It is my belief and faith that connects me to the people around me.
I am a believer. I have always been a believer. My faith has always been inseparable from me, my sense of identity, who I am.
But what I believe and have faith in has and can change as I learn and grow.
Does this make me religious? Perhaps, though the word carries additional baggage.
One of my siblings is a self-professed atheist. He loves the sound of the word. Loves to proclaim his atheism, enjoying the frisson of scandal that comes with the pronouncement. He and I would often meet up in London, my home and my longest lived stomping grounds. He did not grow up here, did not live here, but as an adult, has begun to make it is his preferred home.
It is funny, but where you live in London seems to follow your political persuasions, or at least indicate them. That is certainly true of us, which is why his London and my London are two different cities.
We would meet mainly to eat a meal together, and have long, deep conversations about life, family, politics, and whatever else came along over a nice bottle of wine. He is an intellectual and has made choices in life that leave him financially dependent on the generosity of others. His politics do not keep up with his economics. It was a pleasure to take him out to meals, and I always appreciated that he would reach for his wallet and offer to pay, and know that he meant it, even if he couldn’t afford it. I was glad to see him and glad to enjoy rich conversation in such nice places.
One evening, after a lovely meal, we strolled into Soho and had a coffee at my favourite Italian bar. At first we talked about our Father. How he was abusive, and how that affected us all in different ways. I had almost no relationship with him, and that is a blessing for he was toxic to all of his children. As the least exposed to him growing up, I have the least residual damage from the experience. This particular brother, however, had the most, and suffered the most at our Father’s hands.
The things that transpired between them were unforgivable, and while both committed horrible acts towards one another, my brother was still a child, my father an adult, his parent, one who should have had his son’s best interests at heart.
I sensed the imminence of our Father’s death, and had found it important to find my way towards forgiving him for the things he had done in my life that were hateful. I found it verry liberating to let go, and find a way to accept him. I shared this with my brother, and he said he would never be able to forgive. I said that it was not for our father that he should do it, and perhaps not forgiveness, but rather acceptance. That this was a cancer in his life, and that finding a way to accept our father for both bad and good, was for him, for his life, an important step. To forgive provides relief to the forgiver. My brother needed relief, still does, as this hate is consuming him, ruining his life. He was curious as to how I had been able to forgive for the things our father had done to me. Faith, I said. My brother shook his head in disbelief.
The topic turned to God. Atheism met faith. We explored the topic gingerly at first, gently even, and I listened to him with uncharacteristic patience. His frustration and sadness seemed to lie with the institutions of religion. I too find much to fault with the Church, regardless of its stripe. But Church is the creation of humanity. It is at best an attempt to provide a house in which to connect with God, in whatever form God takes. And it is a house in which one is meant to enjoy the company of our fellow humans while in conversation with God.
“Turning the other cheek is a bullshit narrative,” he said.
“You don’t have to follow scripture,” I said, “what matters is finding the good in life, the good in people, the good around you.”
“Some people and some things cannot be forgiven.”
“Forgiving is not absolution. It is simply understanding and letting go. That is for you, not for him.”
My faith angered him. It angered him to the point of rage. The angrier he became, the more calm I felt. I have always felt the presence of God in my life. And when I say God, I don’t mean the God of scripture, the way that we are taught of God in school and in Church. I don’t believe that anyone can know who or what God is, or dictate how God should be or appear in our lives. But I know that God is there. What God is to me shall have to be the subject of another post.
My brother became so angry with me that he said he couldn’t stand the sight of me anymore, that he had to leave.
“My respect for you is vanishing beneath the waves,” he said, “how can someone so rational as you believe in God?”
“I’m surrounded by proof every day, everywhere I go, everything I do.”
“That is just the kind of nonsense all of you say, always falling back on faith, when there is a total absence of proof.”
“Faith is proof.” And around and around we went.
I could tell that he wanted to strike me, I could see the coiled anger inside him. He is a physical powerhouse, and has also always had problems controlling his rage, and it was bubbling over, taking every ounce of will of his to keep him from laying me flat. I could see that this exercise of self-control was consuming him, eating him up.
In the end we parted company on a sour note that evening. His disgust with me for being a “believer” has coloured our relationship ever since, affecting all of our interactions, affecting his relationship with my SO, my children. It is sad. Why should one person’s beliefs be so upsetting to another person?
It had nothing to do with the conversation about our father, as that was a frequent topic and one which had never stirred things up in this way. It was about the presence and meaning of God. And I am saddened by this, mainly for him. Because to live without feeling that there is something bigger and more beautiful than what our individual experience shows would be a silent life. The absence of revery and awe for the beauty of the world around us would be deadening. Perhaps someone who has been so badly hurt inside can no longer accept that a God exists. My own faith does not see God as a rational, vengeful, all knowing and all-controlling Christian God. But the miracle of existence and its infinite complexity lies all around us, and for me, that is proof enough.
What good does that do me? It helps me to rise above myself. It helps me to feel more connected to the people and the world around me. It helps me be a better person.
My brother does not believe. He is also heavily burdened by years of abuse by my father. What is damaged the most is his self-respect. Can there be faith in someone who does not start from a foundation of self-respect?
Does it help you? Is there any relationship between kink and God?