I had a line in St. Paulie's Delight where I said something like, "I don't believe in God. I really wish I did. There is something comforting in the ceremony of it all. I believe we should be good people and all. Do unto others and all that, but I don't believe in God." The truth is, I could have been saying that myself these days. I won't say I don't believe, but lets just say, I'm skeptical.
When I was a kid, I did the Sunday school thing. Vacation Bible School and all that. Learned a few Bible verses, but never really had it shoved down my throat. I'm grateful that it wasn't. I never had to rebel against it. I remember praying as I grew up. None of that public praying. That came across as phony to me. A lot of the religion I did see came off as phony to be honest. There is something condescending sounding when people say "I'm praying for you." I know not everyone means to sound condescending, but they sometimes do.
I guess my skepticism started as I saw all the hypocrisy in the people I saw "practice the ways of the Lord." Like my Holier than Thou relative who also liked to fondle my junk. My skepticism was reinforced by the idea that there was only one way to heaven. Through Jesus. Since I had a grandmother and aunt who were Jehovah Witnesses, that battle for the soul played out across my childhood. Especially when the grandmother told me there was no Santa Claus and that Christmas was made up.
Then came the teenage years and Leviticus 20:13. "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Okay then. I can see the big guy upstairs isn't really a fan of mine, so I'm not going to be a fan of his. Later, wise people told me we don't recognize that part of the Bible. "We ignore it," they said. Well, that didn't make sense to me. Do you read Gone With the Wind and ignore the Civil War?" If this book is supposed to be the be all and end all of this religion, how do you ignore some and not the other? That's when I chose to ignore all of it.
I have friends who are Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Atheists, and variations within. They're all good people. If there is a heaven, I can't imagine why any of them should be shut out because their God is slightly different, or the text they read is in a different language. If their beliefs bring them comfort, who am I (or you) to judge?
As many ways as there are to practice whatever belief you have, there are ways of praying. Some like to do it publicly, or on television, like a PBS fund raising drive. "Send us money and these sinners won't burn in hell." Others do it quietly, with purpose. Some just say, "hey God. Can you give me a break?" I believe honest prayer can work, but not because it's asking the big guy for something. It's because you put your intention out into the universe. Enough positive energy and I believe things can happen. Just as negative energy causes things to happen. And sometimes praying is the only action we can muster. I'm not a doctor. I can't make someone not be sick, so praying gives us something to do so we don't feel quite so helpless. Praying can also be used as a cop out, when another action would be more effective. Don't pray for your hungry neighbors, when taking them a couple of sandwiches would do the trick. Most of the time that action you need to do is called being kind.
Here's what I believe. God is an energy that is in nature and all living things. He is not a entity. Not an old guy with a white beard who grants wishes and expects you to be perfect or Santa won't come. God is in a sunset, a rainy day, a blade of grass, a homeless person. God is like wifi. You can't see it. He's not in one location, but you can plug in almost anywhere you go. You don't have to get on your knees, or be in a church. You don't even have to believe. God is like oxygen. It's free. It's all around us. It's not disappointed in you if you don't tap in. It's just there if you do.
In short, God to me, is that energy that connects us all as living beings. God is more like Mother Nature than anything else. If there was one religion I could practice that didn't make me feel like a hypocrite, it would be something along the lines of Native American spirituality. I believe in a Great Spirit.
I believe in kindness; not hypocrisy.