean to have faith? Plenty of people have faith in something or someone without being religious at all. However does having faith in a God contribute to a person’s wellbeing, although again there are other ways of achieving this without believing in a God. Whatever works for you. But yet a faith still seems to cause some people anguish and pain, and so what masochistic thought process is behind someone continuing with this state of mind?
A recent survey came to my attention, albeit with a small sample size so open to misinterpretation and huge margins of error. However it found from its sample that four out of ten people brought up in a religious household no longer considered themselves to be religious. So I guess I am not alone. It was pointed out that just because someone did not consider themselves religious it did not mean they were an atheist or did not believe in God, just that they did not align themselves with any recognised faith. This is apparently a huge change from the beginning of this century. What has changed in that relatively short time? Are people finally starting to think for themselves and not just fit in the box? I am not so sure about that myself, it seems to me that for all our supposed freedoms and progress, there is more pressure to conform to some preconceived notion of how you should act than there was when I was growing up.
Now we come to the crux of the matter. If I do not feel the need for or want ‘eternal life’ (to which I’ll come back to later), and so do therefore do not believe in God (which I think it most probably the case), I am therefore judged and apparently like the darkness and do evil things. I do not believe I do evil things (certainly not intentionally), although possibly anybody who does do evil things, or what I would consider evil things, will not believe they do either. I might not necessarily always do all the good things I could, but then who does? There can always be an excuse, and all of us to some extent are just that little bit selfish sometimes. I am reminded of an episode of the television show Friends when Phoebe was trying to carry out a completely unselfish act and failing because of the feeling of good it gave her to carry out the act in the first place.
Eternal life. I am coming to the conclusion this is a philosophical idea which I am not sure I can fully form into the words so that others can understand the thoughts in my head. Maybe it’s not yet fully formed and it will become clearer as I read further. It is to do with how you act and feel during your time on Earth, not living forever or coming back to life from death in the physical sense as we would know it literally. I think you can create the same feeling and sense of worth through your actions whether you believe in God or not though. I do not think you necessarily have to have a faith to achieve this, just faith in what you do.
Surely it is better to live in the now, to appreciate what you have and treat others well and with respect, than to chase for the dream of eternal life and better things to come? Is this not the way madness lies? – To think that there is always something better. And what a waste of time and energy. What is the point of the now if it is only to be borne until something better comes along? And what happens if the promised better never happens or, possibly worse, what if it comes a complete disappointment?
I want to quickly mention that this is the where confirmation comes that the Sabbath is actually a Saturday as we know it. I think if I remember correctly that the Jewish faith still keep this but why and how have so many Christian faiths taken Sunday as the day when they worship and have a day of rest?
I also want to comment on the rising from the dead, albeit that Jesus only did so for a day as it appears in this translation, which seems a misleading way of saying something. Once you are dead, you are dead, albeit that you can be medically dead and your heart can once again beat with medical intervention. You will, however, hopefully live on the in the memory of others, and in any actions and belongings that you leave behind, but you do not come alive again in any capacity. That should be the thing we aspire to: to have acted in such a way during life that we are remembered fondly when we are gone.
Luke is turning out to be the most readable of the gospels so far, and with that it is probably telling that much of it seems familiar which means this must have stuck with me from my church attendance earlier in my life. It’s where my ‘classic’ Christmas story comes from, and I have found it surprising that it is the only one of the gospels where the parable of the Good Samaritan appears. Even people who have not engaged with any Christian religion much at all have an idea of the story of the Good Samaritan. Is this because it is a story which transcends any type of religion? – A story that people can understand and empathise with. Is it because it is so easy to understand? Or is it just about being human? – Something which seems to have been put aside by so many in today’s world which is all about possession and image.
Faith. If you have faith, what you need will be provided. Note that it is not what you want or desire but what you need. I am not sure that this is necessarily always the case but I would like to think so whether that faith is in a God or in human nature. I have attended faith teas and suppers in my time and am still amazed that some people do not get the point and ask people to advise what they are providing. Surely the whole point is that you have faith that a meal will be provided and usually more than enough to go round just as Jesus in the feeding of the thousands. I have long held the view that no miracle as such took place but that everyone present just shared what they had.
Just this morning there was an article on the news about a couple who left home 17 years ago to go travelling around the world relying on the kindness of strangers to provide what they needed at any given time. Now not all of us can do this – or rather would have the faith that all would be fine and work out – but I admire them for doing so and would like to think that should I cross paths with anyone like them that I would assist in whatever way I could, but then I have in the past so I see no reason that I would not again. Treat others how you would wish to be treated – I’m sure people try but surely there is no argument against that which can stand up.
‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.’ Who knew this came from the Bible? I didn’t until today although I have long been familiar with the saying and am not exactly new to the Bible even if I’ve not been a student of it for a while. It just goes to show how much of our lives and those things we take as truths are intertwined with parts of the Bible whether we have faith based on it or not.
I have also long known (although not quite so long) what a clever lady JK Rowling is in her writing of Harry Potter. Signs in the sky as a calling to people from all four corner of the world to witness power and glory – anyone else seeing some similarity? It just goes to show how themes are used time and time again in literature with effect.
I always expected to take a break between Old and New Testaments, just possibly not so long. It is perhaps just as well I am not sitting an exam as trying to remember what was where in the Old Testament is now not so clear but anyhow I know I’ll have come across it somewhere if I require to refer back. And the difficulty remains on how to tackle the Gospels since they are basically the same thing but told from different points of view. I am hoping I will be able to find the time to read them in quick succession and pick out different highlights from each one or do some comparison by the time I get to Luke and John.
So far, to be honest, I am finding that I do not have much respect for Jesus, the way that Matthew tells it. To put love of God before love of family, fellow human beings in general, seems downright dangerous especially given the world we live in today. Is this not partially what people who commit terrorist atrocities are doing? And the healing thing – there seems to be too much contraction here for me that is leaving me rather puzzled. This mystic that someone can be healed without a scientific explanation would be scorned upon by exactly the same people who have a great faith but yet they seem blind to it where Jesus or the Lord is seemingly responsible. And what right does anyone have to decide who is worthy and who is not?
I have decided to post on the final ten books of the Old Testament, namely Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, as one. I have found very little to distinguish between them and some other of the books of prophets already posted on. I have also found it confusing in that they are not in chronological order and jump around back and forth in time which makes it difficult relating these to the correct periods of time and earlier books. There do also seem to be gaps in time if you are looking at it from a historical point of view. Were there no prophets in between times? Or who has decided which ones to record and include, and which have been omitted?
It is unique to my version of the Bible or are the verse numbers out of sequence in chapter 4 of Zechariah in all versions? Why number out of sequence even if for some reason the original author/scribe did? I also am still struck by the false prophet. Who is to say who was and who was not? It strikes me that Zephaniah possibly was with saying that the Lord will put an end to everyone who lives on Earth. It hasn’t happened yet and I don’t believe it will be down to the Lord if it does – it will ultimately be humans who destroy human life on Earth whether through their treatment of other people, the Earth its self, or a combination of the two.
I think it is fair to say that the Old Testament has clearly not been for me and I have taken very little from it. If anything, it has diminished any shred of faith I may have had at the start. From it alone I struggle to see how so many people in the world are of faith based on this and are fine with that and think it is right. However, we are all different and it is not over yet. The New Testament is to come.
Is it the Lord or Israel that is being worshipped? It seems to me that Israel is being held up as an idol but yet idolatry of anything other than the Lord is wrong and criticized. For someone who does not think they idolise anything or anyone, it is a strange concept to understand how other people do. Yes, I do admire some people and what they have achieved but I do not worship them; at least I do not think I do. I gain inspiration from them and their achievements give me hope that there is good in the world but I do not venerate them although they do have my respect.
And the expectation that the offering of food should be made, that food is something other than to satisfy people’s hunger is so wasteful and just wrong. In the world today, where many people do not have access to enough food to eat when there should be plenty to go round how can the wanton waste of food be condoned?
‘Daniel was a man of prayer’ or so the song goes. Daniel was also, like Joseph, an interpreter of dreams. He also quite frankly sounds like he was on something and hallucinating, his mind disturbed. And then we get to the end of the world, a subject which has enthralled a variety of people not just those of faith over time. I feel I have failed to see what anyone is meant to take from the book of Daniel.
Possibly one day the world, i.e. the planet Earth, will no longer exist but that will not be down to any God. The world as we know it will certainly end much sooner through what we are doing to the planet and each other whether in the name of any God or not. It seems we have always been on the course of self-destruction and not preservation, but then that is partly in our genes – survival of the fittest and all that: each out for themselves and preserving their way of life I guess regardless of the effects on others. However, we do have a capacity for love, empathy, and generosity. It is just a pity that it takes an atrocity for this to be the headline rather than just being part of the mundane everyday background.