Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spiritual Hunger

As I've mentioned before, I stand at the agnostic/atheist crossroads. There are several things that keep me from taking the plunge to atheism - and one of them is the topic of this post - spiritual hunger. In my journey from post-adolescence to adulthood I've realized that most of the people in the world are not happy. It's as if they know there is something more, and they don't have it. People try to fill this sadness with things like drugs, alcohol, sex, food,fundamentalism, hell, even golf. Unfortunately, trying to find your happiness from these things might work temporarily, but ultimately leads to more emptiness. So what is this emptiness? Is it something to do with evolution, always wanting more to achieve the best you possibly can for your genes/gene pool? Or is it the sense that there is a bigger realm -an immateria that you are thisclose to, but can't quite reach?

Many Christians would give their right arm to hear an atheist talk about emptiness - what an opening! But here's the problem, none of the Christians I know are any happier than any of the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, or agnostics I know. If Christianity was truly about "the peace that passes all understanding" I would convert tommorrow.

There is one group of people I've met that actually seem to have an inner joy. These people belonging to all different faiths and cultures have one thing in common - they have decided to be joyful, to be satisfied, to be grateful. It shows in their lives, and while no one really knows but them, it seems that they have found a way to rid themselves of the aching emptiness that so many feel and create for themselves true, lasting happiness.

So what's your secret to happiness?


Quinn said...

I've held off on commenting on this to see what others had to say. But I guess I'll go.

First, let me say that I hope this does not sound like an evangelical Christian. I no longer consider myself an evangelical. If it sounds that way, that is not my intention.

I can see why the spiritual hunger you see around you leads you to stop before leaving agnosticism for atheism.

What I don't know about is that religion or God or whatever has the answer of "happiness" to the question of "spiritual hunger". Does that make sense?

If anything, for me, belief in God and the things that I feel go along with that (the dignity of every person, the importance of beauty, social justice, etc.) make me, if anything, more spiritually hungry than when I started.

Said another way, when I was in high school, as you well know, my faith was nominal at best. I was hungry sure, and becoming a more "religious" person (for lack of a better way of putting it) did not fix that problem. It exacerbated it.

I can't remember who spoke about the holy discomfort that faith brings (MLK?), but I resonate with that sentiment. It is my faith that informs, not erases my feelings of longing for something more.

Sure, in some ways that is overcome by a knowledge that I really do believe in a God that in some mysterious way knows what the hell is going on. There are moments of peace, but I don't think that is the point.

Christianity (and most any other religion... But right now, I am only directly speaking from my experience) at it's best says now is not the time to contemplate some eternal happiness in the presence of God, at least not too regularly. Rather now is the time to work for justice, freedom, and peace for all mankind. To live into Jesus' prayer, "Thy [God's] kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven."

If happiness comes, it needs to be in conversation with spiritual discomfort. Not ignoring it.

Megan said...

There are two parts of Quinn's comment that I really agree with, and rather than trying to rephrase them, I'll just point them out. "Now is the time to work" and "if happiness comes, it needs to be in conversation with spiritual discomfort." This makes me think of people like Mother Theresa, who I have actually thought about a great deal recently. I would say she was probably someone who understood true peace, yet her life was lived in the midst of difficulty. She had determined that the "work" was what was more important to the reality of her faith.

I feel like I have more thoughts to share, but I need to mull them around a little longer. I'll be back.

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