Susy is a school teacher who lives in New Zealand.
1. What are your spiritual beliefs?
I believe in a “creator” for want of a better word, who continues to interact with the world in a way that influences human beings towards good rather than evil. I believe that this deity is present in the world, and the story of the incarnation in Jesus Christ and the subsequent activity of the Holy Spirit comes closer than any other religious story to providing a suitable metaphor for this presence. I know that there is a presence that continues to be in the emptiest of moments.
2. How sure are you that those beliefs are true?
I find the concept of truth a difficult one in relation to spiritual belief. These beliefs are “true” in so far as they are helpful to me and to many others. I do think they are “true” in a sense that they must be adopted by anyone for whom they are not self evident. I also believe very strongly that the moment anyone tries to force their understanding of spirituality onto another, or even to persuade them, those beliefs lose whatever claim to “truth” they might have had. For me spiritual belief is something that finds you as you need it, and can take many forms. No particular story is more “true” than another. I remember the story of the American woman seeking enlightenment as a Buddhist, who was told by her spiritual teacher to return to her home and be the best Christian she could. Then she would be a Buddhist. This epitomises for me the relationship between religions. If you wish to identify with a spiritual tradition, choose the one closest to home and follow it well and with integrity. This is similar to the Jewish concept that the righteous of all nations will be saved. In the end it comes back to “the fruits of your life” to use a Christian metaphor. Spirituality is meaningless unless it makes you a better person and the world a better place for you having lived. (Not that I can claim to necessarily succeed in those lofty ideals!)
3. How did you come to have these beliefs?
I grew up in a predominantly Christian society, with presumably some latent need or tendency towards a connection with the spiritual. Therefore I have adopted and absorbed the Christian story as part of the development of my spirituality. I imagined that had I grown up elsewhere, that my quest for spirituality may well have been just as satisfactorily (or unsatisfactorily) fulfilled through a different story.
4. What do you wish you could believe (but don’t)?
I wish I could not believe. Rationally, spirituality does not appeal to me in any form. In addition, there is so much harm and pain that has been and continues to be inflicted in the name of Christianity, that I hesitate to associate myself with that label. (And the same is true of all religious traditions, to some extent – although not all are as horrendous as Christianity.) Most close to home of course, is the reality that as a queer Christian, I find myself caught in the crossfire of two apparently mutually exclusive identities. I have tried hard to stop believing, but have not succeeded. Therefore I now simply accept it as part of who I am, and when required to classify myself, I use the phrase “reluctant Christian of sorts”.
5. What do you think it means to believe in something?
I think that belief in a deity is a different type of belief than belief in a concept. If I could be satisfied with belief in abstractions such as goodness, love etc, I would be much more content. However, my own experience is that the presence in the darkest moments of illness and depression is something more than a knowledge of the good things about humanity. Therefore belief in a spiritual context is quite different from belief in a humanist context, even though the outworking of both may be much the same. I guess it is about the fact that humanity is not necessarily the centre of everything and yet each individual human being really, really matters at the same time. That doesn’t really do justice to the difference either, as many humanist traditions are much more successful than most religions at achieving exactly that perspective. The historical link is important, in terms of maintaining a connection with all of human history and seeing our role in that larger picture. In the end, it comes back to the conclusion of my answer to question 2. In the end it is not why you do what you do that matters, but what you do and how you are in the world.
6. Does this stuff matter to you? Do you think about it much?