Disclaimer note: Please don’t take our confusion about this subject as an insult on you or your beliefs. It is purely an indication of how we struggle with the concept of a higher power.
I’m probably WAY to tired to tackle this subject at the moment, but we’ve encountered these concepts again recently and they have always bothered us for various reasons.
As a system, we all agree with the concept of “do unto others”. To us, this makes sense. You shouldn’t go around hurting others, and it makes sense that if you treat someone nicely they are more likely to treat you nicely. If they don’t, well at least you’ve tried your best to make it a positive exchange. This is not to say that you shouldn’t stand-up for yourself or be assertive. It’s about having respect for the people and things around you.
We’ve tried to connect to a higher power several times during our life and never reached any sort of understanding regarding Christianity. This could well be because of our early experiences with Roman Catholicism. We are the youngest of four children, and the Mother nearly died giving birth to the oldest brother and had difficulty giving birth to us. As she realised that she couldn’t leave us alone with the father, she started to use birth control – meaning she was asked not to return to the church. However, the older brothers told us that the family was “kicked out of church because … [we] … screamed too much in church”. Because we believed the brothers, for years we lived with the guilt that we were the reason that the whole family was going to go to Hell when they died.
So we were always a little wary of organised religions. Despite this, we tried several times to “save our soul” by joining things like Rally (sort of like Girl Guides), which was a religious based organisation that was meant to empower girls. One of the common memories we have is sitting in the church during a Rally meeting and being told to “let God into your heart”. We would know this had happened when we felt a warmth and lightness come into us. We were pretty good at dissociating and feeling separated from the world by that time, so no warmth or lightness got near us. We considered this as a sign that we were truly evil and beyond saving or consideration by a God.
Another aspect of religion that has bothered us as described by a previous therapist is the concept of “free will”. In that God gave every person the free will to do good or bad as part of their personal freedom. W countered this with the rather stark statement “so she had the free will to go into that kindergarten fort and let us all get hurt” … “so we had the free will to leave that party with those men that hurt us badly” … “so we had the free will to say nothing when we were being hurt”. Our therapist tried to explain that it wasn’t our fault and that the people who hurt us had the ability to exercise their free will to not hurt us, but they didn’t. It was their evilness being forced onto us. This didn’t make much sense to us. How is it acceptable for someone to use the concept of free will to abuse another person? It’s a bit too late to be accountable for that abuse once they’d died and are being held accountable by any higher power – the damage has already been done.
This is one of the reasons why the concept of karma brings more comfort, if we treat others with respect, over time we will also be treated with respect. However, it also means that we were so bad in a former life that we deserved to be punished so harshly in this life as that balancing influence of karma. We must have been someone REALLY nasty! I think this is why when we think of karma, we prefer to think of it in the short term – even if we have had awful things happen to us, it doesn’t mean that we can take out that hurt on others around us. We have the option to break that cycle of destruction and move to an attitude that will be more likely bring positive karma.
It’s obvious from this post that we’ve never studied any sort of theology. We come from an applied science background. We’re not particularly good at understanding abstract concepts such as faith or higher powers. When someone points out to us the beauty of the flower, we look at a flower and explain how natural selection has meant that this flower has evolved over the centuries to ensure that it is more likely to be cross-pollinated and continue the species.
That’s not to say we can’t see beauty in things – we do. We find peace and beauty in nature. In fact its one of the few places and environments where we do find peace – there’s nothing like standing near the waterfront while a storm comes up from the Antarctic and slams into Wellington harbour; going for a walk through the Abel Tasman Park; or going around the Marlborough Sounds. But we see those environments and elements as beautiful and having a scientific reason for being in that ecosystem.
What we’ve found interesting is that all three of the therapists we’ve seen recently have followed some sort of religion – the first involving a goddess and the last two Christianity. How can they hear the horrors that their clients have experienced and still believe in a creator? Or is the belief in a creator the only way they can hear those things?
I know there are survivors who believe in, or follow, some form of religion. Some people find a comfort and purpose in that belief, and I respect that. This piece is just about our confusion with the concept of a higher power. In some respects I think this is because we learnt very early on that we can’t rely on anyone or anything outside of the system. Our only avenue for help was to retreat inside rather than reach out.
Awhile ago we were asked via email whether we believed in any form of religion, here are the answers given at that time which probably best describes our confusion around this topic:
Sophie – no I don’t believe in a God as such, but I do believe there is something that is bigger than us.
W – Dear X, there is a God and we are being punished for being evil. We keep on doing very evil things which mean we won’t ever go to heaven when we die. Yours sincerely, W.
M – Hi X, well not sure really. On one hand it would be arrogant to consider that we are the only beings out here, however I’m not sure if that other being is what would be described as a “God”. I have been curious about the afterlife and psychic mediums to the point where I had a reading done that was incredibly accurate and disturbing.
S – nuh no god no matter how much they chucked it down our throat.
SO – But there has to be a God or else how can we be saved when we die?