What I Believe (Tof, writer and scholar)

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Tof is a writer and scholar who lives with zir wife, toddler, and geriatric cat in Florida, USA.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

I believe in a lot of things, none of them absolutely. It might be easier to start with what I don’t believe in. I have no faith or trust in certainty, in purity, in ultimate ends (teleology), or in the value of coercive power.

I am a skeptic, but the deepest and most powerful part of my skepticism is auto-skepticism: I am skeptical of my own skepticism and try never to let it get in the way of investing things with meaning.

I am a practicing occultist, but do not ascribe to any particular school of occult philosophy. Any model can be used to create meaning – but no model is “true.” What matters is what a model, theory, or principle can be used for, what assumptions, implications, and general baggage it brings with it, and how it interconnects with other things one values.

I believe in meaning, and in my belief, meaning and magic are functionally interchangeable. Magic is the creation (alteration, et al.) of meaning, and anything that creates or alters meaning can be understood through a magical lens: these things are all attempts to change what the world is because they change how we understand it. Continue reading

What I Believe (J.T., cartoonist)

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J.T. is a cartoonist who lives in eastern Kentucky.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

In 2013, the only “gods” I believe in are concepts of endless mystery, endless questions, and guiding precepts of love, compassion and forgiveness along that trek of mystery and questioning.

2. How sure are you that those beliefs are true?

The capacity for some small bits of knowing encompassed with an infinite capacity for unknowing I am relatively certain. I find the unknowing to be somewhat (and somewhat/sometimes hugely) frustrating, but the human brain appears to me as such a minuscule cog in the mechanics of the universal structures, accepting some humility without consciously limiting one’s own potential: that makes sense to me.

3. How did you come to have these beliefs?

It seems appropriate to provide a brief bit of autobiographical background. I was born in 1976 and raised in rural eastern Kentucky. The religious, Protestant, agricultural Appalachian region settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants I was born into had as much in common with early 20th century rural American life as it did with post-World War II suburban/urban culture. Continue reading

What I Believe (Vanessa)

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Vanessa is an author who lives in Los Angeles.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?
I guess I believe that the world is very big, and very magical, but the reasons behind its magic are beyond me. There is a net of humanity that sometimes supports people, but people also fall through the holes.

2. How sure are you that those beliefs are true?
I’m not. I feel like by definition, beliefs can never be absolutely true.

3. How did you come to have these beliefs?
I’ve been very lucky in my life but I also know that the world is often and always senselessly tragic. It seems very random and it’s only people that put any of it into some kind of narrative.

4. What do you wish you could believe (but don’t)?
I feel OK with my beliefs as they are.

5. What do you think it means to believe in something?
I think spiritual belief is about security and certainty, and then maybe also your own individual needs or desires for security and certainty.

6. Does this stuff matter to you? Do you think about it much?
Coming to terms with my own relationship to it is probably something I think about every day, just to process situations and experiences. And I like hearing about others’ spiritual beliefs, because they can teach me about other people.

What I Believe (Tom Spurgeon)

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Tom Spurgeon is one of my favourite writers and thinkers about comics. He asked to be identified by his full name.

Among the many things Tom has written is Wildwood, an enormously enjoyable Christian comic strip drawn by Dan Wright.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

I’m a born-again christian. I’m not sure that I’ve found the particular “brand” of christianity that appeals to me, but I’m sympathetic to elements of the catholic, methodist and quaker traditions.

2. How sure are you that those beliefs are true?

I’m not.
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What I Believe (Maria)

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Maria is a writer who lives in Grey Lynn with a husband, cat and three children.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

My mother was raised in a rigidly Methodist household and so determined not to force any sort of religion onto us, I had to ask one day what the whole god and jesus thing was about. I don’t remember her answer, but it must have been pretty intriguing because I started Sunday school soon after that.

I liked the dressing up part. I used to wear my best dress and mum would give me fifty cents to put in my handbag for the plate. I would have been about five. They told us stories and gave us a card so each time we attended we got to stick another sticker on the card. I went for a whole term just to see what the picture on the card was going to be. I remember being bored a lot of the time and thinking this really wasn’t going to be my thing. The picture turned out to be a stained glass window of Jesus. I took up ballet instead.

Around seven or eight I went through a phase of being terrified of dying. This was probably triggered by a film I’d seen where a girl was kidnapped and buried alive in a coffin. I imagined that’s what death would be like – trapped and alone in the dark forever. I had nightmares and sometimes couldn’t sleep worrying about it. One night my mother came in to see why I was still awake and told me this story:
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What I Believe (Billy)

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Billy lives in Montréal, Quebec. He is an artist, writer and shop keeper.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

Good question. Is it spiritual to assume the universe is conscious?

Is it spiritual to assume that an order of intelligences embody/inhabit the cosmos, macro and micro? I am of the belief that some kind of consciousness pervades the universe. This belief (and I have a nagging grudge against that word and its misuses) or model is flexible as new information comes in. I never knew and still don’t what current scientific consensus agrees about reality.

I am staggered consistently by scale and its vastness. I am easily lulled (lilted) by visions of infinity.

I love that I have a human brain and nervous system. I am aware how animal sense continues where human senses have modest boundaries. I am aware that being endowed with a whimsy of power from nature’s buffet can cast a godlike shadow. I do not see the problem with congress on many levels simultaneously between humanity and the other species and other elements of the world. I assume full fittedness within nature.

I have senses. I know their limitations. I trust other instruments? I don’t know.
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What I Believe (Martyn)

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Martyn is a writer from Australia.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

If you take ‘spiritual’ to mean something other than here, other than now, other than flesh? I don’t have any at all. I believe we are amazingly complicated meat machines. (Emphasis on the ‘amazing’.) No souls except for the unique interactions generated by our brains and bodies. No afterlife except for whatever ripples we leave behind us on earth.

A friend of mine – an atheist – was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He couldn’t face the idea of giving himself over to a ‘higher power’, but someone there pointed out a loophole: ‘GOD’ could stand for ‘Group Of Drunks’. That’s as close as I come, too. Whatever else is out there, it’s formed by the connections between us, all the ways we overlap. Relationships, stories, art, whatever.

If there’s no grand, carved-in-stone meaning, then all that’s left is to do things that make you happy while causing as little damage as possible. That’s about it.
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