Friday, October 1, 2010

When I think of "god," I think of Grace

Yes, I know. The photograph is rather bland, but so am I, so nothing else matters, to borrow lyrics from a song. If you prefer, turn the page, to borrow from still another song. All right. I surrender. This bland photo is an example of what, in Minnesota, is called a slough. In other places, it might be called a marsh. This is about one-half its full size, and it is pretty much across the road from me. The land is soggy, and the water, where it is, ranges from a few inches to a few feet deep, and it is the home to thousands of birds and hundreds of land creatures. It is a favored place of waterfowl hunters, but, it might have quicksand here and there. In the distance, the leaves are beginning to turn. Push the photo up to its full size for a better look.

Kaya asks; I answer
Part 1 of 2

Kaya says: "The question is why in one of your comments on my blog you mentioned God as she, he, it and with a not capital letter?"

Fram responds: Because when I think of god, I think of Grace Slick. Check out the reason I say this, if you are curious. I am not going to tell you, although it is common knowledge -- if you are curious. Whether you do or not, listen to her music, since the opportunity is now, a few paragraphs down the page. You will like her, I am certain. She was the first and, many of us think, the greatest woman of rock. Maybe, the most beautiful. No, for sure, the most beautiful -- and, an unforgetable voice.

All right. To business now. Kaya asked about my belief, or lack thereof, in god. Here is the start of an answer. Believe it or not when you finish this first part, I really am trying to keep it brief.

Age ten, give or take a few months on either side of it, probably was the first "pivotal period" in my life: My first firearms and hunting, a boat for exploration and swimming expeditions, and first doubts about the existence of a god.

There was no father in my life at that point, so the religious element fell to questions for my mother. They really must have come as a shock to her. This first assault on religion, at least on the Christian faith, came when I caught a minister of the Lutheran church I attended in a lie. How could a man who was the earthly representative of perfection -- of god -- tell a lie?

My mother explained that the minister was not god per se, simply his representative. She said all men are flawed and commit various sins. That, she said, was the reason men prayed and asked for forgiveness of their sins, the principle for communion, the purpose of atonement -- and, the very reason Jesus Christ died on the cross.

My doubts did not subside, but continued to grow. My boyish belief was that a man who was the representative of god would choose to die before he would tell a lie.

In the Lutheran church of that time, confirmation classes took place for boys and girls during the years they were in seventh and eighth grade -- around ages thirteen and fourteen. My doubts flourished even more for a variety of reasons during these classes, none of which I will mention in this post. And, yes, the classes were conducted by the same minister who I knew to be a liar.

At some point in my second year of confirmation classes, I approached my mother and said I wished to leave the church. The end result of this discussion, which lasted for a few days off and on, was that I agreed to complete the confirmation process, but, once completed, she would not object to my abandonment of the church.

I am certain she never thought I would go through with it. But, I did. I was a confirmed agnostic rather than a confirmed Lutheran. Other than weddings and funerals and a high school baccalaureate ceremony, I have not attended any manner of church service since I was age fourteen. As of right now, I have no intention of doing so ever. In fact, I have said I plan to be absent from my own funeral.

While I was a teenager and into my twenties, as many do, I read extensively regarding religion (all of them) and philosophy. During my college years, I sought out clergy to debate the issue of god's existence one on one. Most ran for cover while I was still warming up. They usually could explain what they believed and why they believed, but generally faded like a vampire before a cross when confronted with John Stuart Mill's "first cause" commentary or mere mention of Bertrand Russell's essay, "Why I Am Not a Christian." In short, they had faith; I had none. It was as simple as that. The abstract centers upon faith; nothing more, nothing less.

And, I also discovered, that while most clergy were experts on the Bible and their own particular denomination, they had little knowledge of religions other than their own and had not devoted much time studying the writings and thoughts of disbelievers. They were like salesmen trying to sell a Ford, but had no specific knowledge for claiming it was better than a Chevrolet or a Cadillac or a Lincoln or …. In a sentence, they lacked knowledge of their "enemies." Either that, or they were taught to retreat and find a "softer sell" to whom to peddle their wares. The end result of this is that I have met few members of the clergy I hold in respect.

I was a student and a lover of history, so when I encountered Will Durant and his, "The Story of Philosophy," and read his personal narratives about his wandering in the desert of mankind's thirst for answers while searching for an intellectual rationale for belief in a god, I gave up my own search. I accepted Durant's conclusions and settled back with a comfortable acceptance that most, of not all, these questions can be answered through the study of history.

This has been the beginning of the story about Fram the Pagan. In a second post, to follow sooner or later, will be the present. Blessed be the curious, and thank you, Kaya, for inadvertently sending me running back to Grace's music. You might also have opened more than memory for me tonight -- maybe, a time tunnel within my subconscious.

(To be continued .... with a bit of luck)


Anonymous said...

Nice photo!Good colours.Looks like you have frost in the morning too.

Kaya said...

Fram, two words "My admiration!!!!" You have so much to share and in a very unique way which arises so many thoughts and questions and doubts....

First, about the photo. It is nice and not bland at all and nice autumn colors. You already have autumn where you live; it's coming slowly to Utah.

Second, about music. I love it and I never head about Grace Slick. Thanks for introducing us to her.

It takes courage to write openly what you think about clergy, religion and other things.

Ok, the beginning of story of Fram the Pagan begins with his encounter with Will Durant and "The story of Philosophy". And there Fram gives up on his own search...

But I understood that Fram the Pagan is quite a rebellious man and a man of his own and that is what makes him special. Yes, special and it's not a complement, it's a statement.

One months ago I asked a priest is he considering that the spirituality and religion are two different things? I made him mad at me.

