What I Believe (Susy)

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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!)
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What I Believe (Tom)

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Tom is a cartoonist who lives in Florida, USA.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

My spiritual beliefs, like my artistic ones, are always up for questioning. Here are the solid, unchanging beliefs:

  • The world, the world of the spirit, is larger than I can ever perceive, and probably more connected that I can ever perceive.
  • I should believe in that connection and strive to perceive it as clearly as possible (which as I said is impossible).
  • If that perception is ever heightened enough to participate in the connection, in the grander reverberations, I should strive to align my actions with it.

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What I Believe (Isaac)

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Isaac lives in Christchurch.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

How much time do you have?

I always feel like I ought to have a sort of elevator pitch for my religious beliefs, but it’s utterly hopeless to imagine I could put it all into a couple of sentences. Sometimes when people ask me what I believe I find myself paralysed trying to figure out where on earth to start. It’s tricky to draw a single through-line from one side of a system of belief to the other without getting tangled up along the way, but for the purposes of this particular epistle I’ve made the arbitrary decision to start from my most abstract, metaphysical, mystical beliefs and proceed towards the familiar. That way, we’ll at least end up close to home at the end.

At the mystical heart of it all, I believe that there is a thing that is the fundamental ground to all being. Something that exists independently of all other things, and on which all other things depend for their existence. I’m comfortable calling this thing “God”, although other traditions use terms like Brahman, No-thing, Ein Sof or The Godhead, and I can see the point of distinguishing this purest state of divine existence from any particular human projection of personality.

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What I Believe (James, paranormal investigator)

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James is a photographer, gallery owner, musician & paranormal investigator from Wellington.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs?

I have no spiritual beliefs. Even the word Spiritual has an uncertain meaning for me. It seems a bit of a catch all for anything that is not material, or energy (in the scientific sense). People may mean different things when they use the word.

I was not brought up to have religious beliefs (thank God). I have vacillated between agnosticism and atheism, but these days I’m a full time atheist, having read The God Delusion and been a member of NZ Skeptics for a while now. I wouldn’t say I’m a hard atheist, as I have plenty of respect for others’ religious beliefs and I don’t try to disabuse them of their faith. That would just be bloody rude.

People around me (not my family so much, but friends and acquaintances in general conversation) have always referred to the human soul as if its existence were a given, and if you reply that you don’t necessarily buy into the concept of the soul, it’s either a conversation killer or an argument starter.

The most concerning thing I’ve heard a fairly smart, educated person say is, “I don’t need to question what I know to be true.”

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What I Believe (Paul, optometrist and father)

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Paul grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Tasmania, Australia. He is an optometrist and father.

1. What are your spiritual beliefs? (and) 3. How did you come to have these beliefs?

I blame Lennon for my atheism. Not Lenin ― Lennon, the Beatle.

I grew up in a pretty non-religious household. Not anti-religion, just that religion was kind of a non-issue. I donʼt recall it ever being discussed.

When I was in late primary school, we had Bible Studies. It was optional ― parents were allowed to have their child opt out. My parents asked me if I wanted to do it. I said sure, why not? I had no reason to want to avoid it, and my parents didnʼt discourage me.

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Some thoughtful responses

unitarian

I just wanted to highlight a couple of interesting comments friends have made about the blog:

tricky word that ‘belief’. also, consider magic a psychological technology and spirituality a practice not an ideological position… i’ve taken to saying “i entertain the notion that…”. i dropped ‘i believe’ years ago as nonsense.

I think of this stuff more as a practice than as anything having to do with belief. Like, if you practice mindfulness meditation a lot, certain things will happen (according to scientists you’re likely to get less stressed out, reduce inflammation, etc). Or if you practice other kinds of meditation you might have an ecstatic experience. And some people mash belief into that, but it doesn’t have to be so (see: “buddhism without beliefs,” bokononism, the agnostic experience of the numinous). I see the obsession with belief as the primary agent of spirituality as something we inherit from dime-store Christianity.

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