Without God Are We Good?

I’m feeling profound lately. I’ll try not to burden you with it. 🙂 At least a bunch. I think it happens when I’m in the waning stages of the first draft of a book. I’ve come to know the characters, understand them, yell at them, and commiserate with them and I don’t really want to say goodbye. An inner sadness seems to take over at this stage. I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with a diagnosis about that, but I think it’s a writerly thing. It might be something movie people or visual arts people experience, too.

I’ve been thinking about organized religion and our culture.

Bear with me, I’m not getting really religious here. I think that religion – organized religion – offers us guideposts. (That goes for ANY religion.) Maybe you could consider them lanes we’re supposed to walk. Things like not killing our fellow man, honoring our parents, valuing the vows we give one another. These are the rules we expect each other to follow.

What happens, though, when we dismiss religion?

We’re getting more and more secular as a society. People are bragging about being anti-God, or being atheists, agnostics, or even satanists. Those of us who used to go to church aren’t going any more. Count me among that group. I haven’t been in years. However, church attendance was part of my life as a child. I went every Sunday unless I was dying. Strangely enough, my father never went to church, but my mother always dressed to the nines and hauled my brother and I off to services wherever we were living. I was a card-carrying Sunday School attendee. I got attendance awards.

I continued to go to church even after my first marriage. My husband was Roman Catholic and I was Presbyterian. We didn’t marry in the church. However, I took my boys to Presbyterian Sunday School every week. I even taught Sunday School. It was important for me to make sure that they had reinforcement to the values I was trying to teach them at home.

(One time, my husband and I, along with our two boys, attended a pot luck supper at the Roman Catholic Church my husband occasionally attended. That night the priest tried to set him up with a single woman who was seated at our table. Evidently, the good father didn’t recognize our mixed marriage and thought my husband was ripe for dating advice. My husband never said a word to the priest. As he said later, “that would have been disrespectful.” Rolling my eyes here.)

Several things happened to change my mind about organized religion over the years. Suffice it to say the experiences opened my eyes to the fact that we’re all human, even pastors and the most devout of church goers. I won’t bore you with those episodes, but they were doozies.

Okay, most of us aren’t going to church anymore. Yet if religion set rules for us in the past, does that mean we’re ungoverned now? I think you could argue that, yes, we are without boundaries. I see cultural mores changing every day. Almost anything goes. When people start arguing the merits of bestiality or marrying your dog (or yourself) on Twitter, you know you’re living in weird times. Frankly, some of what I see renders me speechless.

I have a strong sense of right and wrong. I don’t steal. I try not to lie. I know that I would wound my soul deeply if I ever took anyone’s life. However, I sincerely believe that the most righteous individual can be pushed to the brink of that decision. Sometimes, they fall over. I consider myself moral although I cut a wide swath in my salad days, as they say. (Okay, nobody says it any more, but I’ve always liked archaic sayings.) I learned all those values from my parents, but they were verified and validated by the life we lived. They were reinforced by our going to church, by those endless Sunday School classes.

If organized religion is no longer a viable entity in our lives, what will validate the values we teach our children? Will those life lessons be reinforced by our culture? Or will they be knocked down and erased? I don’t think the answer is too difficult to find – the internet is a force to be reckoned with. Just think of all the “influencers” out there teaching our children stuff.

Isn’t that a scary notion?

“Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.”
― José Ortega y Gasset

6 thoughts on “Without God Are We Good?”

  1. I still attend church. I took my kids to church. I’m even going to online church.

    Not being pious. Just saying there are still some us in the church. Presbyterian.

  2. Hi Karen, I am one of those children who was raised in church. My mom and day walked 5 miles one way and carried me and my brother because we did not have a vehicle to drive to church for several years. I am Southern Baptist. I am proud to be a child of God. For many years I went to church very seldom, but am back and church and find that it lifts my heart and as my pastor says recharges my batteries to be around other believers in Christ. I think the reason that the world is in the shape it is in is because there are fewer people who believe in God and what the Bible tells us, such as do not steal, lie, kill and the rest of the commandments. I really feel sorry for the people who do not know Christ and who do not know what a comfort he is in times of need and times of sorrow. God leads me and is with me every day here on my farm. It’s a life that I love and although trying at time, He sees me through the trials and blesses me far more than I deserve. God bless and keep you and keep writing, as I enjoy you so much.

  3. My parents started a church, he was a senior warden (one of the business mangers) she was altar guild (made sure the flowers and linens were set up) my two brothers were acolytes (served with the priest for communion service) I taught Sunday school when I was in high school.

    This was an Episcopal church. One of my college professors called us the {frozen chosen) because the church is not known for evangelism.

    I read devotionals and prayers every morning and do the same every night before I sleep. All that is simply because I feel better when I do.

    I have been a part of a group of people from the US and Canada who prayed every day for specific people who were in need and for general people who were in need. When the lovely woman who was our leader died, the group ended.

    Since then, I still have people who are friends or acquaintances ask me to pray for themselves, or others in need.

    All this is not about me, it is about the fact that I see people all the time who may or may not feel they are religious, but they ask me to pray. Not sure whether they believe I have a private line or since I am older than dirt, I will soon be able to ask in person.

    I have tried to raise my children to be thoughtful, compassionate, loving and giving people. One of my daughters is now Jewish and she and my son-in -law are raising 3 wonderful, Jewish young people. All of my children and grand-children understand about the needs of others, kindness, caring. This is not about a specific religion, this is about being a human person who cares for this world.

    I look around at the world and I have a deep sorrow. There are people who are willing to emotionally as well as physically harm others. There are people who believe that they are entitled and deserving of anything they want. There are people who have put other human beings, who are much less than perfect, in a position of apparently being worthy of worship.

    OK, so it is evident, I can be judgemental and snarky and obviously much less than perfect.

    I believe in God. I gather comfort from that fact. I have seen God’s work in action. I have seen the best in people. I am aware of the fact that there is goodness in my world.

    And as an aside, one of the ways I keep a positive attitude, I am not on social media, except for places about books. It gives me a freedom from feeling or reading or seeing the anger at play in the world.

    I know there are good people everywhere and of every age.. I do see that in action. And I am continually asking God to help us find new ways to live after this pandemic is over. We have the opportunity to start anew.

    I believe we are all here to look after one another. I believe that if we can do that, we will be able to create a better world. I believe that is what God hopes for us.

  4. I opened your email after I had been participating in an online church service. Online services were all that was available for a while. Now I choose that, to stay home and hopefully covid free. We certainly need strength and guidance in this crazy world. I’m glad I have chosen to follow the gospel of Jesus.

  5. I have nothing against any religion as long as long as they don’t try to convert you or when they say their’s is the only true religion. I am one of the ones that was raised catholic but no longer participate. We were forced to go to the first mass (7AM). My parents never did participated in anything else. I was sent to Sunday school and was always tormented by the kids that actually went to to catholic school full time. I believe it’s a social event for some. Like people with like people. I enjoy diversity myself. Anyway, I call myself agnostic since saying there is definitely a god or there definitely isn’t a god seems wrong to me. I don’t believe anyone truly knows this. Personally, I think children can do just fine if you teach them right from wrong. My sister married someone Jewish – oh the problems that caused. she raised two very, caring children without taking them to any organized religion. I did the same with my two daughters. To each his own.

  6. Agree with you wholeheartedly, Miss Karen.
    Some of what I see terrifies me, yet there’s a lot that encourages me. Think we may be living in what’s called a “pivotal time” & it worries me what kind of world my grands will be living in.

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