Thursday, June 14, 2018

Me, At the Core

I am teaching my students how to write a five-paragraph essay. Because I work at a private Catholic school, I get to bring up God all the time. The special feature of Catholic schools is that people from all walks of life attend this institution. For the final exam for my 7th Grade, I created an exam that they would read an article about theism, atheism, and agnosticism, identify with one, and then write a five-paragraph essay to explain their reasoning. Their responses have been enlightening.

I decided to write the essay myself.


I glanced at the grinning faces of all the ladies surrounding me, and when the music in praise of God rose to a crescendo, we all spontaneously began to twirl, our arms raised. Our skirts flared like blossoming flowers, and my feet turned upon the warm wood floor in swift movements. My face lifted and my whole face smiled and I felt my whole body alight with a joy beyond this world. In my religious tradition, we sing and we dance, for we believe it is the natural proclivity of the soul to sing and dance in the joy of God’s love. Even when my mind doubts stories and is disgusted by the horrible things done in the name of religion, these deep, powerful experiences of joy tell me that God exists. I am a theist because I believe in sacred objects and rituals, I follow a God-centered moral code, and I experience religious feelings.

I believe in God because of my experience of the supernatural through sacred objects and rituals. In my tradition, we worship a special statue of God, called a murti, because in this way we are meant to develop a sweet and intimate relationship with Him. In the article “Who are atheists and agnostics? Are they religious?” on, the author states, “Sacred means that something is very special and worthy of respect. In religion, people might think sacred things are connected to God or gods.” When we worship this murti of God, we hold it very special and offer it our deepest respect. This quote says that people might “think” that something is connected to God, and I would take this one step further to say that I have “experienced” that this murti is connected to God. I have experienced that when I look into the eyes of this statue, I feel that I am seen, and I feel loved and accepted for who I am, unconditionally. I have never experienced this by looking at any ordinary statue in this world. It is actually said in my tradition that the gaze, or the drishti, of the murti actually has this effect on the heart - a sense of peace and a sense that “everything is going to be okay.” I believe that this object is sacred and connected to the supernatural which gives me conviction that God exists. 

Another reason that I am a theist is that I follow a God-centered moral code. When I took vows of spiritual initiation, I promised to follow four moral codes plus a commitment to meditation that would guide my life. The article states: “Think of a moral code like this: it is a set of rules about right or wrong behavior.” One code that I vowed to follow is to take no intoxicants - this means to not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or take any sort of drug. I believe that this moral code to not take intoxicants helps me to live a life that is awake and present. This moral code is communicating that I do not need some material substance to be happy and that ultimately my only, true happiness can be found by loving and serving God. To me, this is "right" behavior. This moral code, as well as the others that I follow, allow me to live a present, conscious life and to love with my full heart.

A third reason that I consider myself a theist is that I experience religious feelings. Religious feelings are more of an undeniable experience of something beyond this world, and no one can take that away from me The article states that “These feelings might include awe, adoration, or guilt. If you believe in religion, the feelings are usually connected to the presence of the supernatural.” I have experienced awe by participating in religious rituals and singing God’s praise. I have experienced adoration, affection, joy, peace, and humility through my religion. I have never experienced the depth of these kinds of feelings from anything in the ordinary material world, such as from watching a great movie or even spending time with my family. The depth and power of these religious feelings have only been felt when I am connecting to God and the supernatural through scripture, and spiritual song and dance. Ultimately, even when my mind rejects God, religious feelings and experiences are what make me come back to God and believe and trust in Him.

In conclusion, I am a theist at my very core. I could share many reasons, although the ones I highlighted here are that I believe in sacred objects that connect me to the supernatural, and that I follow a moral code that is connected to God. What binds all of my reasons together to be a theist is that I experience religious feelings, which always pull me back, even if I wander away from God for a long, long time. I would say that right now, I have distanced myself from the externals of my religion. But I have conviction that I will sing and dance in praise of God again and my soul will lift beyond this world to experience a joy that can only be felt within God’s embrace.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.