But I do believe that spirituality is nothing to do with religion and I have a strange attitude toward the clergy in general.

The more I think about religion the more I think about the dogma, canons, rules and etc.... I do believe that spirituality is within us and we don't need rules and dogma to make it stronger. We have it (spirituality or we don't).

But I have a great respect toward two people in clergy : Father M. ( he is rebellious against the highest clergy and he is a bright, down to earth priest with whom you can talk openly about many things) and Russian priest who was killed many years ago in Moscow - Aleksandr Menj.

Fram, thank you so much for answering my question and I will be waiting patiently for the continue because I love to read posts like that.

And, of course, I am going to steal from you Grace Slick. She is mine right now. Her voice is amazing...

Maddalena said...

Hi, Frammy. Whenever I think of God I think of Grace, too. This is why I dream to have a daughter and to give her a name Sophie Grace. Sophie, because it was my grandma's name (my Mom's mom's name), and Grace, becauese it is just Grace. Not your singer called Grace (although I like her much), but the Grace.

Kaya said...

Fram, I couldn't fit everything in one comment, too many feelings and thoughts to share....

I think about God as Love, Grace, Life and incredible Kindness and of course Forgiveness. Not Fear, never ever. I don't understand Fear of God and never will do, I also asked once a priest why we should fear God. And I didn't like the answer. Ok, here I stop. Not anymore, too many thoughts...

Fram Actual said...

Yes, Anita. I guess the photograph is fine. Not special, but all right. And, yes, some mornings have been frosty and damp and a bit foggy. Autumn has arrived, for sure.

It is nice to see you present here once again.

Fram Actual said...

Well, Kaya. Thank you, so much, for the nice words. Again, the photograph is nothing special, but it does show autumn is beginning and in the air here. In another week or two, a high wind most likely will have put an end to the leaves and their increasing colors.

I knew you would like both the songs and the voice of Grace. She is special.

In respect to Will Durant and "giving up" my search for my own answers to life, it was not giving up, but rather agreeing with Durant that all the answers and the only answers available in this life are to be found through the study of history. This is true whether it is an individual you happen to be studying or a civilization.

This is like making soup. Religion is a potato, philosophy is a carrot. These and other ingredients are mixed into the water of history and become the nourishment of the psyche. I might try to explain it better later.

I agree with you. Spirituality and religion might be the same at times, but the words are not interchangeable and one does not necessarily mean the other will be present.

I could tell you a couple of great stories about encounters I have had with priests. Generally, I like Catholic priests more than I like Protestant ministers, but, too often, I think that many of them need more help than the people they are suppose to guide and to counsel.

It is a genuine pleasure to meet someone who is intellectually curious and actively engaged in pursuing life in that respect, Kaya. I am happy our paths crossed.

Fram Actual said...

My smile is for Mag today, with her dreams of a daughter with special names. I think it would be nice to visit the homeland of your mother's mother some day, and it would be nice to see you there with a daughter named Sophie Grace, telling her of her lineage and the path of the women she is following.

I am also glad you are pleased with my singer, and I knew you, too, would like her songs and enjoy hearing her voice. I am not sure how you will take this remark, but at certain angles and with certain expressions on her face, she reminds me of you.

It is good your worrisome week is drawing to an end. Hopefully, the world will be back on course now that October has arrived.

Fram Actual said...

No one seemed to pick up on the reason I said that when I think of god, I think of Grace. So, I will tell you.

There is a story, with a few variations to it, about Grace Slick when her daughter, China, was born. She reportedly told a nurse that she was going to name her baby "god" with a small "g" so that the child would be humble.

The primary question seems to be whether Grace was serious when she said this or whether she was being sarcastic with a nurse in the hospital who was being difficult and who was anything but humble in her relationship with her patients.

Apparently, today, it is generally believed that Grace was being her usual self, and simply mocking the nurse in her own clever style and manner.

So, now you know the reason Kaya's question about why I wrote "god" with a small "g" brought Grace Slick immediately into my mind.

I might also say this story reflects one of my own, personal objections to the notion of god as he, she or it exists in Judeo-Christian-Grecian tradition. It makes absolutely no sense to me to worship an entity who has as many, if not more, flaws, vices and weaknesses than I do. I have no use for a "jealous god," for instance.

Kaya said...

Fram, you are right I didn't get it completely and I am glad that you posted this additional comment.

I thought what you wrote "It makes absolutely no sense to me to worship an entity who has as many, if not more, flaws, vices and weaknesses than I do. I have no use for a "jealous god," for instance" and I thought that we, humans, are so willing to create so many beliefs and follow them faithfully even not questioning them. Or we just don't like to question....

"I have no use for a jealous god for instance"... I still try to understand what does it mean "no use for a jealous god". I missing something here..... But I like it.

Fram Actual said...

All right, Kaya. Here we go. In Exodus in the Old Testament of the Bible, this statement is attributed to god: "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me ...."

Jealousy, to me, is a human failing, a human weakness, a human character flaw. So, why would I want to worship an entity that proclaims his flaws are the same as my own?

A religion, in my eyes, should strive to have its adherents rise above human imperfections, not have them bowing before a "god" who boasts and brags of his jealousy and about punishing those who worship anything other than him? Such a god does not sound divine to me or worth my time of day.

Does this make what I was saying any clearer?

Kaya said...

Fram, right now I understood where you go. Thank you. And I have to think about it..... No answer at this moment. Your point of view is so strong....

Fram, I messed up so badly with Picasa Album and right now I try to correct it and you will see sometimes instead of my picture an empty little window. I always learn something a hard way....

Fram Actual said...

All right, Kaya. Part 2 will be making its appearance in a minute.

Good luck, with your Picasa Album problems. Computers and the internet are very frustrating at times.

Something special ....